The daughter of a friend of ours has a leading role in ‘Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson’, a rock musical about Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States, at the San Jose Stage, so I am looking forward to seeing it in a few days. The review in the San Jose Mercury News quotes the play’s narrator as suggesting that history is still out on whether Jackson was a “great president – or a genocidal maniac who was an American Hitler”, presumably referring to Jackson’s policy of ethnic cleansing among Native Americans. Jackson is equally ‘well known’ for beginning the ‘spoils system’ in American politics, whereby existing office holders were removed en masse, for no other reason than to reward supporters with lucrative positions.
The spoils system was looked upon as having a negative effect on the efficiency and effectiveness of the federal government, so following the assassination of President James A. Garfield by a rejected office-seeker in 1881, the Pendleton Act was passed, creating a Civil Service Commission to evaluate job candidates on a bipartisan merit basis. Thus was born the modern U.S. Civil Service, based strictly on merit, and following the Hatch Act of 1939, civil servants were prohibited from engaging in any political activities while performing their duties.
“I weep for the liberty of my country when I see at this early day of its successful experiment that corruption has been imputed to many members of the House of Representatives, and the rights of the people have been bartered for promises of office.” Andrew Jackson