Pendleton Act

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Pendleton, George H. (1).jpg
Engraved portrait of George Hunt Pendleton (1825-1889). Pendleton was from Cincinnati and served as a United States Senator from 1879-1885. He sponsored the U.S. Civil Service Commission.

George Pendleton, a United States Senator from Cincinnati, Ohio, authored the Pendleton Act. The Pendleton Act still serves as the basis for civil service positions today. This legislation resulted from President James Garfield's assassination in 1881. Garfield served only four months before he was shot by Charles J. Guiteau. Guiteau had sought a political office under Garfield's administration. He was refused. Disgruntled, Guiteau shot Garfield while the president waited for a train in Washington, DC. Garfield clung to life for two more months, before dying on September 19, 1881.

While Garfield accomplished little as president, his death inspired the United States Congress and his successor as president, Chester A. Arthur, to reform civil service positions. Rather than having the victors in elections appointing unqualified supporters, friends, or family members to positions, the Civil Service Commission was created to guarantee that political appointees were qualified for positions. Appointees had to prove their ability to hold positions by satisfactorily passing a civil service exam. The Pendleton Act also forbade appointees from utilizing their offices to campaign for candidates and also protected government workers from termination for their political beliefs.

In 1884, the Ohio legislature refused to reappoint Pendleton as one of the state's senators. Interestingly, this was due to his practice of seeking government positions for unqualified supporters.

See Also