Half-Breed (politics)

Half-Breed (politics)

The "Half-Breeds" were a political faction of the United States Republican Party that existed in the late 19th century. The Half-Breeds were a moderate-wing group, and they were the opponents of the Stalwarts, the other main faction of the Republican Party. The main issue that separated the Stalwarts and the Half-Breeds was political patronage. The Stalwarts were in favor of political machines and spoils system-style patronage, while the Half-Breeds, led by Maine senator James G. Blaine, were in favor of civil service reform and a merit system.

In the 1880 Republican National Convention, the Stalwart candidate, former president Ulysses S. Grant, was pitted against Half-Breed James G. Blaine for the party nomination. Grant's campaign was being led by Stalwart leader, Roscoe Conkling of New York, a state that had the biggest split between Stalwarts and Half-Breeds. Despite Conkling's attempts at imposing a unit-rule in the Republican National Convention, in which a state's votes would be grouped together for only one candidate, [cite book | last=Ackerman | first=Kenneth D. | title=Dark Horse: The Surprise Election and Political Murder of President James A. Garfield | publisher= Carroll & Graf Publishers| location=New York | year = 2003|isbn=0-7867-1151-5 | pages=p24 ] a number of Stalwarts went against him by vocalizing their support for the Half-Breed, Blaine. The Half-Breeds united together to defeat the unit rule in a vote, and elected George Frisbie Hoar, a Half-Breed, to the position as the temporary chairman of the convention. [cite book | last=Hernon | first=Joseph Martin| title=Profiles in Character: Hubris and Heroism in the U.S. Senate, 1789-1990 | publisher= M. E. Sharpe, Inc | location=New York | year = 1997|isbn=1-56324-937-5 | pages=p108 ] [Hoar was later appointed as the permanent chairman of the convention.]

Both sides knew that there was no chance of victory for either candidate, and the Half-Breeds chose a compromise candidate, James Garfield, who won the party's nomination on the thirty-sixth ballot, [Ackerman (2003), p120-121.] and later the presidential election. [Ackerman (2003), p221.] Blaine was chosen to be Secretary of State in the Garfield administration, and he carried heavy influence on the political appointments Garfield issued for congressional approval. After Garfield was assassinated by Charles J. Guiteau, a Stalwart, who proclaimed, "I am a Stalwart of the Stalwarts and Arthur will be President", [Ackerman (2003), p384.] the new Stalwart president Chester A. Arthur surprised those in his own faction by promoting civil service reform and issuing government jobs based on a merit system. [cite book | last=Sauer | first=Patrick | title=The Complete Idiot's Guide to the American Presidents| publisher= Alpha Books| location=Indianapolis, Indiana | year = 2000|isbn=0-02-863821-2 | pages=p290 ]

The Half-Breeds wrote the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act, and Arthur signed the bill into law on January 16, 1883. The act put an end to the spoils system, and placed all federal employees under the merit system, which exists to this day. The act also set up the United States Civil Service Commission, banished political tests, denied jobs to alcoholics and created competitive measures for some federal positions. [Sauer (2000), p291.] The Half-Breed and Stalwart factions both dissociated towards the end of the 1880s.


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