The American Party System: An Introduction to the Study of Political Parties in the United States

By Charles Edward Merriam | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
THE SPOILS SYSTEM

PATRONAGE--LEGISLATIVE, ADMINISTRATIVE, JUDICIAL SPOILS

In the actual operation of the political party the elements of perquisites and emoluments play a considerable part, and it is therefore necessary to analyze the "spoils system" and make clear its methods and technique.

The term "spoils" is used with many different shades of meaning. The "spoils" system may be used to indicate the selection of officials (chiefly administrative) on a party basis as distinguished from a merit basis--the use of offices as rewards of party or factional service as in the well-known system adopted in the Jacksonian period, and continued down to our own day. In this sense, the "spoils system" is contrasted with the "merit system." In this sense, reference is made to the practise of using political appointments, inefficiently it may be, but still lawfully, as a means of building up parties or factions, or individuals; or perhaps in return for support given to measures of public policy. Many systems are built up wholly or almost entirely from spoils of this type, and leaders have found it necessary or desirable to reckon with this system of official patronage.

There are also certain perquisites that fall to the party in office;--honors, distinctions, preferments, preferences, favors. These may be dispensed upon a party basis. In any group, political or otherwise, there is a certain lee-

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