More On The Spoils System

Giving work to political supporters who help elect a person to office is called the spoils system. This name is taken from the well-known saying, "To the victor belongs the spoils" (that is, the rewards of victory). President Thomas Jefferson had used the spoils system on a small scale. Several states were using it. But Andrew Jackson was the first President to adopt the spoils system on a larger scale in the national Government.

Jackson believed that all honest, intel­ligent people could hold public office suc­cessfully. He also felt that people who stayed in office too long often took their positions for granted. Some grew dishonest or forgot the wishes of the voters. Also, Jackson thought that his loyal supporters should be rewarded. That was why he dismissed a number of postmasters and other Govern­ment office holders and replaced them with his own followers. Giving jobs in return for political support did not always insure get­ting the best man for the job. It meant plac­ing political support before a person's quali­fications. It also meant removing some of Adams' appointments without full regard for their worth.

Although Jackson is known for his large­scale use of the spoils system, in his first year he replaced only about nine per cent of the office holders. And during his eight years in office, he did not remove more than a total of twenty per cent for political rea­sons.