Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act

Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act

Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act
Great Seal of the United States
Long title An act to regulate and improve the civil service of the United States
Nicknames Pendleton Act
Enacted by the 47th United States Congress
Statutes at Large ch. 27, 22 Stat. 403
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the Senate as S. 133 by 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 officials 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 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 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. 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.

The Pendleton Act was quoted in The West Wing episode 'The Midterms' (Season 2, Episode 3) when President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) leaves the Oval Office to make campaign calls from the White House residence.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j
  2. ^ Quigley, Carroll (1966). Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time. San Pedro, CA: MacMillian Co. p. 71.  

Further reading

  • Women's Auxiliary to the Civil Service Reform Association (1907). Bibliography of Civil Service Reform and Related Subjects (2nd ed.). New York.