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spoils system

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noun
  1. the system or practice in which public offices with their emoluments and advantages are at the disposal of the victorious party for its own purposes.

Origin of spoils system

An Americanism dating back to 1830–40
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for spoils system

Historical Examples

  • Those were the days when the 'spoils-system' had begun to act with corrosive effect on public affairs and public men.

    William Jay and the Constitutional Movement for the Abolition of Slavery

    Bayard Tuckerman


British Dictionary definitions for spoils system

spoils system

noun
  1. mainly US the practice of filling appointive public offices with friends and supporters of the ruling political partyCompare merit system
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

spoils system in Culture

spoils system

The practice of appointing applicants to public offices as a reward for their loyalty to the political party in power. The term comes from a statement by a senator in the 1830s: “To the victor belong the spoils.” Reform of the system commenced in the 1880s with the introduction of merit as the basis of appointment to office. (See James A. Garfield, machine politics, and patronage.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.