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The Politicization of the Civil Service in Comparative Perspective: A Quest for Control

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Smith of Maryland, Robert R. Livingston of New York, and Alexander J.

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Dallas and Albert Gallatin of Pennsylvania, took a very different tack. All of them except Gallatin had favored the adoption of the Constitution, and all of them favored strong central government shorn of Federalist excesses; in short, they were content with the existing system provided that one of their own such as Jefferson was installed in Power.

Since they believed that with Jefferson in office, the Revolution was now over, and there was no need for further radical or constitutional change, they favored the Jeffersonian policy of conciliating the Federalist party. At least when he was in power, Jefferson took his stand with the centrists of his party. Hence, his failure to bring about fundamental structural or administrative reform. Indeed, with victory secured, the centrists now believed that their Old Republican colleagues, not the Federalists, were the main danger. To James Sullivan, Republican Governor of Massachusetts, the Old Republicans were "in opposition to all regular well established governments.

But the lines of this conflict were blurred by the fact, as Professor Ellis points out, that Jefferson himself, even though a moderate in policy, was generally radically libertarian and Old Republican in rhetoric. Furthermore, unlike the centrists, he wanted to reconcile the Old Republicans rather than purge them from the party.

On the judiciary, Jefferson, early in his administration, removed the aggressively Federalist prosecuting attorneys and the marshals who selected the juries and executed the courts' sentences. On the judges themselves, while Jefferson did not try to touch their life tenure, he did manage to repeal the Judiciary Act of the following year, and thereby to roll back the last minute tide of expansion of Federalist judges.

Jefferson's defection from the principles of rotation in office was the most important event in the entrenching of the combined old Federalist and new Republican bureaucracy. From Jefferson on, the Republican party remained in power, and from Monroe through Adams the United States lived under a one-party state, the Federalists having withered away. With no party competition, there was virtually no pressure for throwing the rascals out. But in came what Professor Leonard White, a typical academic enthusiast for a life tenure civil service, called "the cloud on the horizon," the harbinger of the dread "spoils system" wrought by the Jacksonian movement.

Crawford of Georgia, pushed through Congress the Tenure of Office Act, which Monroe came to regret signing, and which was bitterly denounced by all the champions of the entrenched bureaucracy, including Thomas Jefferson. Madison and following him Monroe actually denounced the law as "unconstitutional.

The Tenure of Office Act of May decreed that all presidential class officials, connected with the collection or disbursement of money, would henceforth serve, not indefinitely, but for fixed terms of four years, after which they would have to be reapproved by the US Senate after being renominated by the President. The covered officials included district attorneys, customs collectors, public land officials and registers, army and navy agents and paymasters. Not affected were postmasters, or any of the accounting and clerical employees.

The Tenure of Office Act meant a that at least higher bureaucrats would be confronted with fixed terms, and b that the power to remove them would no longer be exclusively in the hands of the President, but that the US Senate could share in the removal process. The Act came as a shock to the previously contented oligarchy. Jefferson wrote to Madison in horror, charging that the law "saps the constitutional and salutary functions of the President, and introduces a principle of intrigue and corruption … This places, every four years, all appointments under their [the Senate's] power … It will keep in constant excitement all the hungry cormorants for office, render them, as well as those in place, sycophants to their Senators, engage these in eternal intrigue to turn out one and put in another…" There is, of course, another way to look at this law than this frenetic diatribe: that such a system would introduce a bracing wind of competition and of public accountability into the stolid and complacent ranks of the ruling bureaucracy.

It may not be an accident that Secretary Crawford was the author of this bill. A Georgian who was close to the Old Republicans, Crawford, in , was the Presidential candidate of that group as well as of Martin Van Buren, the brilliant political tactician who had been inspired by a weekend with Jefferson at Monticello in May to spend his life forming a new political party — later to be the Democratic Party — dedicated to taking back America for the old cause, for the libertarian Old Republican ideals of and Adams detested the law: "A more pernicious expedient could scarcely have been devised," and on principle renominated everyone upon his accession to office, and during his term.

The Senate was persuaded to go along. So insistent was Adams on life tenure that, when his losing campaign for re-reelection was underway in , he actually renominated James R. Pringle for collector of customs at Charleston, even though Pringle was frankly "devoted to the opposition. This does not suit the Falstaff friends who 'follow for the reward'…. The "spoils system," a derogatory term for rotation in administrative office, 42 was brought to the United States by President Andrew Jackson.

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Jackson, an ardent Jeffersonian and Old Republican, was, like other Jacksonian leaders, dedicated to a new Democratic Party that would restore original Jeffersonian Republican principles of laissez-faire and ultra-minimal government. Jackson followed Jefferson in managing, for the second and presumably the last time in American history, to repay the national debt; and he and his dedicated successors, Van Buren and Polk, roughly succeeded in establishing hard money and separating the federal government from the banking system, as well as eliminating the protective tariff.

Jackson, a wealthy cotton planter and merchant in Nashville, had been energized by corruption in the Monroe administration and by the bank credit collapse in the Panic of One of the aspects of government that desperately needed reform, according to Jackson, was the life-tenured bureaucracy. The spoils system had been operating in New York and in Pennsylvania for a number of years, and had been formally incorporated into the Tenure of Office Act. But now Jackson, head of a new incoming party hungry for office, became the first president to sound the trumpet call, and provide an ideological justification for rotation in office.

blacksmithsurgical.com/t3-assets/archetypes/when-the-saints-go.php He wanted to change the civil service, as well as to shrink it.