Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act

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Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act
Great Seal of the United States
Long titleAn act to regulate and improve the civil service of the United States
NicknamesPendleton Act
Enacted bythe 47th United States Congress
Citations
Statutes at Largech. 27, 22 Stat. 403
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the Senate as S. 133 by George H. Pendleton (D-OH)
  • Passed the Senate on December 27, 1882 (39–5)
  • Passed the House on January 4, 1883 (155–46)
  • Signed into law by President Chester A. Arthur on January 16, 1883
 
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Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act
Great Seal of the United States
Long titleAn act to regulate and improve the civil service of the United States
NicknamesPendleton Act
Enacted bythe 47th United States Congress
Citations
Statutes at Largech. 27, 22 Stat. 403
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the Senate as S. 133 by George H. Pendleton (D-OH)
  • Passed the Senate on December 27, 1882 (39–5)
  • Passed the House on January 4, 1883 (155–46)
  • Signed into law by President Chester A. Arthur on January 16, 1883

The Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act (ch. 27, 22 Stat. 403) of United States is a federal law established in 1883 that stipulated that government jobs should be awarded on the basis of merit.[1] The act provided selection of government employees by competitive exams,[1] rather than ties to politicians or political affiliation. It also made it illegal to fire or demote government employees for political reasons and prohibited soliciting campaign donations on Federal government property.[1] To enforce the merit system and the judicial system, the law also created the United States Civil Service Commission.[1] A crucial result was the shift of the parties to reliance on funding from business,[2] since they could no longer depend on patronage hopefuls.

Started during the Chester Alan Arthur administration, the Pendleton Act served as a response to the massive public support of civil service reform that grew following President James Garfield's assassination by Charles J. Guiteau.[1] Despite his previous support of the patronage system,[1] Arthur became an ardent supporter of civil service reform as president.[1] The Act was passed into law on January 16, 1883. The Act was sponsored by Senator George H. Pendleton, Democratic Senator of Ohio, and written by Dorman Bridgeman Eaton, a staunch opponent of the patronage system who was later first chairman of the United States Civil Service Commission. However, the law would also prove to be a major political liability for Arthur.[1] The law offended machine politicians [clarification needed] within the Republican Party and did not prove to be enough for the party's reformers; hence, Arthur lost popularity within the Republican Party and was unable to win the party's Presidential nomination at the 1884 Republican National Convention.[1]

The law applied only to federal government jobs, not to the state and local jobs that were the basis for political machines.[clarification needed] At first, the Pendleton Act only covered very few jobs, as only 10% of the US government's civilian employees had civil service jobs.[1] However, there was a ratchet provision whereby outgoing presidents could lock in their own appointees by converting their jobs to civil service. After a series of party reversals at the presidential level (1884, 1888, 1892, 1896), the result was that most federal jobs were under civil service.

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