Elected officials in the U.S. must serve in their positions with good behavior, or risk losing the next election. However, human greed still finds a foothold. As the U.S. realized it needed to reshape its government into something more stable than the faulty Articles of Confederation, founding father James Madison lent his wisdom in the 39th Federalist Paper, saying that “[i]t is Sufficient for such a government that the persons administering it be appointed, either directly or indirectly, by the people”; an effective way to ensure that the nation never finds itself under the rule of an unstoppable tyrant. The U.S. Constitution was designed with that in mind, setting up governmental positions so that officials must be elected directly by the people, or indirectly through appointment by their elected officials. However, Andrew Jackson abused the power of presidential appointments in a practice commonly referred to as the spoils system.


The public’s lack of control over appointments allowed Jackson to abuse the power granted to him in the Appointments Clause. He began appointing people close to him, or those who supported him in his election, to high-level offices. Their lack of skill in the positions caused chaos in the bureaucracy, but they were able to retain their positions due to their ties to the president. The idea of the electoral system is that “public officials must obtain, and retain, their offices only if the people generally are satisfied with them” (Miller, H), but if the officials are appointees, the general public has no real power to affect their ability to remain in office. Jackson skirted around constitutional boundaries in order to improve his standing with those close to him at the expense of the nation he was elected to represent, thus displaying the fact that the Constitution has a limited ability to ensure elected officials make decisions that benefit the nation as a whole. Despite the passage of the Pendleton Act, which limited positions to appointment based on merit, presidents still find ways to avoid such restrictions.


A prominent contemporary example is the appointment of special high-level positions, informally known as czars, in which officials oversee a specific policy, such as climate, or AIDS. Presidents may appoint anyone as a czar, often without confirmation from the Senate, or regulation by the law. It is through systems like this that presidents are still able to appoint whomever they choose without keeping full consideration of national interest.


However regulatory the Constitution is on the presidential position, it cannot guarantee that presidents will act entirely with national interest in mind. This can be seen clearly through the Jacksonian spoils system, as well as the modern appointment of czars. Robert T. Miller’s argues in his paper, “To Make Their Interests Coincide With Their Duty: How the Constitution Leads Public Officials to Make Good Decisions,” that the Constitution has regulations which encourage governmental officials to make decisions that are of national interest, but he doesn’t factor in that people always seem to bend the rules in order to propel their personal interests, as seen time and time again within the presidency.