Presidents Trump and Lincoln and Managing the Bureaucracies

By Newt Gingrich and Allen Guelzo

Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich

USA – -(  President Trump will soon discover that federal bureaucrats are far more hostile, destructive, and obstructionist than federal judges.

Ninety-five percent of federal bureaucrats' donations were for Clinton (99 percent at the State Department, 97 percent at the Department of Justice), so it is clear there will be continuing resistance to President Trump's policies.

And the intense hostility of the Left will encourage these pro-Clinton bureaucrats to feel noble about undermining and betraying the president.

Eventually, President Trump will be faced with a choice: either dramatically shrink his goals and accommodate the Left or learn from Abraham Lincoln and force bold, deep change on the bureaucracy.

Once he took office, Lincoln fired almost 80 percent of federal employees. This aggressiveness enabled him to replace pro-secession bureaucrats, who would have ensured the North lost the war, with pro-Union enthusiasts who helped him win.

Allen Guelzo, a Henry R. Luce professor of the Civil War era and the director of the Civil War Era Studies Program at Gettysburg College, has written on Lincoln's experience. The Trump team should meet with Guelzo.

He writes:

“Until the 1883 Pendleton Act every federal office-holder – from cabinet secretaries to postmasters – could be removed without cause or explanation by the president. And since federal appointments generally paid better than their private-sector equivalents, competition for these jobs was intense, and tended to be handed out as compensation for political services. In the 19th century, political parties did not command huge campaign chests of their own; political operatives worked largely in the expectation that their time and services would be paid-for by appointment to political office. That, in turn, meant that presidents guarded their appointment powers jealously, since dangling the prospect of federal jobs was the surest way of guaranteeing the loyalty of a political party’s ground-game.

“Lincoln was fully as willing to work the patronage lever when he became president. Lincoln’s White House staffer, William O. Stoddard, remembered that Lincoln hired and fired federal office-holders with dizzying energy. ‘I doubt if ever before there was so general displacement as at the beginning of Mr. Lincoln’s term.’ Partly, this was because patronage appointments remained the principal means of securing political loyalty. But it was also a matter of ‘draining the swamp.’ Lincoln, as the first Republican – and first anti-slavery – president, came to Washington after six decades of almost-uninterrupted Democratic dominance of the executive branch. Successive Democratic presidents, from Thomas Jefferson to James Buchanan, had stocked federal offices with pro-slavery Southern appointees who would not shrink from sabotaging the presidency of Lincoln, ‘the Black Republican.’

“As Stoddard explained, ‘the departments fairly swarmed with the family dependents and connections of the Southern political magnates who then, for so long a time, had controlled the dominant party.’ John Floyd, a Virginian who had been Secretary of War under Lincoln’s predecessor, had actually arranged to ship artillery and munitions to Southern arsenals before leaving office in the expectation that these could then be seized by Southern secessionists. But the possibility of betrayal from within was not limited to Southern Democratic appointees. ‘Many of the men from the North were strong Southern sympathizers,’ Stoddard explained, ‘and so accustomed were they to consider their offices their property that even avowed secessionists considered themselves bitterly injured when required to make way for more loyal men.’

“So, once in office in 1861, Lincoln did not hesitate to purge the executive branch of anything which hinted at disloyalty. Of the 1,520 executive branch positions immediately under Lincoln’s oversight, Lincoln fired 1,195 of their occupants, which amounted to ‘the most sweeping removal of federal officeholders in the country’s history up to that time.’ Lincoln especially ‘liked to provide for his friends, who were often remembered gratefully for services given him in his early struggles in life,’ wrote Noah Brooks, who was himself in line to receive a White House appointment at the time of Lincoln’s death. ‘Sometimes he would ‘break the slate,’ as he called it, of those who were making up a list of appointments, that he might insert the name of some old acquaintance who had befriended him in days when friends were few.’

“Lincoln also cast a keen eye on patronage appointments which were technically under the control of the Secretary of the Treasury and the Postmaster General. In August, 1861, Lincoln notified James Pollock, the director of the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, to find a job for an Illinois political operative at the mint. When Pollock hesitated, Lincoln tartly wrote to him:

My dear Sir, You must make a job of it, and provide a place for the bearer of this, Elias Wampole. Make a job of it with the Collector, and have it done. You can do it for me, and you must. Yours as ever, A. LINCOLN

“As Emanuel Hertz wrote in The Wizardry of Lincoln’s Political Appointments and Party Management, ‘Lincoln never abdicated his power of appointing and filing the appointive position in his administration. He had no general almoner or dispenser of patronage. He looked into every appointment himself and no matter how low were the fortunes of war he was always read to consider the strengthening of the party in one place or another by judicious distribution of patronage.’”

Within a month or two it will be clear that large elements of the federal bureaucracy are dedicated leftists who believe it is their duty to stop the Trump Administration and destroy it if possible.

The challenge to President Trump and his team is going to be real and unavoidable.

Your Friend,


About Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich is well-known as the architect of the “Contract with America” that led the Republican Party to victory in 1994 by capturing the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in forty years. After he was elected Speaker, he disrupted the status quo by moving power out of Washington and back to the American people.

Gingrich Productions is a performance and production company featuring the work of Newt Gingrich and Callista Gingrich. Visit :

  • 9 thoughts on “Presidents Trump and Lincoln and Managing the Bureaucracies

    1. Wow! People still fighting the “War of Northern Aggression”. Time to drop it! Come in to the 21st Century and leave the 19th. All Civil Wars are extremely uncivil. The South is better off having been kept in the Union. Slavery, anywhere, was and is wrong. And there is no real comparison between Lincoln and Trump the Narcissist.

    2. Sounds as if President Trump should be searching to hire a few “town tamers” to help him weed out the bureaucrats that will be disloyal to his administration’s wishes.

      1. There is one bureaucratic SWAMP agency that can be removed easily …… the unlawfully created , B.A.T.F .
        By the stroke of a Treasury Secretarys pen , ( Without Congress or ANY authority ) the FRAUD was simply ” declared ‘ to exist. — Thats not how we do things. ABOLISH A.T.F. now , or it will come back Hard in the next administration !
        History of BATF – criminal fraud ;

    3. Read the words of Sam Houston regarding the South’s secession and how hopeless and stupid it would be, and was. Lincoln was looking a lot further out than the state-limited parochial Southerners who wanted a bucolic lifestyle with their slaves and to never have to go more than 20 miles from home. The US would never have been anything if it had been permitted to split into two, then maybe more pieces, each squabbling and fighting with the other. No telegraph coast to coast, no trans-continental railroad, it would have been a fragmented mess inviting attacks from all sides. When Lincoln was assassinated there went the chance the South had to be welcomed back with kindness, and from the aftermath of that sprang most of the North/South bullshit dysfunction we still see today.

    4. Yes, Trump does need to purge all of the bureaucracies. SESs, GS14s, and 15s all are only entitled to two weeks notice. Any hint of disloyalty, any hint of “We just can not do that!” is enough to get rid of them.

    5. He wasn’t a friend to the South nor was he too any Slave owners! The Nirth had their share of slaves! He was loyal to friends and supporters! You want to win you put your team in first gets rid of any opposition! That’s what he did as the POTUS! His goal was to abolish slavey an he did just that! He was patient to appoint look what he had to do to some North coward General visited them an if they did produce he fired them! That’s how you succeed! Stand tall and ride that horse like you mean it! You may not be liked or loved doing it!

      1. You got that right. Lincoln was America’s first tyrant. It drives me crazy that people celebrate a war criminal of Lincoln’s caliber. No less than 650,000 combatants, and no less than 50,000 Southern civilians murdered for what? Tariffs to fund Washington DC’s profligate railroad crony spending. Wonder why Newt didn’t bring up Lincoln’s imprisonment of the entire Maryland legislature to prevent their siding with the South? Newt proves out his big government instincts.

    Leave a Comment 9 Comments

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *