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Public reaction to the assassination of President Garfield forced Congress to pass the Civil Service Reform Act. The law established a three-person, bi-partisan panel to develop exams to hire federal employees based on merit. The act initially covered 10% of federal employees, but became the basis for most of the Civil Service of today.
Reformers had long been calling for an end to the "spoils system" in civil service appointments. However, the assassination of President Garfield provided the needed push to make the change. The spoils system was the system where the President appointed people who supported then in one way or another to government jobs. Before the reform almost every government job was appointed by the President.
President Arthur, who himself had been a product of the spoils system, surprised his critics by becoming a vocal supporter of the reform. A bi-partisan, three-person commission was created to oversee the newly-established Civil Service System. Arthur appointed three individuals long identified with civil service reform to serve as its commissioners.
The new law called for open competitive exams for all jobs classified as civil service jobs.
George Pendleton, a United States Senator from Cincinnati, Ohio, authored the Pendleton Act. The Pendleton Act still serves as the basis for civil service positions today. This legislation resulted from President James Garfield's assassination in 1881. Garfield served only four months before he was shot by Charles J. Guiteau. Guiteau had sought a political office under Garfield's administration. He was refused. Disgruntled, Guiteau shot Garfield while the president waited for a train in Washington, DC. Garfield clung to life for two more months, before dying on September 19, 1881.
While Garfield accomplished little as president, his death inspired the United States Congress and his successor as president, Chester A. Arthur, to reform civil service positions. Rather than having the victors in elections appointing unqualified supporters, friends, or family members to positions, the Civil Service Commission was created to guarantee that political appointees were qualified for positions. Appointees had to prove their ability to hold positions by satisfactorily passing a civil service exam. The Pendleton Act also forbade appointees from utilizing their offices to campaign for candidates and also protected government workers from termination for their political beliefs.
In 1884, the Ohio legislature refused to reappoint Pendleton as one of the state's senators. Interestingly, this was due to his practice of seeking government positions for unqualified supporters.
Pendleton Civil Service Act: An Effort to End the Spoils System
President Chester A. Arthur signed the Pendleton Civil Service Act into law on January 16, 1883. ( 1 ) The legislation was intended to guarantee the rights of all citizens to compete for federal jobs without preferential treatment given based on politics, race, religion or origin.
The issue of civil service reform was raised by citizens after the Civil War, when newspapers featured stories of widespread corruption and incompetence in federal departments. Senator George H. Pendleton of Ohio sponsored a civil service bill in January 1883. ( 2 ) The bill called for the open selection of government employees, and created a Civil Service Commission. The bill also required that all job applicants pass a Civil Service Examination.
During President Wilson’s Administration, which marked the beginning of federal segregation, applicants were required to attach photographs of themselves to the application. ( 3 ) This was an effort to further discriminate against African Americans attempting to obtain secure government jobs. The measure was later repealed.
While the bill attempted to provide an equal opportunity for all citizens to be hired for federal jobs, initially its successes were limited. After Arthur signed the bill into law only 10 percent of all federal positions were covered by the law. The scope of the law has increased steadily over the years, and by 1980 more than 90 percent of all federal employees were protected by the act. ( 4 )
1) Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Pendleton Civil Service Act,” Encyclopaedia Britannica Online,
britannica.com/eb/article-9059058 (accessed August 7, 2007).
3) Kathleen L. Wolgemuth, “Woodrow Wilson and Federal Segregation’ Journal of Negro History 44 (1959): 161.
Political patronage, also known as the spoils system, was the issue that angered many reform-minded Republicans, leading them to reject Blaine's candidacy. In the spoils system, the winning candidate would dole out government positions to those who had supported his political party prior to the election. Although the Pendleton Act of 1883 established the United States Civil Service Commission and made competency and merit the base qualifications for government positions, its effective implementation was slow. Political affiliation continued to be the basis for appointment to many positions. 
In the early 1880s, the issue of political patronage split the Republican Party down the middle for several consecutive sessions of Congress. The party was divided into two warring factions, each with creative names. The side that held the upper hand in numbers and popular support were the Half-Breeds, led by Senator James Blaine of Maine. The Half-Breeds supported civil service reform and often blocked legislation and political appointments put forth by their main congressional opponents, the Stalwarts, led by Roscoe Conkling of New York.
Blaine was from the reform wing of his own party, but the Mugwumps rejected his candidacy. This division among Republicans may have contributed to the victory in 1884 of Grover Cleveland, the first President elected from the Democratic party since the Civil War. In the period from 1876 to 1892, presidential elections were closely contested at the national level, but the states themselves were mostly dominated by a single party, with Democrats prevailing in the South and the Republicans in the Northeast. Although the defection of the Mugwumps may have helped Cleveland win in New York, one of the few closely contested states, historians attribute Cleveland's victory nationwide to the rising power of urban immigrant voters. 
In Massachusetts, Mugwumps were led by Richard Henry Dana III, (1851–1931), the editor of the Civil Service Record. " They took credit for passing the state's 1884 civil service law, which was a stronger version of the federal Pendleton Act of 1883. Both laws were enacted to limit the effect of political patronage, thus disrupting the spoils system. The goal were improved morality and increased efficiency. It was also designed to contain the rising political power of the Irish Catholics. 
James C. Carter (1827–1905) was a leading New York lawyer and an influential legal theorist among fellow Mugwumps. Carter distrusted politicians and elected officials. Instead he put his trust in disinterested experts, especially judges. He equated common law with custom, and his condemnation of legislation inconsistent with custom, reflected his Mugwumpism. He tried to synthesize traditional thinking with modernity. For example, Carter clung to support for active government intervention he learned from the antebellum Whigs, but he more and more embrace antigovernment positions typical of antebellum Jacksonians. He tried to synthesize traditional faith in timeless, objective moral principles with a more modern vision of evolving customary norms. Given growing problems of industrial urban society he saw the need for positive government but wanted judges to rule not politicians. 
A new class of experts needed new modes of training, and those were provided by the new American graduate schools, built along German models. A leading organizer was the German-trained scholar Herbert Baxter Adams (1850-1901), head of the history and political science department at the Johns Hopkins University 1882–1901. He promoted mugwump reform at Hopkins and nationally. Under his direction, the faculty and advanced students worked for numerous reforms, including civil service reform in the Pendleton Act (1883), municipal reform with the New Charter of Baltimore (1895), the training of professional social workers, and efforts to solve labor unrest. Raymond Cunningham, argues that his reformism shows that the Mugwumps movement could attract affirmative and optimistic experts, rather than just suspicious or cautious patricians. 
In Chicago the Mugwump reformers worked through the Citizens' Association of Chicago, the Chicago Civic Federation, and the Municipal Voters' League. They opposed corruption, government subsidies, high taxes, and public enterprise. However they also wanted government to solve the problems off the rapidly growing metropolis. This was only possible if the voters were better informed. The newspapers adopted Mugwumpery as a way of building support for municipal reform among working-class voters in the two decades after the 1871 fire. The key leader was Joseph Medill, owner and editor of the Chicago Tribune. 
Several historians of the 1960s and 1970s portrayed the Mugwumps as members of an insecure elite, one that felt threatened by changes in American society. These historians often focused on the social background and status of their subjects and the narratives they have written share a common outlook. 
Mugwumps tended to come from old Protestant families of New York and New England and often from inherited wealth. They belonged to or identified with the emerging business and professional elite and were often members of the most exclusive clubs. Yet they felt threatened by the rise of machine politics, one aspect of which was the spoils system and by the rising power of immigrants in American society. They excelled as authors and essayists, yet their writings indicated their social position and class loyalties. In politics, they tended to be ineffectual and unsuccessful, unable and unwilling to operate effectively in a political environment where patronage was the norm.
In his 1998 work, historian David Tucker attempts to rehabilitate the Mugwumps. According to Tucker, the Mugwumps embodied the liberalism of the 19th century and their rejection by 20th-century historians, who embraced the government intervention of the New Deal and the Great Society, is not surprising. To Tucker, their eloquent writings speak for themselves and are testament to a high minded civic morality.
During the 2017 United Kingdom general election, Conservative Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson by writing in The Sun accused Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn of being a threat to the United Kingdom and described him as a "mutton-headed old mugwump". 
Dictionaries report that "mugguomp" is an Algonquian word meaning "person of importance" or "war leader". Charles Anderson Dana, the colorful newspaperman and editor of the now-defunct New York Sun, is said to have given the Mugwumps their political moniker. Dana made the term plural and derided them as amateurs and public moralists. 
During the 1884 campaign, they were often portrayed as "fence-sitters", with part of their body on the side of the Democrats and the other on the side of the Republicans. Their "mug" on one side of the fence, and their "wump" (comic mispronunciation of "rump") on the other. Angry Republicans like Roscoe Conkling sometimes hinted they were homosexual, calling them "man milliners". 
The epithet "goody-goody" from the 1890s goo-goo, a corruption of "good government", was used in a similar derogatory manner. Whereas "mugwump" has become an obscure and almost forgotten political moniker, "goo-goo" was revived, especially in Chicago, by the political columns of Mike Royko. 
Passage of the Pendleton Civil Service Act
On January 16, 1883, President Chester A. Arthur signed the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act, making major changes to American Civil Service System.
When a new U.S. President began his term in the early 1800s, one of his first duties was to dismiss thousands of Federal employees and replace them with members of his own party. The “spoils system” was part of the privilege of the position, and recipients of the jobs were expected to contribute to the President and party’s campaign.
One of those who received a generous salary from the system was Chester A. Arthur. He was appointed the Collector of the Port of New York as a reward for his support of Roscoe Conkling, a powerful New York congressman. Arthur’s earnings from his salary, and a portion of the fines paid, were more than the President’s at the time.
U.S. #2053 FDC – Civil Service Silk Cachet First Day Cover.
When Rutherford B. Hayes became President in 1877, he began reforming the Civil Service. His first target was the overstaffed Customs House. Eventually, he replaced Arthur.
U.S. #205 – As a mourning stamp, #205 was planned to be printed in black, but Garfield’s wife didn’t like it and suggested brown.
When Chester A. Arthur unexpectedly became President, those in favor of the spoils system considered him an ally. In Garfield’s short time as President, he pushed for reform and did not fill empty positions with supporters of Conkling’s political machine. Charles J. Guiteau, who felt he should have received a position in exchange for his party support, shot Garfield. The assassination showed the need for reform of the spoils system.
U.S. #826 from the Prexies.
In Arthur’s first presidential address to Congress, he asked for civil service reform legislation, going against his former political allies. Democratic Senator George Pendleton of Ohio had introduced legislation in 1880, but the Republican congress did not act on it. He proposed positions would be based on merit, determined by an examination. When reintroduced, Pendleton’s bill passed through Congress and was signed by Arthur on January 16, 1883.
As well as qualifying civil service candidates through testing, rather than party loyalty, the act also made it illegal to fire an employee for political reasons. “Assessments” or mandatory party donations were no longer allowed. The United States Civil Service Commission was created to oversee the law. The Civil Service Commission was implemented to oversee appointments and ensure political activities did not take place at the work site. Arthur appointed three reformers to the commission, who published their first set of rules in May 1883.
U.S. #2053 FDC – 1983 Civil Service First Day Cover.
When first passed, the Pendleton Act affected about 10% of Federal jobs. Because of a provision that allowed outgoing Presidents to keep their appointees in a position by converting it to a civil service job, today about 90% of Federal jobs are Civil Service positions.
8a. The Development of the Bureaucracy
Andrew Jackson cemented the spoils system (also called rotation-in-office) during his presidency. He formed his own group of advisors from his friends and political allies, known as the "Kitchen Cabinet," to support his goals for the nation.
The original bureaucracy of the federal government consisted only of employees from three small departments &mdash State, Treasury, and War. The executive branch employs today almost three million people. Not only have the numbers of bureaucrats grown, but also the methods and standards for hiring and promoting people have changed dramatically.
George Washington promised to hire only people "as shall be the best qualified." Still, most of his employees belonged to the budding Federalist Party &mdash the party toward which Washington leaned. When Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson became President, he dismissed many of the Federalists and filled their jobs with members from his party. With this action, he began a long tradition of filling government positions through patronage, a system of rewarding friends and political allies in exchange for their support.
Andrew Jackson is regarded as the President who entrenched the patronage, or "spoils" system. Following the old saying, "to the victor go the spoils," he brought a whole new group of "Jacksonian Democrats" into office. Jackson argued that the spoils system brought greater rotation in office. He thought it was healthy to clear out the government workers who had worked for predecessors, lest they become corrupt.
The U.S. Postal Service has changed along with the nation. From the Pony Express to today's uniformed postal workers, these bureaucrats deliver the mail every day, regardless of the weather.
During the 1800s, while more and more federal employees were landing their jobs through patronage, the bureaucracy was growing rapidly as new demands were placed on government. As the country expanded westward new agencies were needed to manage the land and its settlement. And as people moved into the new areas, a greatly expanded Post Office was necessary. The Civil War sparked the creation of thousands of government jobs and new departments to handle the demands of warfare. After the war, the Industrial Revolution encouraged economic growth and more government agencies to regulate the expanding economy.
The Pendleton Act
The spoils tradition was diluted in 1881 when Charles Guiteau, a disappointed office seeker, killed President James Garfield because he was not granted a government job. After Garfield's assassination, Congress passed the Pendleton Act, which created a merit-based federal civil service. It was meant to replace patronage with the principle of federal employment on the basis of open, competitive exams. The Pendleton Act created a three-member Civil Service Commission to administer this new merit system. At first only about 10 percent of federal employees were members of the civil service. Today, about 85 to 90 percent take this exam.
Growth in the 20th Century
In reaction to the excesses of Gilded Age millionaires, many Americans demanded that the government regulate business and industry. As a result, a group of independent regulatory commissions emerged as the 20th century dawned. The first of these agencies was the Interstate Commerce Commission, set up in 1887 to monitor abuses in the railroad industry. Reform movements of the early 20th century demanded that government regulate child labor, food processing and packaging, and working and living conditions for the laboring classes.
The Civilian Conservation Corps was part of Roosevelt's New Deal programs to battle the Depression. Aimed at employing men between the ages of 18 and 25, over 3,000,000 men joined the CCC and became members of the federal bureaucracy between 1933 and 1941.
The largest growth of the bureaucracy in American history came between 1933 and 1945. Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal meant bigger government, since agencies were needed to administer his many programs. With the American entry into World War II in 1941, the needs of the war elevated the number of federal agencies and employees even more. During those 12 Roosevelt years, the total number of federal employees increased from a little over half a million in 1933 to an all time high of more than 3.5 million in 1945.
After World War II ended in 1945, the total number of federal employees decreased significantly, but still has remained at levels between about 2.5 and 3 million. Contrary to popular opinion, the federal bureaucracy did not grow in numbers significantly during the last half of the 20th century. Federal bureaucrats did, however, greatly increase their influence.
The History of the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act
Whether you go to the United States Post Office, the city public library, or the DMV there is always a high level of ineffectiveness–a lot of standing around, waiting, and jibber-jabbing. Would you say that these people are inept and incapable? Maybe however, I can say that because of the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act, it is less likely that they are there because of cronyism or loyalty.
The Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act–also referred to as just the Pendleton Act–was set as a law on January 16, 1883. This law stipulated that government jobs should be awarded on the basis of merit. This act, authored by George Hunt Pendleton, stood to change the way that government was run, the current system of “to the victor belong the spoils of the enemy.” This quote, by Marcy William Learned, would be used to coin the political term spoils system, or the patronage system. A spoils system is defined as:
“a practice where a political party, after winning an election, gives government jobs to its voters as a reward for working toward victory, and as an incentive to keep working for the party.” (Wikipedia)
The structure of the American government was not originally setup this way. President Washington was known for routinely not selecting men that had stood by his side for years. In fact, he once refused to give his nephew government employment because he wasn’t fit for the job.
As the years progressed–specifically with Thomas Jefferson as president–the system started to become flawed. Jefferson didn’t go as far as removing people from office, but new positions went to friends and political alliances. Spoils systems did not become a problem until the presidency of Andrew Jackson. With Jackson in the White House, many unfit received government jobs.
From the passing of the Pendleton Act, America has tried to ensure that the best suited applicants receive government jobs. In a perfect world, all jobs would be based on merit.
The Scurrilous Campaign
The issue of personal character figured prominently in the 1884 presidential campaign.
Examine the signature achievements of the Cleveland administration
- The presidential campaign of 1884 was marked by an emphasis on personality and scandal.
- James G. Blaine, the Republican nominee, was implicated in a scandal that involved his burning of several important letters that revealed he took money from corporations in exchange for political influence.
- Grover Cleveland, the Democratic nominee, was discovered to have fathered a child out of wedlock.
- Though the popular vote was close, Cleveland won in the Electoral College.
- Early in his presidency, Cleveland focused on political reform of the spoils system.
- Cleveland fought against Republicans to lower import tariffs.
- mugwump: A Republican political activist who bolted from the U.S. Republican Party by supporting Democratic candidate Grover Cleveland in the presidential election of 1884.
- James G. Blaine: An American Republican politician who served as a U.S. representative, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, a U.S. senator from Maine, and twice as secretary of state. He was nominated for president in 1884, but was narrowly defeated by Democrat Grover Cleveland.
- Grover Cleveland: The 22nd and 24th president of the United States, the only president to serve two nonconsecutive terms (1885–1889 and 1893–1897), and therefore, the only individual to be counted twice in the numbering of the presidents.
- Tariff Act of 1890: A law framed by Representative William McKinley that raised the average duty on imports to almost 50 percent, an act designed to protect domestic industries from foreign competition.
The issue of personal character was paramount in the 1884 presidential campaign. Former Speaker of the House James G. Blaine had been prevented from getting the Republican presidential nomination during the previous two elections because of the stigma of the “Mulligan letters.” In 1876, a Boston bookkeeper named James Mulligan had located some letters showing that Blaine had sold his influence in Congress to various businesses. One such letter ended with the phrase, “burn this letter,” from which a popular chant of the Democrats arose: “Burn, burn, burn this letter!” In just one deal, Blaine had received $110,150 ( more than $1.5 million in 2010 dollars) from the Little Rock and Fort Smith Railroad for securing a federal land grant, among other things. Democrats and anti-Blaine Republicans made unrestrained attacks on his integrity as a result.
New York Governor Grover Cleveland, on the other hand, was known as “Grover the Good” for his personal integrity. In the space of the three previous years, he successively had become the mayor of Buffalo and then the governor of the state of New York, cleaning up large amounts of Tammany Hall ‘s corrupt political machinery.
It came as a tremendous shock when, on July 21, the Buffalo Evening Telegraph reported that Cleveland had fathered a child out of wedlock, that the child had gone to an orphanage, and that the mother had been driven into an asylum. Cleveland’s campaign decided that candor was the best approach to this scandal: They admitted that Cleveland had formed an “illicit connection” with the mother and that a child had been born and given the Cleveland surname. They also noted that there was no proof that Cleveland was the father, and claimed that, by assuming responsibility and finding a home for the child, he was merely doing his duty. Finally, they showed that the mother had not been forced into an asylum. Her whereabouts were unknown.
Cleveland Gains Support
The Democrats held their convention in Chicago the following month and nominated Governor Grover Cleveland of New York. Cleveland’s time on the national scene was brief, but Democrats hoped that his reputation as a reformer and an opponent of corruption would attract Republicans dissatisfied with Blaine and his reputation for scandal. They were correct, as reform-minded Mugwump Republicans denounced Blaine as corrupt and flocked to Cleveland. The Mugwumps, including such men as Carl Schurz and Henry Ward Beecher, were more concerned with morality than with party politics, and felt Cleveland was a kindred soul who would promote civil service reform and fight for efficiency in government. However, even as the Democrats gained support from the Mugwumps, they lost some blue-collar workers to the Greenback-Labor party, led by Benjamin F. Butler, Blaine’s antagonist from their early days in the House.
After the election, the term “Mugwump” survived for more than a decade as an epithet for a party bolter in American politics. Many Mugwumps became Democrats or remained Independents most continued to support reform well into the twentieth century.
Bernard Gilliam’s “Phryne before the Chicago Tribunal”: This 1884 cartoon in Puck magazine ridicules Blaine as the tattooed man, with many indelible scandals. The cartoon image is a parody of Phryne before the Areopagus, an 1861 painting by French artist Jean-Léon Gérôme.
Both candidates believed that the states of New York, New Jersey, Indiana, and Connecticut would determine the election. In New York, Blaine received less support than he anticipated when Arthur and Conkling, still powerful in the New York Republican party, failed to actively campaign for him. Blaine hoped that he would have more support from Irish Americans than Republicans typically did. While the Irish were mainly a Democratic constituency in the nineteenth century, Blaine’s mother was Irish Catholic, and he believed his career-long opposition to the British government would resonate with the Irish. Blaine’s hope for Irish defections to the Republican standard were dashed late in the campaign when one of his supporters, Samuel D. Burchard, gave a speech denouncing the Democrats as the party of “Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion.” The Democrats spread the word of this insult in the days before the election, and Cleveland narrowly won all four of the swing states, including New York by slightly more than 1,000 votes. While the popular vote total was close, with Cleveland winning by just one-quarter of a percent, the electoral votes gave Cleveland a majority of 219 to 182.
Soon after taking office, President Grover Cleveland was faced with filling all of the government jobs for which the president had the power of appointment. These jobs were typically filled under the spoils system, but Cleveland announced that he would not fire any Republican who was doing his job well. Nor would he appoint anyone solely on the basis of party service. Cleveland also used his appointment powers to reduce the number of federal employees, as many departments had become bloated with political timeservers.
Later in his term, Cleveland replaced more of the partisan Republican officeholders with Democrats. While some of his decisions were influenced by party concerns, more of Cleveland’s appointments were decided by merit alone. Cleveland also reformed other parts of the government. In 1887, he signed an act creating the Interstate Commerce Commission. He also modernized the navy and canceled construction contracts that had resulted in inferior ships. Cleveland angered railroad investors by ordering an investigation of western lands they held by government grant.
Cleveland and Tariff Reform
The Tariff Act of 1890, commonly called the ” McKinley Tariff,” was an act of the U.S. Congress framed by Representative William McKinley that became law on October 1, 1890. The tariff raised the average duty on imports to almost fifty percent, an act designed to protect domestic industries from foreign competition. Protectionism, a tactic supported by Republicans, was fiercely debated by politicians and condemned by Democrats.
The tariff was not well received by Americans, who suffered a steep increase in the cost of products. In the 1890 election, Republicans House seats went from 166 to only 88. McKinley, the act’s framer and defender, was then assassinated. In the 1892 presidential election, Harrison was soundly defeated by Grover Cleveland, and the Senate, House, and presidency were all under Democratic control. Lawmakers immediately started drafting new tariff legislation.
Cleveland’s opinion on the tariff was that of most Democrats: The tariff ought to be reduced. American tariffs had been high since the Civil War, and by the 1880s, the tariff brought in so much revenue that the government was running a surplus. After reversing the Harrison administration’s silver policy, Cleveland sought next to reverse the effects of the McKinley tariff. What would become the Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act was introduced by West Virginian Representative William L. Wilson in December 1893. After lengthy debate, the bill passed the House by a considerable margin. The bill proposed moderate downward revisions in the tariff, especially on raw materials. The shortfall in revenue was to be made up by an income tax of 2 percent on income above $4,000, ($103,000 U.S. dollars in present terms).
The bill was next considered in the Senate, where opposition was stronger. Cleveland faced opposition from key Democrats, led by Arthur Pue Gorman of Maryland, who insisted on more protection for their states’ industries than the Wilson bill allowed. Some voted partly out of a personal enmity toward Cleveland. By the time the bill passed the Senate, it had more than 600 amendments attached that nullified most of the reforms. The Sugar Trust in particular lobbied for changes that favored change at the expense of the consumer. Cleveland was outraged with the final bill, and denounced it as a disgraceful product of the control of the Senate by trusts and business interests. Even so, he believed it was an improvement over the McKinley tariff and allowed it to become law without his signature.
The Act came to be after the assassination of President James Garfield by an unsatisfied job seeker who took revenge against him for the lack of his appointment. The act made it unlawful for any employee to be disqualified, demoted or promoted on the basis of political reasons. Presidents such as George Washington tried to play by the rules of the Act by making the federal appointments on merit. Afterward, after his term, subsequent presidents deviated from the Act and political supporters and friends were rewarded by being given positions in the government. By the time President Andrew Jackson was appointed, the spoils system was in full force. The flaws against the Act continued long after Andrew Jackson (Grossman, 2000). The act required that no government employees were to any political contribution or service but at that time, the majority of the government employees were investing most of their time and money on political activities.
The Pendleton act transformed the civil service as workers appointed to different positions became more professional and better educated. In the selection of employees, political influence took a back seat and was replaced by competency and business skills that involved a technical know how in the job category. A series of orders that were executive was also needed in order to put more emphasis on political reforms to the search of better personnel and procedures. At later times in the history of the states, this act took a better effect as the government increased and tightened its personnel procedures into ensuring efficiency (Pendleton, n.d).
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George Pendleton was a prominent nineteenth century Ohio political leader who strongly supported federal civil service reform.
George Pendleton was born on July 19, 1825, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Descended from a long line of lawyers, Pendleton graduated from Cincinnati College and became an attorney in 1847.
Pendleton began a political career during the 1850s. He first served in the Ohio Senate, and in 1856, voters elected him to the United States House of Representatives. He held his seat until March 1865. He was a committed member of the Democratic Party and strongly opposed the Union war effort during the American Civil War. He was a close associate of Clement Vallandigham, Ohio's leading Peace Democrat. The Democratic Party selected Pendleton to run as George McClellan's vice-presidential candidate in the election of 1864. Due to Northern battlefield victories and the Democratic Party's opposition to the war effort, the McClellan-Pendleton ticket lost the election.
Following the Civil War, Pendleton remained involved in politics. He sought the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 1868, but he lost the bid to Horatio Seymour. A principal reason why Pendleton lost the nomination was his support of the "Ohio idea." Pendleton proposed forcing the federal government to pay its debts in paper money rather than in gold and silver. He contended that, if the American people could use paper money, so too could the government. This idea, if implemented, might have led to high inflation and a refusal by some nations to trade with the United States.
Pendleton’s prestige began to decline within the Democratic Party at the national level. But he still had a great deal of power among Democrats in Ohio. After William Rosecrans refused the party's nomination for governor in 1869, Pendleton became the party's candidate. He lost the election to Republican Rutherford B. Hayes. In January 1878, the Ohio legislature appointed Pendleton to the United States Senate. As a senator, Pendleton proposed civil service exams for government positions. Historically, officeholders had used the "spoils system" and selected friends and supporters for government positions. Often, the appointees were not qualified to hold these positions. Pendleton favored the replacement of the spoils system with a civil service. Job applicants would have to have at least the minimum qualifications for a position to be appointed to it. On January 16, 1883, President Chester Arthur signed Pendleton's bill into law.
Pendleton suffered for his support of civil service. Many members of his party favored the spoils system. When his term in the United States Senate ended, his party turned on him in 1884 and selected another man to campaign for the Senate seat.
Pendleton remained active in public life. President Grover Cleveland appointed him to be the United States ambassador to Germany. He remained in this position until 1889. As he was returning to the United States, he died on November 24, 1889.