12/08/05 - corruption

In today's excerpt - White House corruption. The virtual certainty in American History that in every administration from George Washington's forward, and in today's case John Quincy Adams's and Andrew Jackson's circa 1829 that: 1) there would be corruption discovered during a given administration or immediately after, 2) the opposition party would howl its indignation and protests, and 3) the incoming administration would pledge to eliminate this corruption.  The irony of this passage is our subsequent knowledge that the corruption in the Adams's administration was exceeded by that of Jackson's:

"The first weeks of the Jackson presidency were marked by scandals—the first involving not the new administration, but the one that had just departed.  Immediately, Jackson began clarifying what he meant by reform by investigating and clearing out the old order.  Convinced that President Adams's higher civil service appointees had been awash in peculation, he appointed the trustworthy Amos Kendall as fourth auditor in the Treasury Department, with instructions to report directly to the president.  Almost instantly, Kendall discovered that his own predecessor, one Tobias Watkins, a Clay man, had embezzled seven thousand dollars, and there were many more discoveries to come, involving fraud by more than a dozen of the former administration's Treasury and customs house agents.

" 'Assure my friends,' Jackson wrote to a political associate in April 'we are geting on here well, we labor night and day, and will continue to do so, until we destroy all the rats, who have been plundering the Treasury.'  By the end of the year, close to three hundred thousand dollars turned up missing at the Treasury Department alone.  Additional fraud was exposed in virtually every executive department, down to a racket in the awarding of fishing bounties."


Sean Wilentz


The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln


W.W. Norton & Company


Copyright 2005 by Sean Wilentz


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