May 17, 2013 by Lorene
With Thomas Jefferson as President and James Madison as Secretary of State, their many friends and supporters began asking for jobs ranging from Secretary of Treasury to “any little place in the post office.” Jefferson and Madison believed in a merit system, so they were not going to fire anyone who was in place who disagreed with their policies. According to Jefferson, “Vacancies…. by death are few, by resignation, none.” He determined “three grounds of removal” to bring in more Republicans.
John Adams made a lot of appointments after his defeat. Jefferson declared them “nullities,” except for the positions protected by the Constitution. Anyone guilty of official misconduct would be dismissed. Finally, attorneys and marshals, “being doors and entrances into courts,” would have to be changed in some cases “from zealous Federalists to mild Republicans.” However, Jefferson was determined that “good men to whom there is no objection but a difference of political principle… are not proper subjects of removal.”
Jefferson was unable to completely eliminate patronage, but he slowed it down enough to bother his supporters.