The Civil Service and Patriotism

George Washington Plunkitt (1842-1924) was a New York politician (a Democrat) and a member of Tammany Hall. His autobiography is a collection of speeches made by him and compiled by William L. Riorden.

Plunkitt is most famous for distinguishing between honest and dishonest graft. Described by him, honest graft is working in the interest of oneself, as well as in the interest of one’s party and one’s followers. For example, he gets tipped off about a future public work. He buys up the land they will need and then sells it to them and makes a profit. This is honest graft. Dishonest graft, according to Plunkitt, was working solely in one’s own interests, selfishly.

In one of Plunkitt’s speeches he talked about civil service and patriotism. He said that the civil service was bad: it destroyed any feelings of patriotism in the young people. He said that when a young patriot wanted to serve his own country by working in a government office he would have to pass some tests. These tests would so confound the poor candidate, due to the fool questions, that, associating these government tests with the country, he would lose his patriotism.

Plunkitt wanted both of the political parties to oppose the civil service, which he believed would eventually kill his type of politics.

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