Pendleton Civil Service Act

(1883)

Named after Senator George Hunt Pendleton of Ohio, the Pendleton Civil Service Act was written by the civil service reformer Dorman B. Eaton and was signed into law on January 16, 1883. Traditionally, federal government jobs had been gained by those who contributed to political campaigns, a process known as the “spoils system” in reference to the idea that “to the victor belong the spoils.” The Pendleton Act instituted examinations to appoint people based on merit rather than patronage. The Pendleton Act essentially created “classified” positions that would be filled from a list of eligible applicants based on the results of their examinations. The act also established the United States Civil Service Commission to administer federal government employment. Initially, the act covered only approximately ten thousand federal positions. Presidents, however, were authorized to add to these positions. By 1932 more than 80 percent of federal jobs had been brought under the umbrella...

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George Hunt Pendleton (Library of Congress)

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