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Expansion of Federal Bureaucracy during WWI

Expansionof Federal Bureaucracy during WWI

Expansionof Federal Bureaucracy during WWI

Introduction Whenthe United States drafted the first constitution in 1787, bureaucracywas not given a chance. The constitution created only threepositions, which were the Presidency, congress and law courts. Thecongress had considerable powers because not only did they pass lawsbut they were also in a position to create agencies, departments andcommissions required to implement these laws. In 1789, the congressexercised their power by creating a foreign affairs department toenable the president conduct foreign policy. The president had powersto hire people to various executive positions, but many presidentsused to hire their kinsmen who had similar interests. Due to thisprocedure, the federal government had very few employees before thecivil war. The reluctance of congress to create more departments andagencies, the tendency of president to use patronage system whenhiring, and low demands on the federal government explain why therepublican changed to an empire.


Before the civil war, the president of the United States had thepower to appoint individuals to key positions on the federalgovernment. Presidents used to misuse this power by appointing familyfriends and relatives to different positions. People who campaignedfor the president during elections had the assurance of a job in thefederal government if the president emerged victoriously. Thispatronage system practiced in the 19th century contributed greatly tothe low federal bureaucracy experienced in those days. The passing ofPendleton Act by the congress in early 1983 ensured that federalemployees were hired based on merit. The Act required that candidateswho were interested in the various government positions sat forexaminations and the best performers would be selected. Althoughinitially very few jobs passed through this criterion, with time,many people got federal jobs through merit and this helped expandbureaucracy (Tindall &amp Shi, 2013).

Federal employees hired by the president rarely lost jobs. In fact,the president reassigned employees accused of underperforming andthus required to resign. The bureaucrats assigned to run the agenciescreated by congress were accountable to both the congress and thepresident. The difficulty arose in that these individuals selectionwas not based on merit and thus they had to be protected by theappointing authority. During World War 1, the congress had to servethe public interest and they did this by passing bills that allowedthem to check the performance of the bureaucrats. All bureaucrats whoran several federal agencies were required by the congress to accountfor all the finances allocated to them. Multiple interest groups whorequired them to act on public interests also regulated the agencies(Tindall &amp Shi, 2013).

In the 19th century, government regulations were not enacted and thusthere was no agency or department required to perform this role.However, during World War 1, state regulations were necessary tomaintain America’s social, economic and physical health.Exploitation of the public in both the market place and work placeled to an increased need of government regulation. Industries couldnot be trusted to provide safe food and drugs to American citizens.Congress developed agencies and commissions to regulate the differentsectors in the economy. Interested candidates were required to applyfor the various bureaucratic positions available and they wereselected through a thorough process based on merit. The need forgovernment regulations during World War one led to the expansion inthe federal bureaucracy. Due to the expansion of the economyexperienced during that time, more government agencies were required(Tindall &amp Shi, 2013).

United States was marked by expansion before and during the civilwar. As the country expanded to the West, more commissions andagencies were required to manage land issues and people’ssettlement. Civil war required the state to develop new departmentsthat would be responsible in organizing how America will defend itspeople. Thousands of bureaucrats were employed to run variousdepartments that dealt with the warfare. Before the civil war, postaloffices employed the highest number of bureaucrats and the numbersincreased significantly during the war. Expansion of the countrymeant more post offices were needed to serve citizens in the west.Other factors that led to increased bureaucracy during world war oneinclude: public opinion from the ever increasing population andfederal government intervention in foreign countries (Tindall &ampShi, 2013).

Conclusion Apowerful president who hired federal employees using patronage markedthe period of World War 1. The congress was also powerful and theywere mandated with not only passing laws but also creating agenciesand departments. As a result, the federal government had fewemployees and most of them were postal workers. The American economywas also small and thus few democrats were able to manage allaspects. Most of the federal employees employed during this time wererelatives and family friends of the president. However, the increaseddemand of government involvement in different affairs affecting thecountry led to the expansion in the federal bureaucracy during thecivil war. Expansion of the country to the west meant more agenciesand departments were needed to satisfy the needs of the public.Introduction of Pendleton Act by the congress ensured thatbureaucrats were hired on merit. Civil war led to the creation ofmore departments to manage the warfare. At the end of the world war,federal bureaucracy had expanded significantly.


Tindall, G. &amp Shi, D. (2013). America: a narrative history.New York London: W.W. Norton.