This Is a Blog: The Exciting World of Civil Service Reform!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Exciting World of Civil Service Reform!

Part 6 of 12: Garfield to Harrison

Civil Service Reform in a nutshell: Johnson and Grant failed to fill the post-Lincoln power void, so the party machines filled it instead. Party leaders took away the President’s appointment power and filled civil service positions, even the Vice Presidency, with party cronies who pretty much just dicked around and embezzled a lot of government money. President Hayes wasn’t about to let this continue. He took it upon himself to take down Mr. Corruption himself, Senator Roscoe Conkling, by removing from office his protégé Chester Arthur. Thus began the exciting reform of the time.

James Abram Garfield (OH State Leg., Repulican) 1881 (assassinated) VP: Chester Arthur; FL: wife Lucretia (yeah, seriously)

We have a tradition in this country of assassinating the best presidents. Garfield didn’t have a lot of time in office, but he spent it doing as much good as possible. He was so obsessive about Civil Service Reform that he personally, painstakingly interviewed candidates for basically every office (except of course the VP he got stuck with at the convention). Ultimately, it was one of those failed office seekers that shot him. His shitty doctor’s are the ones that actually killed him.

Chester Alan Arthur (VP, Republican) 1881-1885 (never elected) VP: none; FL: wife Ellen

Only a year and a half before Garfield’s death, President Hayes had removed Arthur from office in disgrace. Are we starting to see why the political machine needed reforming? As president, Arthur sought to prove he was above corrupt influence, and that chinless beards were cool.

Stephen Grover Cleveland (Governor, Democrat) 1885-1889 (1 full term) VP: Thomas Hendricks (died); FL: sister Rose, wife, 21–year-old Frances Folsom

Cleveland was a super Civil Service Reformer. He went as far as letting Republicans keep their jobs if they were good at them. The bigger issue by this point, though, was tariffs. Cleveland supported lower tariffs, but Congressman William McKinley believed in higher tariffs. Cleveland stuck to his guns, but when the economy lagged, tariffs were blamed and he lost the election. Tariffs are much more juicy than Civil Service Reform, right?

Benjamin Harrison (fmr. general and Senator, Republican) 1889-1893 (just 1 term) VP: Levi Morton; FL: wife Caroline

Apparently, the best way to beat a Democrat in the 1800’s was to nominate a big war general to oppose him. This time, though, unlike WH Harrison and Taylor, he didn’t die. His wife did. In 1892, he sat at his wife’s bedside, so he didn’t campaign. Harrison was a regressive who believed the president had no power to do anything, so no one missed him.

Next Up - Cleveland to Taft: The Two Williams

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts