Our Wonderland of Bureaucracy: A Study of the Growth of Bureaucracy in the Federal Government, and Its Destructive Effect upon the Constitution

By James M. Beck | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
CIVILIAN BUREAUCRACY

'The time has come,' the Walrus said,
'To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings.'

'But wait a bit,' the Oysters cried,
'Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!'
'No hurry!' said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.

--ALICE IN WONDERLAND.

JOHN QUINCY ADAMS's administration closed the Republic's first period from 1789 to 1829. The civilian employees of the Federal Government were then few in number, aggregating about 3,000 in 1830, and the chief officials were personally selected by the President or the heads of the respective departments. In nothing did Washington better show his great qualities as an administrator than in such selections. No friendship or personal interest could sway him from selecting the best man. Yet even he was at times deceived, notably in his Attorney General (Randolph) to whom he addressed a stinging letter as to Randolph's frequent absences from the Capitol, reminding him that public office was not a sinecure. Competent men were generally chosen for public office and they were usually retained in the public service as long as they were effective public servants. Andrew Jackson opened the second period, from 1829 to 1883, by adopting Marcy's rule of practical politics that "to the victor belong the spoils" and throughout that long period we had the "spoils system." The Tenure of Office Act of 1820 provided that certain officers of the Government shall be "removable from office at pleasure." In the course of eight years, Jackson removed from office more men than had been

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