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When Andrew Jackson became president after the bruising election of 1828, he intended to shake things up in Washington. And he got off to a rambunctious start by firing hundreds of federal employees.

To Jackson loyalists, filling the jobs with new people was a necessary reform. But to Jackson's many opponents, it was all about putting friends and party loyalists in prime spots. And the practice received a notorious nickname, the Spoils System.

The name came about from a debate in the U.S. Senate, when the wily Henry Clay assailed a Jacksonian senator, accusing him of bringing corrupt ways to Washington.

The Jackson loyalist, William Marcy of New York, concluded his defense of the administration by stating, "To the victors belong the spoils."

Marcy's words, to his regret, became immortal. And the Spoils System prevailed for decades until civil service reform did away with its most blatant aspects in the 1880s.

Read the full article: The Spoils System

Illustration: Senator William Marcy of New York/Getty Images


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