This is the essay for lessons 71-75 in the Autobiographies course from the Ronpaul curriculum. In this blog post, I will be covering the question: How serious was Plunkitt about patriotism’s connection to obtaining a job after Tammany won an election?
George Washington Plunkitt was a politician in New York during the late 19th- and early 20th centuries. He was also a member of the political machine which was called Tammany Hall. A political machine is a political group in which a few people in the party give benefits to their supporters when they support the party. This is so that the supporters vote for them on election day. This system of gaining votes is also used in normal parties, but political machines rely much more heavily on this system than normal parties. This made political machines heavily reliant on the spoils system. How the spoils system works is that the winning party gives government civil service jobs to their supporters. Plunkitt thought that the spoils system was the core of politics. He thought that if the supporters of the party didn’t get a government civil service job, there would be very little reason to vote for political parties. This is why when the civil service reform movement became popular around the late 19th- and early 20th centuries, Plunkitt was completely against it.
Before the civil service reform movement became popular, several reforms were implemented but they had little to no impact. The purpose of the civil service reforms was to make it so that civil servants couldn’t be kicked out of their jobs, because a different party was in power. The civil service reform also made it so that to get a civil service job you needed to first go through an examination that tests if you have knowledge of complex subjects and important degrees. The examination’s purpose was supposed to test your intelligence.
Plunkitt was against the civil service reforms because then he would have fewer government jobs to hand out to his supporters and many of them would fail the examinations. Plunkitt argued that a patriotic man could lose all his patriotism and go against the state because he lost a civil service examination. Plunkitt knew a few cases where this exact thing had happened to several people. Although it is likely that it was made up to convince people of his view against the civil service reform. This is why Plunkitt was very serious about patriotism’s connection to obtaining a job after Tammany won an election.
Plunkitt thought that after the death of patriotism, people would stop voting. This is didn’t happen, instead people kept voting but for different people. Under the spoils system, people voted for political machines but when civil service reforms were implemented they started voting for reformers. The reason for this was that when the civil service reforms were implemented, politicians had to change. Most people were able to make the transition, the ones that weren’t able to, were the political machines. While the reformers adapted to the new environment, Plunkitt and other political machines were losing votes. After the civil service reform movement became popular, Plunkitt couldn’t win any more elections and quit being a politician shortly afterward.