The Democratic Machine, 1850-1854

By Roy Franklin Nichols | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII
THE DISTRIBUTION OF THE SPOILS

THE President and his cabinet found themselves confronted by an enormous task. It was neither the administration of government nor the formulation of new policies, it was the distribution of the spoils. For four years the doors of the government departments had been closed to deserving Democrats. These had been lean years, but now there were offices worth $50,000,000 a year to be distributed to the faithful, and the faithful were on hand. Washington was a seething mass of importunity. From all portions of the country had been gathering an ever increasing horde of office-seekers, each with a well-developed sense of capacity, and each loaded with credentials. Some had definitely in mind what they wanted--others were not particular, willing in fact to take anything. Every hotel and boarding house was filled, every ante-room was crowded, every man who mighty the farthest stretch of the imagination be conceived to have influence was besieged for letters to this one or that; the newly-appointed cabinet members were hounded from dawn to dark--and after, and the President was well-nigh overwhelmed by the multitude who daily sought admission to the Executive Mansion to press their claims and demonstrate their peculiar fitness for serving the Republic.

Just what were they so anxious for? The stakes were the government offices, positions so numerous that a list of them filled over one thousand octavo pages. But in spite

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