Jacksonian Democracy: Myth or Reality?

By James L. Bugg Jr. | Go to book overview

LEONARD D. WHITE ( 1891-1958), until his death professor of Public Administration at the University of Chicago, was a recognized authority in this field. His collective works on administrative history span the years from 1789 to 1901 and present an excellent picture of the organization and practical operation of the United States government. His scholarly and temperate analysis of the Jacksonian patronage policy furnishes a needed corrective to the dramatic and lurid charges that Parton made and demonstrates the overemphasis he placed on this aspect of the Jackson administration.*


Andrew Jackson and the Administrative System

Jackson's loyalty to his friends was not always conducive to success in administration, particularly since this loyalty sometimes obscured his judgment in making appointments and refusing to make removals. He appointed Samuel Swartwout** collector of the port of New York although Van Buren warned him against his choice. He put Major John H. Eaton in the Cabinet despite his knowledge of disquieting rumors about the Major's earlier relations with Peggy Timberlake, now his wife, and wrecked his Cabinet as a consequence.

He endured William T. Barry as Postmaster General long after his incompetence had been exposed. Even a President as independent and forthright as Andrew Jackson did not have a free hand in picking executive heads and subordinate officers, and some of his mistakes may be charged to force of circumstances and pressure of party. Some of his mistakes were his own; and his greatest successes--such as Martin Van Buren and Amos Kendall--were often happy chances. He knew neither man personally when he decided to appoint him. In building his civil administration Jackson tended to judge men by their political faith and personal loyalty, not by their executive talent.

The consequences of the Jacksonian

____________________
*
Reprinted with the permission of the publisher from The Jacksonians; A Study in Administrative History, 1829-1861 by Leonard D. White, copyright 1954 by The Macmillan Company. Footnotes omitted or renumbered by permission.
**
Swartwout, one of the poorest and probably the most notorious of the Jackson appointees, proved to be both a lax administrator and a thief. After serving eight years as collector at the New York customhouse, he sailed for England; he had stolen in all $1,225,705.69--Ed.

-17-

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