Spoils System (Political Science)

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  • The practice of awarding political positions to loyal party members. The spoils system in the United States dates back to Thomas Jefferson, a Democrat-Republican, who aimed to keep rival Federalists out of federal positions. The expression comes from a speech by New York Senator William Learned Marcy in the U.S. Senate in January 1832: “To the victor, belong the spoils of the enemy.” The comment was made after a speech by Kentucky Senator Henry Clay criticizing President Andrew Jackson for filling government posts with Democratic Party loyalists. Public attention to this matter peaked during the Ulysses S. Grant presidency, a Republican elected in 1868 for two full terms, whose administration was marked by corruption. The Civil Service Commission was created in 1871 to introduce reforms ...

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