spoils system

noun
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:
1830–40, Americanism

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Collins
World English Dictionary
spoils system
 
n
chiefly (US) Compare merit system the practice of filling appointive public offices with friends and supporters of the ruling political party

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

spoils system definition


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 American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Example sentences
The style of government was a spoils system, underpinned by terror of a vicious
  network of spies and secret police.
The latter, in particular, fears disruption to business as usual and the spoils
  system.
Although by no means a complete reversal of the spoils system, it took a large
  step in that direction.
We can no longer afford tolerating remnants of the spoils system as the
  necessary cost of our form of government.
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