One of the great perquisites of power is rewarding those who helped you gain that power. The hiring of friends and associates who lacked either the skill or ability to perform their jobs deflated the value and performance of government in the early 19th Century. Ultimately, it took the entire century for legislative changes to be enacted to curb the excesses of cronyism and then, only after a great tragedy.  The Pendleton Act imposed a test for civil service.  This exam is still in use today. The act makes it illegal to fire or demote for political reasons government workers who are covered by the law. This law was discussed recently when it was alleged that "Scooter" Libby, convicted of four felony counts while Chief of Staff for Vice President Cheney, may have leaked the name of a CIA employee for political reasons knowing that disclosure of her identity would compromise her ability to do her job.  When the law was passed, only ten percent of the government's 132,000 employees were covered under the law.  Now, more than ninety percent of 2.7 million Federal employees are covered.  Under this law, political contributions and political service are illegal for those Federal employees.


Government Regulation of Business Practices

Some see the Pendleton Act as the so-called "Magna Carta" of Civil Service reform.  What is meant by that statement?  

From Isolationism to Intervention

  • Why was there a need for a Pendleton Act?
  • How did the the assassination of a president affect the legislative process?   Would that ever happen again?
  • What did those in power fear about the ultimate purpose of the Pendleton Act?