Development of the Administrative Structure

1 PHASE 1 (1789- 1883) – THE FORMATIVE ERA

1.1 Introduction

Although Public Administration as a separate academic field was only developed in the early 20th century it is important to study the early history of the field as it gives important insights into the complex governance structure that is currently in existence within the nation. The[b1] first phase began with the setting up of the new government under a new constitution by George Washington in 1789, takes a significant change in approach post the election of President Andrew Jackson which gave rise to the spoils system and finally ends with the implementation of the Pendleton Act which marked an end to the spoils system. The major factors that influenced the creation of an administrative structure during this time period and the reasons why they was modified afterwards will be presented in this section.

1.2 Major Factors

The major factors that influenced the evolution of public administration during the first phase presented chronologically are as follows:

1.2.1 Government under the U.S Constitution

The United State Constitution was drafted in 1787 and the new government had its first session in 1789 under President George Washington. While the period during the drafting of the constitution involved the sorting and testing of the American heritage of political ideas and experience, the period between 1789 to 1800 was one of selective synthesis of political concepts, and the establishment of a federal system of administration during the presidency of Washington and Adams (Caldwell,1976). The role of public administration during the early formative years was seen primarily as to facilitate in institutionalizing freedom. The government during this phase was largely concerned with coming up with a working system that could factor in the complex relations that existed between the states & the centre and provide unique identity to the government

1.2.2 Expansion of Federal Powers under Hamilton

The first major changes in the administrative structure of the newly formed state came with the changes brought in by Alexander Hamilton as the secretary of the treasury. During this period, Hamilton introduced several bills through his reports that lead to the federal government assuming state debts, creation of a national bank and tariffs on select trade operations. In just 10 years Hamilton put in place an administrative infrastructure that set the young nation on course for becoming an opulent commercial power (Green, 2002). These advancements by the federal government gave significant power to itself over the states and thus increased its responsibilities as well. The role of the federal government changed significantly after this step, as it moved from the state of being a facilitator to that of a manager of public affairs.

The role of Hamilton in deciding the path to be taken by America in becoming an International power was based on supporting a strong national government as a more effective protector of rights and as a greater stimulant to prosperity than the states which would otherwise remain as a force majeure. His contributions to public administration in America according to Green (2002) can be mainly classified among four major categories: politics, organization design, ethics and law.

  • Politics: Hamilton believed that public administration must conform its operations with the political character and principles of its people/society. He was the first person to envision the complex relation that public administration would hold with politics and believed that all three branches (Executive, Legislative and the Judiciary) would be involved with neither monopolizing or being subordinate to the other
  • Organizational Design: Hamilton wanted a strong government that possessed competency and power, particularly considering the failure of the Articles of Confederation. For that to take effect Hamilton envisioned a partial agency concept which allowed separation of powers and also fostered dependency.
  • Ethics :Hamilton was also one of the first persons to identify the role, ethics is to play in public administration. He understood that public administration officials might be influenced significantly and hence wanted to enhance their ethical standards by using external and internal measures like public status, sufficient pay, belief that future generations will view their achievements etc.
  • Legal : Hamilton being one of the founding fathers involved in the writing of the constitution had in depth knowledge of its powers and limitations. He used the “necessary and proper clause” to create and muster support for his financial and welfare schemes.

1.2.3 Rise of Jefferson and Republicans

Thomas Jefferson was ideologically polar opposite of Hamilton and preferred a Laissez-faire approach by the government. Under Washington and Adams Hamilton was setting up the road map towards the creation of America which would posses an integrated balanced economy requiring the simulation of finance and manufacturing and implying a degree of centralized administrative control over the national economy. Jefferson despised this ideology as he had seen first hand the evils of centralization, bureaucracy and public indebtedness during his travels to France as minister to the court. Jefferson wished to keep the American Common Wealth a union as to foreign affairs but decentralized as to domestic affairs. Jefferson became the voice of the people who were against Hamilton and his aggressive federalist ideologics. Jefferson was successful in maneuvering this opposition to Hamilton to finally win the presidency which lead to a significant alternation in the direction America was progressing in for a very long time. Jefferson believed in a wise and frugal government which shall restrain men from harming each other and shall otherwise leave them free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement. The Ideological differences of Hamilton and Jefferson can also be attributed to what they felt constituted America. Hamilton look at America as a growing county that had a huge potential, if it embraced the federalist approach whereas Jefferson viewed America as the people it constituted and wanted to focus more their growth and prosperity.

Although Jefferson is considered as one of the finest presidents of America , he is largely remembered for what he said than what he did during his presidency. The major contribution of Jefferson to growth of Public Administration are the set of principles he had developed. They represented to him the rules by which wise administrative action should be guided. They were : Harmony , Frugality & Simplicity , Providing for Change, responsibility and decentralization. His role at the top of the executive body made him realize the need for educated and competent leaders in the highest offices. He was also one of the first person who attempted to divide the politics from the administration, although it was done only in the case of federalist appointees. The government of America and its executive body took a 180 degree turn from the Hamiltonian approach, under Jefferson and stayed so until the late 19th century. Another important aspect related to his presidency was his belief int he education system. He believed that education was clearly the responsibility of the government. Jefferson’s presidency highlighted the major dilemmas that presidents have to encounter for centuries afterwards. He did not prefer taxation of the general public but had to execute it, he wished for greater local control but at the same time was vary of growing state and local powers.

1.2.4 Populist Approaches and the Rise of Spoils System

President Andrew Jackson was the seventh president of the United States of America. His rise to power signaled the rise of the populist democracy and more importantly the spoils system. Under this system the federal government jobs were given to its supporters of the ruling party as a reward for working for it as opposed to a merit system. Jackson’s rise to power signaled numerous ever lasting changes in America. The change in the voting electorate from white men who possessed property to all the white men brought everlasting changes to the democratic structure of America. This eventually lead to the populist movements which meant policies that had more public support were implemented most of the times. The growth of the voter electorate made the process of winning the election process all the more difficult, the parties started to implement the spoils system as an incentive for its party members to work it. The spoils systems had one of the biggest negative impacts on the progress of America as it lead to the drain of qualified personnel from administrative positions. The new emphasis on loyalty rather than competence had a long term negative effect on the efficiency and effectiveness of the federal government

1.2.5 Role of the Judiciary

The expansion of the powers at the federal level and the varying political stands of the states lead to conflicting situations within the government particularly at the executive and legislative levels. The supreme court passed several land mark judgments in the formative years in cases like the “Marbury Vs Madison” , ” Fletcher Vs Peck” and “Gibbons Vs Ogden” using its judicial review powers. These judgments particularly demarcated the boundaries between the executive and the judicial branches and also clearly specified the limitations of the legislatures and the executive branches. The rise of the supreme court and its use of the judicial review powers along with the necessary and proper clause of the congress, helped in acting as checks on the powers imbibed with public administration to the legislature and the executive. The dominance of the judiciary by the federalists, particularly after the might night appointees further polarized the differences in ideologies of the Hamiltonians and the Jeffersonians and established the important role of the judiciary in public administration.

1.2.6 Changing mood of the Nation

America as envisioned by its founding fathers consisted of people who had historically a rights oriented and individualistic culture. This unique point of view of things of Americans was and is, even now one of the major factors influencing its policies and administration. Even the constitution as written by the founding fathers, attempts to be a limiter on the power of the government rather than limit the powers of its citizens. In its early formative years voting rights belonged largely to the aristocrats who were fairly educated. The government until 1829 embraced the Hamiltonian approach and promoted expansion and promotion of the private sector to boost the economy. This decision particularly was comfortable from the elite stand point of view as it helped boost their businesses. But as the awareness and educative levels of the citizens increased gradually, the relative interest of politics within the citizens increased and lead to a situation where in a majority of the voters were not aristocrats. This change in voting rights and political awareness was influential in creation of populist electorates that eventually lead to the creation of the spoils system. The role of Religion in early America as a social binder was also very crucial in steering the ideological stand of the Americans.

1.3 Role of Presidents

The constitution of The United States of America grants its president the power over the executive branch. The unique division of power between the executive, the legislative and the judiciary is what makes the American democracy and administrative structure unique. The necessary and proper clause of the constitution grants the president and his executive office unique privileges and has lead to everlasting impact on the administrative structure of the country. Hamilton himself under president Washington made ample use of the ambiguity in the constitution to propagate a strong centralized federal structure. All the presidents in the formative era except John Quincy Adams were founding fathers and in being so had intent and purpose towards the growth of the nation. Under President Washington, Hamilton envisioned and created a strong federal executive body. He continued the same even under President John Adams and lead to the federal governments increasing hold over the states. Under its first two presidents, the American government witnessed a massive boost to the federal and state level executive structures.

The American presidents office saw numerous changes under the subsequent presidents of the formative era , but were largely not influential on the administrative structure of the state. The mid night appointees under President Adams lead to politicizing of the judicial and the executive wings also and further increased the powers of the presidency. This period particularly saw the rise of corruption and bargains systems within the administrative structures.