Civil service, body of civilian (non-military) employees of a government, excluding elected officials. Civil service dates from ancient China, where officials were chosen through competitive exams. It was also found in ancient Rome, and in France after Napoleon I. In the United States the civil service suffered from the spoils system (gifts of government jobs as political rewards), firmly established from 1828 under President Andrew Jackson. Attempts to establish a merit system (appointment and promotion based on merit, to secure efficiency and freedom from political influence) failed until the Pendleton Act (1883), which set up the Civil Service Commission to administer federal employment. The Hatch Acts (1939, 1940) forbade federal employees to play any active part in politics beyond voting.