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Senate refused to confirm them, and it would have vetoed at least half of the whole number if it had dared to face popular clamour. For the people would not stand any discussion of Jackson's acts; to all criticism of the dismissals of officials and of the other arbitrary acts destructive of all sound republican government which marked the Presidency of the old hero," the "people” had but one invariable reply: “Hurrah for Jackson!”
The "rewarding of friends and the punishment of enemies,” carried to such lengths by Jackson, was not a practice altogether unknown in the United States.
It had been in vogue, and for a considerable time past, both in the State of New York and in Pennsylvania. As has been incidentally mentioned above, even in Aaron Burr's time, towards the close of the eighteenth century, in the contests of the New York factions, the winning side laid hands on the available public offices. One of the most celebrated faction leaders in New York, De Witt Clinton, developed and perfected the practice by turning out all the men in office who had been appointed by the beaten faction. With each swing of the electoral pendulum the proscriptions began over again. “The public mind," writes Hammond of the year 1811, “has become so accustomed to see men ejected from office on account of their opinions that such changes ceased to be matters of surprise or to produce any excitement.” 2 This system, started under the régime of appointment to offices, was continued under that of election to them introduced with universal suffrage, in 1821. Caught at once in the toils of the elaborate organization directed by Van Buren and his associates, universal suffrage bestowed public offices on the politicians selected for this purpose by the wire-pullers. The party victorious at the poll obtained all the places. That appeared to it logical and justifiable. And when, some time afterwards, in the Senate of the United States, Van Buren was accused of having initiated these practices, one of his associates of the Regency, Senator Marcy, protested against the charge as not involving anything reprehensible: "The politicians preach what they practise. When they are contending for victory they avow their intention of enjoying the fruits of it. If they are defeated, they expect to retire from office. If they are successful, they claim as matter of right the advantages of success. They see nothing wrong in the rule that to the victor belong the spoils of the enemy.”] This remark about “the spoils to the victor” became famous and passed into every-day language.
1 This practice was encouraged in a marked way by the oligarchical mode of appointment to offices, which was in the hands of a small council of a few members of the State Legislature, that is to say, of the party which had, for the moment, a majority in it. For the very instructive if not edifying history of this Council of Appointment, see Hammond's Political History of New York, and a special article by J. M. Gitterman, “ The Council of Appointment in New York,” Political Science Quarterly, 1892, No. 1.
2 Vol. I, p. 289.
VOL. II E
The division of the spoils was now transformed from a local practice into a national system. It was one more contribution to American political life from New York, which had started the arts of management for the purpose of manipulating a vast electorate in a motley city devoid of civic spirit and given over to factions, and which had created the type of politician to carry the work out. The “spoils” which served for feeding them, which supplied the condottiere leaders with the sinews of war, were the logical completion of the system. The whole Union was destined to fall a victim to this system, because its political situation became similar to that of New York. The old political supremacy wielded by the elite of the nation, and which radiated from Washington, having been shattered with the congressional Caucus, the leadership crumbled into a thousand fragments; it passed to an innumerable crowd of petty local leaders who stood nearer to the masses, but who too often were only needy adventurers. And yet it was their services which had to be resorted to for building up the party without principles which was got together under Jackson's name, and to keep up this mechanical aggregation there was nothing but the artificial cement of “rewards and punishments.” To dispense with it on the day after the victory would be to lose the fruit of one's labour, to break up the party. Consequently, even if he had wished to do so, Jackson could not have resisted the demands of the "prætorian band which claimed the reward of the hard-fought contest";? while his Secretary of State, who was no other than Martin Van Buren, had only to indulge at Washington in the practices which were so familiar to him in his native State, to present a living link between the spoils system in New York and in the Union.
1 Niles, Vol. XLIII, p. 8.
2 From the letter of A. J. Stansbury, written after the inauguration of Jackson, and quoted above.
The hecatombs of office-holders, which were henceforth to be regularly repeated at each change of President, were facilitated to a considerable extent by a law passed in 1820, which fixed four years as the term of service for several categories of officials: district attorneys, officials in the customs service, paymasters, and some other officers. It appears that the object of the law was to secure greater accuracy and promptitude in the settlement of the accounts of disbursing officers, and to rid the service of dishonest men without further procedure, while those who were blameless could be reappointed for fresh terms. But this law was interpreted to mean that at the end of four years the post became ipso facto vacant. It might then be transferred without scandal to another man, so that each new President, without even using or misusing his right of removing public officers, had at his disposal several thousands of appointments, and extremely important ones, for distribution at his discretion, that is to say, for rewarding electoral services. In vain were repeated attempts made to repeal this law. On the contrary, the special use to which it was put was extended more and more, even to posts to which it did not apply at all, on the pretext that in a democratic government public offices were not personal property, and that every citizen had a right to share in the emoluments of the public service. Jackson boldly proclaimed or embraced
1 On this point we have the evidence of Calhoun and Webster, who, relying on their personal recollections, asserted on several occasions that the authors of the law of 1820 had no political object in view. See the speech of Calhoun of the 9th of February, 1835, on the extent of executive patronage (Works, Vol. V, p. 153), and that of Webster in the debate of the 14th of May, 1846, in the Senate, on the dismissal of public servants (Congressional Globe, Vol. XV, p. 819). But on the other hand, J. Q. Adams maintained that the law was passed at the instigation of Crawford, who then held the office of Secretary of the Treasury, and wanted places to distribute to pave the way for his presidential candidature (Works, Vol. VII, pp. 424-425).
2 See Benton's report to the Senate, of the 4th of May, 1826 ( Thirty Years' View, Vol. II, p. 138), the debate in the Senate of February, 1835, and of Fehruary, 1836 (Congressional Debates, Vol. XI, part 1, pp. 109, 576; Vol. XII, part 1, p. 367).
this doctrine in his first presidential message, in which he defended the dismissals carried out by him, explaining that the welfare of the service demanded frequent change of officials, for those who were permanent fixtures inevitably became indifferent to the public interest; that the service lost more by keeping them than it gained by their experience; and to facilitate the rotation which “constituted a first principle in the Republican creed," the President proposed to extend it legally to all offices without exception, by bringing them under the operation of the law of 1820.1
Far from being of advantage to the public interest, the application of these "first republican principles" of the rotation and division of the spoils very soon threw the whole of public life into grave disorder. It deteriorated the public service by destroying all stability in it, by setting up intrigue and favour in place of merit, competence, and professional zeal, and leaving the door wide open to adventurers and hungry mercenaries. The organized parties alone benefited by this system, which procured them an army of election agents scattered all over the country and ready to do anything to secure the triumph of the party; for their own fate was at stake, and the election contest became for each of them a life-and-death struggle. Those who wanted to oust them joined the camp of the party in opposition with the same desperate resolve to conquer or to die.
The contingents of these two armies were recruited and renewed as it were spontaneously, with a regularity and a fulness which kept pace with the growth of their permanent cadres.
This organization, as we are already aware, was supplied by the delegates' conventions, which from 1824 onwards developed by a continuous process into a highly finished system. The active campaign conducted on behalf of Jackson, during the years 1825–1828, gave a great stimulus to the movement. Jackson's supporters, as well as those of J. Q. Adams, who was put up for re-election, got the conventions to meet in most of the States, and procured manifestations from them in favour of one or the other candidate. In the state of dissolution of parties which was a feature of the period, the conventions had no standard to raise but the name of the candidate of their choice, and we meet with nothing but “ Jackson conventions,' “Anti-Jackson conventions,” “ Administration conventions, or “Friends of the administration conventions." Established at first in a more or less sporadic fashion, the conventions became general and spread throughout the country, falling according to the territorial units and electoral divisions into State, district, county conventions, etc., and ended by covering the whole Union in a regular and exhaustive manner. This process, which began towards the end of Monroe's administration, took no less than a quarter of a century. It was delayed by the same causes which had prolonged the existence of the legislative Caucus and had made it outlive itself after 1824, especially by the vis inertiae of old habits and the inadequacy of means of communication before the introduction of railways. In the East, where the ground had been so admirably prepared, especially in New York and Pennsylvania, the States of the politicians, the popular representative party organization developed quickly and at once laid hold of the electorate, but it was not quite the same thing in the South and the West. The nomination to elective offices by assemblies of delegates was not yet general under Jackson's first Presidency even in such States as Maryland and Virginia, and still less so in the rudimentary States beyond the Alleghanies. The candidates often offered themselves, as in the old days, either through the medium of the newspapers, or by making a personal canvass of the voters, travelling through the county or the State to have a talk with people and solicit votes. Naturally there
1 Statesman's Manual. President's messages from 1789, by E. Williams, New York, 1819, Vol. II, p. 702.
1 A distinguished American publicist, Mr. Talcot Williams, remarks accurately enough, that each advance in the development of American parties has been determined by the extension of means of communication. The convention in New York reached its culminating point after the opening of the Erie Canal; the national convention took its full flight towards the period of the extension of railways, and the direction of the national campaign from a single centre became possible only after the telegraph lines had spread over the whole territory of the Republic. (Party Government in the United States, Lalor, Cyclopædia of Pol. Science, III, 114.)
2 Niles, Vol. XXX, p. 449; Vol. XXXII, p. 115; Th. Ford, A History of Illinois from its commencement as a State in 1818 to 1817, Chicago, 1854, p. 201.