‘spoils system’: meaning and origin

The following definition of the U.S. expression spoils system is from Webster’s New World College Dictionary (4th Edition, 2010), by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:

the system or practice of regarding and treating appointive public offices as the booty of the successful party in an election, to be distributed, with their opportunities for profit, among party workers

I have found an early denunciation of the spoils system (but without the use of the expression itself) in the following from the Vermont Republican & Journal. Windham, Windsor & Orange County Advertiser (Windsor, Vermont, USA) of Thursday 4th December 1834; this analysis attributes the introduction of the spoils system to Andrew Jackson (1767-1845), 7th President of the USA from 1829 to 1837—in this text, do. is the abbreviation of ditto:

Why are the minions of toryism constantly repeating the cry of proscription? Who have been proscribed, and who have been denied the equal rights and privileges of freemen! Let facts speak upon this subject. We refer our readers to a statement of the number of removals from office under each administration since the constitution was adopted.
Washington, during 8 years removed    9
J. Adams, during 4          do.       do.        10
Jefferson, during 8         do.      do.        39
Madison, during 8           do.      do.          5
Monroe, during 8            do.       do.          9
J. Q. Adams, during 4    do.       do.          2
Jackson, during 6           do.      do.   2990
Under all our previous administrations, scarcely an individual was removed from office on account of his political opinions, and not a man because he refused to do the dirty work of the ruling party. General Washington set the worthy example of not proscribing a man for opinion’s sake. Mr. Jefferson’s test of the fitness of a public officer was competency, faithfulness, and honesty. If a man in any public station possessed these requisites, it was enough in the view of this illustrious statesman.
The examples and precepts of these excellent men were followed by all their successors up to the commencement of the present administration, when the new school policy began to rage. Mr. Madison, that sound and practical statesman, who filled the executive chair with the highest honor for eight years, during one of the most critical periods of our national history, made use of the following language when speaking of the power of removals vested in the Chief Magistrate:—“Any President who should remove a worthy man from office, upon merely party motives, would be liable to impeachment.” How is it with our present executive? How well does Andrew Jackson adhere to the views of such men as Washington, Jefferson, and Madison! where they have removed a single incumbent from office on any ground whatever, he has removed hundreds entirely upon party principles. In addition to this, all the vacancies that occurred upon the change of the administration, have been filled by persons devoted to the executive service, with little else to recommend them than their blind devotion to the party that gave them office. This system has been carried on until an army of 40 or 50,000 office holders has been raised to sustain the President in his abuse of power, and make Martin Van Buren his successor; and who are paid by what Gov. Marcy calls the spoils. This system of official corruption and bribery, had its origin in New-York, and is the foster child of Mr. Van Buren. It has been used with tremendous effect in controlling the destinies of that State, and the hand that nursed it in the cradle of its nativity, has transferred it to our national government. Here it assails our interests and invades our liberties, and well nigh bids defiance to all power of resistance. It has been a part of the settled plan of those by whom the government has been administered for the last six years, to engage in their service as many as possible from motives of interest, and the greatest care has been taken to select those slightly attached to our institutions, reckless of principle, desperate in their designs, regardless of our national honor, and whose integrity, the allurements of office and public patronage might easily seduce.
This phalanx under such a leader as Martin Van Buren, presents a formidable power for the friends of order to contend with, since the national treasury is made subservient to the attainment of their ultimate object. Hardly a country post master whose perquisites amount to five dollars a year has been allowed to retain his office without a pledge of faithfulness to the ruling powers.
It is time for the people to be up and doing to rid themselves of this oppression, for we may be assured the longer these encroachments are tolerated the more difficult it will be to resist them.
[N. E. Review.

In the above-quoted denunciation of the spoils system, “what Gov. Marcy calls the spoils” refers to the phrase to the victor belong the spoils of the enemy, used on Wednesday 25th January 1832 by William Marcy (1786-1857), U.S. Senator from New York, during a speech that he made in the U.S. Senate to defend the appointment by President Andrew Jackson of Martin Van Buren (1782-1862) as the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom:
—transcription of William Marcy’s speech from the Register of Debates in Congress (Washington, D.C.: Printed and published by Gales and Seaton, 1833):

The occasion which rendered it proper that he should say something, had arisen in consequence of what had fallen from the honorable Senator from Kentucky, [Mr. Clay.] His attack was not confined to the nominee; it reached the State which he [Mr. M.] represented in this body. One of the grounds of opposition to the minister to London, taken by the Senator from Kentucky, was the pernicious system of party politics adopted by the present administration, by which the honors and offices were put up to be scrambled for by partisans, &c.—a system, which the minister to London, as the Senator from Kentucky alleged, had brought here from the State in which he formerly lived, and had for so long a time acted a conspicuous part in its political transactions. I know, sir, said Mr. M., that it is the habit of some gentlemen to speak with censure or reproach of the politics of New York. Like other States, we have contests, and, as a necessary consequence, triumphs and defeats. The State is large, with great and diversified interests; in some parts of it, commerce is the object of general pursuit; in others, manufactures and agriculture are the chief concerns of its citizens. We have men of enterprise and talents, who aspire to public distinction. It is natural to expect from these circumstances, and others that might be alluded to, that her politics should excite more interest at home, and attract more attention abroad, than those of many other States in the confederacy.
It may be, sir, that the politicians of the United States are not so fastidious as some gentlemen are, as to disclosing the principles on which they act. They boldly preach what they practise. When they are contending for victory, they avow their intention of enjoying the fruits of it. If they are defeated, they expect to retire from office. If they are successful, they claim, as a matter of right, the advantages of success. They see nothing wrong in the rule, that to the victor belong the spoils of the enemy.

The earliest occurrences of the expression spoils system that I have found are as follows, in chronological order:

1-: From the Fall River Monitor (Fall River, Massachusetts, USA) of Saturday 13th December 1834:

Virginia—The two Houses of General Assembly met on the 12th inst.
In the Senate, George C. Dromgoole, of Brunswick, was re-elected Speaker without opposition, and Addison Hansford Clerk.
In the House of Delegates, a spirited contest occurred for the office of Speaker. Col. Linn Banks, of Madison, was, however re-elected by a majority of two votes over Gen. Severn E. Parker, of Northampton.
The Governor’s Message was received and read. It is a long document, but able and spirited. He unequivocally denounces the “spoils” system.—Boston Patriot.

2-: From Presidential Nominations, published in the South Branch Intelligencer (Romney, West Virginia, USA) of Saturday 24th January 1835—reprinted from the Charlestown Free Press (Charlestown, West Virginia, USA) of Thursday 15th January 1835:

The presentation of so many candidates on the part of those opposed to the perpetuation of the “Spoils System,” must eventuate in the selection of but one and a rally of all upon that one, or defeat will be inevitable.

3-: From an article about the U.S. Senate, published in the Connecticut Courant (Hartford, Connecticut, USA) of Monday 23rd February 1835—reprinted from the National Intelligencer (Washington, D.C., USA) of Monday 16th February 1835:

Happily, there has been one branch of the Government, exempt by its organization from the influence of the “Spoils” system of Government; which could neither be seduced by the lures of patronage, or awed by the terrors of denunciation. The Senate has fearlessly and steadily pursued its course, until its very adversaries are obliged to acknowledge the justice of its censures, and concur in the necessity of a reform.

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