Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States
PATRONAGE, in the sense in which it comes especially within the scope of this work, is the control of appointments and employments for positions of a public nature. Broadly considered, it extends to all selections of persons for service in corporations, churches, schools and other positions not within the private business of the person to whom the patronage belongs. It may also be regarded as including honors, decorations and pensions, under aristocratic institutions. In law the power of appointment and employment usually, but not always, includes the power of promotion, removal and dismissal. It will be convenient, however, to treat these powers separately. (See
—Patronage of a character more or less peculiar arises out of civil, military and naval administration, respectively. Wherever there is a state church or an ecclesiastical establishment, there is, as a consequence, a kind of patronage unknown under the government of the United States. If we had space for pursuing the subject from the public departments down through the management of landed estates, factories, mines, ships, railroads, banks, insurance companies, and manifold other corporations in which the selection and dismissal of many subordinates is an important part of the duties of superior officials, as well as a prolific source of favoritism, corruption and extravagance, we should find the subject full of interest and importance. We can hardly go beyond its more public relations, and shall especially consider its responsibilities and abuses.
—In its primary sense, in politics and the church, patronage was a friendly care exercised by a superior over those who had in some way come under his protection, calling for generosity and disinterestedness on the part of him who possessed it. Works of charity, beneficences and patriotism were said to be placed under the patronage of the great and the good; thus inviting sacrifice and support as a duty. In Rome patronage marked a peculiar social relation between the highest class and that next in order, based upon the reciprocal relation of protection and loyalty. While the more honorable application of the word is not unknown in our day, patronage is now generally accepted as implying a selfish if not a venal relation, or use of authority and influence. The patronage we are most familiar with is that which is used, more or less unscrupulously or corruptly, to aid a party, a church, a faction, a chieftain, or perhaps the official himself who exercises it, his relatives and his favorites. Yet the legal control of selections for office and public employments, when wisely and conscientiously exercised, is patronage in the worthy sense. In refusing any political connection between the government and the organizations and officials of religion, the framers of our system avoided a large amount of the most pernicious patronage by which both the churches and the civil administration of the older nations have been complicated and corrupted. So patronage under our system was still further limited by our rejection of class distinctions, social orders, titles, and a complicated system of discretionary pensions in civil life. It hardly need be pointed out that under despotic and monarchical governments this additional patronage of the crown, in the form of a power to create political distinctions of rank, to fill the high places in the church, to confer decorations, pensions and social precedence, has been no small part of the effective force and coherence of the government, as it has been of the sources of corruption. "Patronage-mongering" is a kind of criminal offense in Great Britain, against which criminal laws contain provisions. It was a maxim of Napoleon that "religion and honors are the two things by which mankind may be governed"; and even in this decade, Arthur Helps, in his "Thoughts on Government," says the conferring of honors is an important function of government. And this is not all; for that form of government which creates a landed aristocracy and a church hierarchy lays the foundation of a vast social patronage on the part of nobles and great officials, while it does not diminish the patronage incident to the ordinary civil, military and naval administration. Hardly more than this latter patronage can exist under our institutions. But it is plain that, as wealth and population increase, making government, business and society alike more complicated, the amount and power of patronage, becoming more and more social and mercenary, must greatly increase.
—The civil administration of the federal government was carried on the first year with a revenue of two million dollars, and with probably less than a thousand officials: it has now a hundred thousand. The federal postal service in the beginning required only seventy-five postmasters. Under Jackson's administration it required 8,000. Now there are more than 45,000 postmasters. The increase of state and municipal officials has been in much the same ratio. In New York city alone there are more than 2,500 civil officials under the federal government. About 10,000 officials serve there in the employment of the state and the city; the latter earning annual salaries amounting to about $10,000,000. To all these, army and navy officers and the great number of federal, state and municipal employés must be added. In order to gain some definite conception of the stupendous potency of patronage in this country, even as a mere political force, we must consider the whole body of its officials and employés, federal, state and municipal, perhaps half a million in all; the vast sums paid to them; the manifold bargains, beggings intrigues and contentions for these places; the formidable and ever active power of removal and promotion; to say nothing of the constant and vast authority for discipline, regulation and favors on the part of those by whom patronage is wielded. There is not a state, county, city, ward, town or village, if even there be a school district or hamlet, in which patronage is not a constant political and social influence that is courted or feared. In each nomination and election, from those of the president and the governors down to those of trustees, justices and constables, the element of patronage enters as a suspected and efficient element, whether it be the patronage of existing officials who intermeddle, or the patronage—hoped for or feared—of the officer about to be created. In the eyes of political managers patronage is one of the most sure and potent of forces, never lost sight of in campaigns, and almost never recognized as under moral obligations. Candidates are regarded by the politician class as available in the ratio of their adroitness in promising and their unscrupulousness in using patronage to bribe voters, to reward electioneerers, to buy the press, and to conciliate opponents and rivals. Appearing as an element in large measure extraneous to the merits of the candidate and the interests of the voters, the influence of patronage very naturally and easily tends to demoralize and corrupt. This result is helped by the fact that no other great and venal influence in politics is with so much facility exercised in 'secrecy, or is so readily kept beyond fear of responsibility. Bribery by the use of money may leave some traces in aid of detection, but how can it be proved in court that a hint or hope of a place or of an official favor secured a nomination, a vote, or a supporter? How can it be proved in a court that the fear of removal makes a large proportion of our officials servile henchmen of patronage-mongers, or that hundreds voted for a member of congress, a mayor or a governor, upon some assurance—not of course in a formal promise—that the patronage of the new official would be used for the advantage of venal voters? Unworthy relatives, favorites, henchmen and dependents are appointed or hired in superfluous numbers for the public service by patronage-mongering officials; but how is it possible, except in extreme cases, to prove any wrong beyond the unwise exercise of a large and but loosely defined official discretion? There is, perhaps, no form of abuse in public affairs so easily practiced as that form of patronage prostitution which can secretly take place between a corrupt officer and a venal office seeker. One of the great evils of political life, under all forms of government, has been the abuse of official discretion in the use of patronage corruptly or selfishly. And it hardly need be said that, under the republican system in the United States—greatly as the sphere of patronage has been curtailed—it is yet one of the most potent elements of corruption and extravagance in our politics, the portentous effects of which are arousing the patriotic classes to a great effort for their removal. (See
—It should not be overlooked that a part of the power and corruption of patronage grows out of the ability of political managers and the patronage-mongering class to tax the salaries of office holders for the payment of party and election expenses. (See
—Looked at from another point of view, we see it to be most dangerous to allow legislators—who fix salaries and the number to be employed in the executive service, and whose special duty it is to expose and arrest all abuses therein—to acquire a selfish and partisan interest in the increase of the numbers and salaries of these subordinates. They have no longer the courage or independence needed for that duty. The first salary to be reduced may be that of the relative or favorite of a member; the first person that should be dismissed, his electioneering agent. Yet members of congress—and of legislatures only in less degree—have become the greatest patronage-mongers of the country; usurping control over such subordinates in order to gain the patronage of places to be pledged for votes and other support in their elections; thus becoming directly interested, for themselves and their party, in the increase of the members and compensation of such subordinates. In that way, congressmen, in duty bound to aid the high executive officers in the practice of economy, have, through their appeals and solicitations for more patronage, become a cause of extravagance and corruption alike. They go through the departments and besiege secretaries and heads of bureaus for places. Congressional patronage—usurped congressional patronage, for, legally and properly, congressmen have no patronage whatever—has become one of the most corrupting and dangerous influences in our national affairs. In no way perhaps does it appear more threatening than in connection with the power of confirmation by the senate. (See
—The late President Garfield spoke emphatically on these points. In a speech at Williams college, he said: "Congressmen have become the dispensers, sometimes the brokers, of patronage. One-third of the working hours of senators and representatives is hardly sufficient to meet the demands made upon them in reference to appointments for office." In an article in the "Atlantic Monthly," for July, 1877, he says: "The present system invades the independence of the executive, and makes him less responsible for the character of his appointments; it impairs the efficiency of the legislator, by diverting him from his proper sphere of duty and involving him in the intrigues of the aspirants for office." In a speech in congress, in 1870, he made it clear that congressional pressure for patronage is as willful on the part of members as it is disastrous to the country. This is his language: "We press such appointments upon the departments; we crowd the doors; senators and representatives throng the bureaus and offices until the public business is obstructed; the patience of officers is worn out, and sometimes for fear of losing their places by our influence, they at last give way and appoint men, not because they are fit for the position, but because we ask it." As a further example of the consequences of the abuse of patronage, it may be stated, upon what seems reliable authority, that at least one-third of the time of President Garfield (before his injury) was absorbed by applicants for office, and that more than six-sevenths of the calls made upon one of his secretaries during a period of three months were for office seeking. Such are the effects in the higher departments of the government of converting the appointing power into patronage for selfish and partisan purposes. We have no space for tracing the consequences of a similar prostitution of patronage in state legislatures, city councils, or in the various grades of office throughout the country. (For a general statement of the abuses with which this prostitution is connected, see
—So vast and familiar have the evils of patronage become, that some of the American people almost despair of their removal, while many more have come to regard them as original and inevitable under our institutions. It will not, therefore, be unprofitable to refer to the same evils and the manner of their removal in Great Britain, to whose administrative system ours is most analogous. (See
—Wherever government purely despotic exists, offices and places are bestowed absolutely in the discretion of the ruler. Patronage, in its usual sense, can only exist where some degree of obligation to use it for the common benefit is recognized by the appointing power, and that power is, in some measure, held by great officers of state. Under the lowest forms of patronage we find offices and places salable, that is, treated as perquisites and merchandise, with but the faintest recognition of a moral obligation in the matter. We have only to go back a century or two in the history of the leading nations of Europe, to come upon a period when every grade of office and public employment and the patronage of the same were bought and sold, either openly or secretly, by kings, by princes, by nobles and bishops, by generals and admirals, by lords and those of every grade in the social and official scale influential enough to purchase or control a bit of patronage. Even within this century the English government has provided by law for the purchase, by itself, of patronage and offices (for the purpose of making them really public again), which had been for many generations private property, mere merchandise in the hands of patronage-mongers. In the British army the buying and selling of offices and the patronage of the same were openly carried on and were recognized as legal by the government, under the name of "purchase," up to 1871. English army officers generally obtained their commissions by purchasing them at the market price. The patronage of these offices had formerly been in a considerable measure a part of the perquisites of members of parliament. And when, in 1870, the attempt was made to suppress that patronage-merchandise, there were members of parliament who contended that such a system of patronage and purchase was essential to good army administration in Great Britain, just as there are now many members in our congress and many intelligent politicians who contend that civil patronage is essential to the life of parties and the management of our politics. So strongly was that theory supported in Great Britain that the bill for the suppression of patronage and purchase in the army was thrown out in the house of lords in 1871; but the abuse was in the same year suppressed by a royal warrant which superseded the old regulation on which purchase had rested. It was, however only done on the basis of an allowance by the government to the army patronage-vendees, as having a vested property in what they had purchased. An open competition of merit, determined by examinations, took the place of patronage and purchase for gaining office in the army, and cadetships in the military and naval schools. And promotions have been generally placed on the same basis (with a certain regard for seniority), to the credit and advantage of those parts of the public service.
—Almost from the organization of the state church of England, there has been a complicated system of merchantable patronage in its official life, nor is it by any means yet suppressed. Greatly as the public opinion of this country is blinded and blunted by long familiarity with the evils of patronage in our political administration, it can hardly contemplate without a shock the prostitution of patronage which long existed in that church, or even look without surprise upon the part of it which still survives there after patronage has ceased in her civil administration. Many of our party managers, who regard our vicious political patronage as original here, if not as quite defensible, affect astonishment at its counterpart in the church of England; they are too blinded or too ignorant to comprehend the fact that the same form of patronage we tolerate long existed in Great Britain, but has been suppressed there by methods which might be made equally salutary here.
—The appointment of archbishops and bishops, until the present century, was there as venal, mercenary and regardless of the public interests as the creation of noblemen, the gift of pensions and the bestowal of franchises, all of which were in large measure bestowed as bribes or as rewards for subserviency to the crown or the aristocracy. George III. made his infant son a bishop. It was the custom for an archbishop on the consecration of a bishop, to name a favorite of his own, whom the bishop was to "take care of," that is, to provide with a place and a salary. The bishop imitated that example in dealing with the rector; and thus through every grade a system of vicious patronage extended, down to the beadle and the chorister. This patronage was protected by law, as in the nature of property; that of the archbishop being known as his "option." Simony and nepotism were but designations of a particular phase of patronage. The right, or privilege, of officiating in a church (as a minister, according to our phraseology) was called a "benefice," or, in popular language, a "living," a name which marks the mercenary view taken of it. The right to hold this benefice, or living, was an "advowson," which was, in other words, the patronage of the rectorship or church. That patronage of a church, the advowson, including the titles and income, was sometimes regularly bought and sold long after the edifice had gone to decay, and the worshipers had died or scattered. The advowson (or right of filling the benefice) might be bought and many times transferred while an occupying rector was still officiating. The owner of the advowson was the patron of the benefice. This advowson, or patronage, was emphatically property, and was as fully protected by law and as regularly and openly bought and sold as cattle or grain; and with considerable limitations favorable to capacity, character and publicity, advowsons in the church of England are still generally bought and sold. The person presented by the purchaser, or the purchaser himself if he wishes to officiate, must be approved by the bishop before he can enter upon the enjoyment of his living; but the worshipers have no power to keep him out or to put one of their choice in, not even so much power of that kind as have our citizens to secure a good appointment in a city department against the will of the "boss" or the party managers. Many advowsons are at all times in the market for sale. The following is a specimen advertisement (of a very usual form) cut from the "London Times," of September, 1870: "Advowson for Sale (a Rectory), situated close to a good town in an eastern county. Situation most healthy and pleasant. Good society. Income, about £250 a year; and there is a prospect of a very early possession; excellent vicarage house, grounds, etc. Address J. B. Hill, 51 Hollywood Road, West Brompton."
—What scandalous consequences followed such a patronage system in more despotic and corrupt times, Mr. Froude tells us (History, vol. v., pp. 255-257) in this language: "In the country the patron of the benefice no longer made distinction between a clergyman and a layman. * * He presented his huntsman, his steward or his game keeper. * * The cathedrals and churches of London became the chosen scenes of riot and profanity, St. Paul's was the stock exchange of the day, where the merchants met for business and the lounge; where gallants gambled and fought, and killed each other." It was the natural result of such a system of church patronage, that he who had bought the office or place in the church was regarded as the owner of it, and under the common law of England even parish clerks and sextons have freeholds in their offices.
—Patronage in the church of Scotland was hardly less mercenary and disastrous. It was known as "lay patronage." John Knox in vain attempted to arrest it. It secured recognition by law, and led to scandalous acts of violence. For generations it was a prolific source of venality, favoritism and corruption, not only in the Scotch church, but in the whole civil administration of Scotland. It finally became so intolerable to the better sentiment of the Scotch church that in the first quarter of this century it caused a disruption of the church itself. Dr. Chalmers, leading the party which made a stand against patronage, secured a majority in the general assembly in 1834. A long litigation followed, in which the Scotch church patronage-mongers had the hearty sympathy of the English patronage-mongers. The courts affirmed a right of private property in church patronage. Thereupon Dr. Chalmers left the state church, and carried with him more than one-third of all the clergy of the church of Scotland. "Their once crowded churches were surrendered to others, while they went forth to preach on the hillsides, and in tents, barns and stables." (2 May's Constitutional History, p. 442.) In eighteen years more than $26,000,000 were contributed for the purposes of the new organization, now known as the "Free Church of Scotland."
—Supported by such elements of venality and corruption outside of party politics, it is hardly necessary to say that patronage in the civil administration of Great Britain was far worse than any we have yet developed, or that its removal was made far more difficult by reason of the patronage-mongers of the army, of the church and of the civil administration making common cause together. Whatever reform directly threatened one, indirectly threatened all. In her civil administration every grade of office and place centuries ago became patronage in the control of somebody—of the crown, of the princes, of nobles, of bishops, of great landlords, of cabinet officers, of members of parliament, of parties and of party managers. More grossly and boldly than ever with us, unworthy men were given places, and needless numbers were foisted upon the public pay rolls, in order to increase the amount of patronage. As with us, the public officials and employés neglected their duties in order to serve their patrons; and the most intolerable incompetency, inefficiency and corruption existed in the municipal administration. In the greed for increasing patronage, and for making it valuable to patronage-mongers and parties, the paramount tests for appointments were not fitness, but opinions, and the promise and prospect of work for the party and the patrons.
—Until about the beginning of this century parliament had not become so potent in the state as to enable its members to usurp any great share of patronage. But as their influence increased, they used it to increase their patronage. George III. was the last king who was able by direct authority to put limits to that parliamentary usurpation. He used the vast patronage of the crown as relentlessly as Jackson used that of the executive for partisan ends. He also used public money, equally with patronage, to corrupt opponents, to reward supporters, to make presents to favorites, and to bribe members of parliament. Under his immediate successors, members of parliament took to themselves the largest part of all civil patronage, and they continued to hold and to use it in aid of their own elections, their party and their favorites, until the triumph of the reform policy by which it has been suppressed. (See
—The experience of Great Britain is especially interesting, not only as showing the results which our evolution is soon likely to reach if not arrested, but as showing how such an evil, buttressed by many elements of strength with which we are not confronted, may be overcome. For patronage, in any other sense than the mere exercise of the appointing power in the public interest alone, has, in the civil administration of Great Britain, been, with very slight exceptions, suppressed. Members of parliament have lost their usurped control over appointments, and are therefore without patronage of any kind.
—After the creation of a sounder public opinion, the principal means there used for the suppression of civil patronage was the enforcement of rigid competitive examinations of fitness before appointments, by which the qualifications were tested which were required for holding the places sought. (See
—The work of patronage suppression in Great Britain was also aided by more effective laws against bribery (known as office brokerage laws) than any in force in this country. (See work last cited, pp. 132 to 139.) Our statutes make bribery to consist in giving or promising "money or something of value" for the doing of the act, as voting, appointing, etc., and they do not extend to the promising of nominations or confirmations, or to influence for procuring them. The English statutes go much further; making it a penal offense to enter into contract for, on to engage in the business of, procuring offices or places for a consideration of a corrupt nature, whether valuable or not. The promise of official influence for votes or appointments is such a consideration. Some of the most comprehensive of our decisions against bribery and the corrupt use of patronage are based solely on English precedents—facts which plainly illustrate the potency of the patronage interest in our legislation.
—In the last few years there has been a rapid growth of public opinion, which sternly condemns our patronage system. Never has the levying of political assessments been so vigorously arraigned as during the present year (1883). More and more our statesmen are becoming convinced that the enforcement of that system does not even give strength to a party. Sober reflection and a more careful observance of facts are convincing them that fidelity to principles, the selection of worthy men for office, and honest, efficient administration, and not a venal and proscriptive use of patronage, are the true and sufficient sources of vigor, vitality and power in a party. British experience on the subject is securing the attention of our thinkers in politics. The enforcement of competitive examinations at the postoffice and custom house at New York city, through which the patronage there has been suppressed, by enabling the most worthy to win the places, in utter disregard and defeat of the practices and interests of the old patronage-mongers and chieftains of New York politics, has done much to convince the public that only a practicable and becoming effort is needed to achieve a suppression of patronage in our civil administration, as complete and salutary as that which has been accomplished in that of Great Britain.
—In that broad sense in which patronage may be held to include the legal and faithful exercise of the appointing power, it must always exist, and must become greater with the increase of our population and commerce. What is needed is a public opinion which shall be wise, virtuous and patriotic enough to enforce such exercise of that power, when aided by the better practical methods that are available for our use. It is necessary that every official should be educated to accept, and compelled by law and public opinion to act upon, the theory that there can be no proper and legal public patronage in which any officers or citizens can have a pecuniary interest, or, in other words, that there is no more moral or legal right to use the appointing power than there is to use the public money for the private advantage of any citizen, officer or party. We must have a public opinion which treats one of these offenses as being equally reprehensible with the other. For the legal principles applicable to this part of the subject, see
DORMAN B. EATON.
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