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Spoils system

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In memorium--our civil service as it was

A political cartoon by Thomas Nast satirizing Jackson's "spoils system"


A practice where a political party or candidate, after winning an election, gives government jobs to its voters as a reward for them voting.

Exact DefinitionEdit

"To the victor goes the spoils"-- Jackson offers government jobs to party supporters

What was it?

A practice wherein a political party or candidate, after winning an election, gives government jobs to party supporters as an incentive to keep working for the party and a reward for their support.

What did it do?

This system stands opposed to the pre-Jackson one wherein government jobs were given to personal friends and kept for life. Though the spoils system seems corrupt to us today, it allowed Jackson to introduce a system of rotation for most government jobs, allowing limited terms in governmental positions. Jacksonians also believed that long service in the civil government jobs was corrupting, so civil servants should be rotated out of office at regular intervals. However, this did lead sometimes to the hiring of morons and sometimes corrupt officials in the place of better, competent or good ones.


This was a major change in the way the Executive branch was organized and a cornerstone of Jacksonian Democracy.

Additional Information

See Kitchen Cabinet

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