xt70rx937t9n_521 https://exploreuk.uky.edu/dips/xt70rx937t9n/data/mets.xml https://exploreuk.uky.edu/dips/xt70rx937t9n/data/46m4.dao.xml unknown 13.63 Cubic Feet 34 boxes, 2 folders, 3 items In safe - drawer 3 archival material 46m4 English University of Kentucky The physical rights to the materials in this collection are held by the University of Kentucky Special Collections Research Center.  Contact the Special Collections Research Center for information regarding rights and use of this collection. Laura Clay papers Temperance. Women -- Political activity -- Kentucky. Women's rights -- Kentucky. Women's rights -- United States -- History. Women -- Suffrage -- Kentucky. Women -- Suffrage -- United States. Civil service reform pamphlets and leaflets text Civil service reform pamphlets and leaflets 2020 https://exploreuk.uky.edu/dips/xt70rx937t9n/data/46m4/Box_34/Folder_1/Multipage24560.pdf 1901-1907 1907 1901-1907 section false xt70rx937t9n_521 xt70rx937t9n  

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: “The .brest' shall éerve the' State" ‘ '


 Outline Sketch of the Civil Service
Reform Movement in the
United States *

NTIL the year 1829 there was virtually
no question either of the evil of the
Spoils System or of its remedy before
the country at large. It is a matter of
honorable record that under the first six Presi-
dents only seventy—three subordinate officers were
removed, and these, for the most part, for reasons,
touching their efficiency solely. The practice of
dismissing public servants in order to make places
for personal or political adherents was introduced
at the national capital with the inauguration of
President Jackson, under circumstances and with
results that are historic. Jackson removed 2,000
officers within the first year of his administration,
and from that time on it gradually became the
practice and accepted rule to “clean sweep” the
public service, as the term went, with every change
of party control.
For forty years the attention of the country was

"‘ Reprinted by the Women’s Auxiliary of the New York
Civil Service Reform Association.





so absorbed by the discussion of slavery that the
growth and importance of this new danger were
entirely underestimated by the people, until the
administrative scandals and demoralization of
the public service during the years 1865 to 1873,
forced the evil upon the public attention.

The system as it existed in 1873,—and as it still
exists wherever conditions favor,—may be briefly

Offices and positions in the public service were
treated, not as forming a legitimate class of honor—
able employment, but as the property of the party
in power, to be filled by those who had rendered
party services, or who, through any other means,
could gain the favor of party leaders. Fitness for
the work to be performed was considered as
secondary, if considered at all. Promotions were
secured through influence, also, and very rarely be—
cause of the ability or worth of the employee. Re-
movals were made as soon as the positions were
wanted at another change of party or even fac—
tional control, and this plan was followed in the
filling of offices from the highest to the lowest. As
a natural corollary, the cost of administration in-
creased tremendously, a greater number of em—
ployees being required to the necessary work of the






government, while to meet the constant demand
for places for political adherents, a vast number
for whom there could be no need, were also added
to the lists.

The change wrought in the character of our
politics was another and even more serious thing.
Coincidently with the introduction of the Spoils
System at VVashing’ton, came the establishment of
the nominating convention as the method of select—
ing candidates for elective offices,1a method that
soon became general in state as well as national
elections. The delegates to these conventions were
chosen, as they are to—clay, at primary meetings of
the voters of the party,—meetings usually attended
by only a few voters, and not infrequently by the
political ”worker” class exclusively. To buy votes
at either the primaries or the conventions with
promises of office, became regarded as less serious
breach of morals than to buy them with money,
and gradually, by both bribers and bribed, as not
immoral at all, but a very natural part of the busi—
ness of “practical politics.” The control of the
nominating machinery by the party organization
was thus made comparatively easy.

The contagion spread throughout the country to
states and cities, and it may, perhaps, be fair to





say that no American community has failed to
suffer from it in greater or less degree. State in—
stitutions and asylums have been invaded, and the
unfortunate classes within them placed in charge
of the miserably unfit; great public works have
miscarried or been ruined as the result of poor
construction; in the cities, the police have been
corrupted, and hordes of mercenaries have often
been maintained in the place of such trained public
servants as those of whom Glasgow, Manchester
or Berlin are so justly proud.

The movement for reform began in 1867, when a
bill was presented by'Representative Jenckes, of
Rhode Island, providing for the appointment of
a commission to classify the Federal service under
the examination and merit system, accompanied by
an exhaustive report on the results secured
through that system abroad. This served to open
the discussion in Congress, and in 1871 a bill was
passed giving the president the necessary authority.
During the several years following, repeated at—
tempts were made to effect a beginning under this
Act, but these were, in the main, defeated, chiefly
through the hostility of successive Congresses, and
it was not until the assassination of President Gar—
field by a disappointed office—seeker, in 1881, that






the popular demand for reform became too strong
to be resisted.

In 1877 the first Civil Service Reform Associa—
tion had been formed,#that of New York—and in
August, 1881, the National League, composed of
various local associations, under the Presidency
and leadership of George William Curtis, was or—
ganized. A bill prepared by the New York asso—
ciation, and endorsed by the League, was intro—
duced in the Senate, and towards the end of 1882,
was passed by large majorities in both houses. It
is still the law for the Federal service, never having
been amended. State Acts were passed at about
the same time in New York and Massachusetts,
and rules applying to certain cities, such as Chi—
cago, San Francisco, Milwaukee and New Haven
have been adopted through local action, at various
times since.

The Federal system has been taken as a model
for others and may serve here to outline the re-
form generally. The law does not apply to the
officers and employees of Congress or the judici—
ary, or to the military or naval branches. Within
the executive service it also excepts all officers
nominated for confirmation by the Senate such as
presidential postmasters, collectors, United States




district attorneys and marshals, under secretaries
of the departments, members of the diplomatic
and consular service, and at the other extreme,
common laborers or workmen. It provided for the
classification of about 113,000 officers at the time of
its passage having since been extended until the
number now stands at about 75,000, while about
100,000, made up largely of the body of fourth—
class postmasters, remain to be brought under the

So far as practicable, the service is arranged in
grades, the lower of which are usually filled by
original appointment, and the higher by promotion.
The entrance examinations are open and com—
petitive, and the persons selected for appointments
are taken from among those graded highest. The
candidate serves for six months on probation be—
fore his appointment is made absolute, and after
that he can be removed only for legitimate reasons,
stated in writing, and after an opportunity has
been offered for an explanation. The examinations
are practical and necessarily very diverse in their
nature. There are more than three hundred classes
of positions under the government—motessional,
scientific, clerical and mechanical,—and the tests
are made, as nearly as possible, to fit each case.






For the higher positions, they are often very
elaborate; for the clerical force they are such as
could be passed by anyone with a common school
education, and for the mechanical classes, they
relate in the main to training and skill in the use
of tools. In all cases there are inquiries as to
character and general capacity, and where the
office to be filled is fiduciary in its nature an ade-
quate bond may be required. Promotions are
based partly on efficiCnCy as shown by department
records, and partly on examinations.

Within the classified service there are still
several thousand of the higher positions that are
excepted from competitive examination, and that
are in that respect, virtually unclassified; although
few of these, in the judgment of the promoters of
the reform, should remain 50.

Results produced throughout the service in in—
creased efficiency and economy have been marked
and are testified to by Department and Bureau
officers in scores of reports.

In New York even more advanced ground was
taken in the passage of a new measure by the
Legislature of 1899, embodying many improve—
ments in detail, and rendering enforcement much


 But with all the encouraging gains since 1883,
the fact must be emphasized that the reform work
has but just begun. It must go on until the whole
service of federal, state and city government has
been reclaimed. Constant vigilance must be main-
tained, by the friends of the reform, to hold the
ground already gained, and to defeat the persistent
attempts at evasion that are in some cases system-
atic and almost nullifying; attacks in Congress and
in the Legislatures must be met, and new and
stronger legislation secured where practicable.
Above all, public opinion must be educated. The
people must understand more plainly than they do
how shamefully the system of spoils has marred
our past history, how essentially un-American it is,

and how much of the national future must depend

upon its utter eradication.


of Connecticut.








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Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen:—

When you did me the honor to ask me to say
a few words before you on the subject of Civil
Service Reform, I confess that I had a certain
amount of hesitation. Not because I questioned
the strength of our cause, but simply because I
felt that, except when speaking to an organization
formed for that express purpose, I might naturally
hesitate to speak about any “ Reform.” The word
has been so much bandied about and misused of
late years that its use sometimes raises a kind of
suspicion. Indeed, our Association is in the situ-
ation in which many an individual finds himself
who is christened in haste in infancy and left to
repent at leisure in maturity. I very much wish
that there were no “ Reform ” in our name at all,
and that our aims were stated by the simple phrase,
the “Merit System”; for there is, in the very
nature of it, a certain arrogance in the word
“Reform”; it assumes, as its very foundation,
that somebody — presumably not yourself —— is
doing something very wrong that needs reform-
ing; and it also contains the implication that you
yourself are the spotless and somewhat self-sacri-
ficing person who stands ready to do the reform-
ing. So that I fear that there was not a little secret
sympathy among many real friends of Reform
when Mr. Asa Bird Gardiner, an omcial of New
York City, a few years ago, in an inadvertent
moment, forgot himself and said precisely What he
meant and consigned all reform in general to the
nether world. It was a rash act and it met with






prompt retribution. You may remember that he
was immediately reminded the next morning that
if his object was to give permanent relief, and
effect an ultimate separation between his friends
and any reform, he had selected quite the wrong
department of the next world to banish reform to.
But, however that may be, and whether the mem—
bers of Tammany are to be punished in this world
or the next for their neglect of reform here, it is
absolutely certain that we shall be punished, and
punished heavily and speedily, in this world if
we neglect to reform certain crying evils which
threaten us in our political life—threaten us,
indeed, during the last two years more insistently
and dangerously than ever; partly because the
spoilsmen are beginningzto feel more keenly the
pressure of the law upon them, partly because
they are encouraged by the recent relaxation at
Washington in the administration of the system.
It is this that makes me venture something on
behalf of Civil Service Reform before you.

But I assume at the start that I do not need to
uphold or defend the system as a whole. I am
sure that you all believe, at least in a general way,
that the spoils system is an evil and that the Merit
System is the only cure for that evil. What you
want to know is what practical thing can be done
about it. Now it seems to me that the most prac-
tical thing that can be done for a reform is to study
it carefully and see just where its difficulties lie;
to note the objections that are daily made to it, and
to see What sound answers can be made to these
objectors; and it is to these points that I am going
to ask your attention.

A gentleman much in public life, who was Clas-
sified by himself as a statesman and by his friends
as a politician, said not long ago, in an impatient
mood, that he had no difficulty at all in making
the people understand what he was, but that he




had great trouble in making the people understand
what he was n’t. It might seem at first sight that
Civil Service Reform labored under the same diffi-
culty. Certainly it is constantly accused of being
something which it is not. But I am inclined not
to agree with the impatient statesman in his method
of procedure, which I have just quoted, for I believe
that the best method of preventing later misunder-
standings about anything is to make sure that the
initial conception of the subject, with which you
start, is clear and well understood.

Now, while Civil Service Reform is exceedingly
simple in its foundation principle, because it is
merely an application to politics of the simple
commandment “Thou shalt not steal,” taken in
its broadest sense, yet the working out of this
principle, in the practical life of politics, is by no
means so simple, because it affects very dififerent
classes in the community, who look at the subject
from exceedingly divergent points of view.

You recall the old fable of the shield with vary—
ing sides, which caused such a world of trouble to
the two gentlemen who approached it from oppo—
site points of View. Civil Service Reform, being
quite modern, eclipses the old table and has lfiree
sides to its shield: one, when you look at it from
the point of view of those who serve the public;
one, when looked at from the point of view of the

,. public who are served, more especially the appoint-
ing officer; and the third when looked at neither
from the one or the other, butfrom both together,
z'.e., its effect on the whole public in its political rela-
tions, and more especially its effect on the boss. In
each of these three aspects I think you will find the
simile holds good, and that it is indeed a shield, — a
shield against the attacks of men who are trying to
serve, not the State, but themselves. and a help to
those who are trying to fight them. Looked at from
the point of View of the employed, it is a contest





for fair play and no favor. Looked at from the
point of View of the employing public, it is a fight
for morality in economics. Looked at, finally,
from the point of View of the public at large, it is
a struggle for morality in politics. The reform is
after all but one great movement, and yet, unless
we bear in mind that it can be approached from
any one of these three points of view, it is impos-
sible to discuss it intelligently with any one, and
we are certain to meet with confusion in our defence
of it. Unless you are perfectly certain that you
and the man you are talking with are both looking
upon the same side of the shield, there is certain to
be as much confusion as there was in our fable—
indeed, it will be as much worse as a three-sided
misunderstanding is worse than one of two. It is,
therefore, quite worth our while to look at each
side separately for a few moments.

Take first the point of view of the employed.
Nowhere is there more misunderstanding and
nowhere is it more unnecessary. It is not two
weeks since I saw in a committee room at the
State House an excellent man, representing a
labor union, who had come up to oppose the Civil
Service Reformer at every point. When his posi—
tion came to be investigated, it was found that
what he really wanted was, not to oppose Civil
Service Reform, but to have more Civil Service
Reform, -—though he did not in the least know it
himself. That, however, was not his fault, because
to use his hands and not his brains happened to be
the trade to which he had been brought up. Think
of the position of those seeking employment under
the spoils system. With the announcement in the
papers on the morning after election, there comes
at one stroke the practical disqualification for public
employment of more than one—half of the commu-
nity. I say more than one—half because, although
the winning party must necessarily have had a


plurality, it is very seldom that the opposing and
defeated parties do not exceed it in their total num-
bers, and no one of these defeated parties can hope
for employment. It is not forty-eight hours since
an official was quoted to me as saying that he
would no more think of employing as a stenog-
rapher any one except a person in good standing
in his own party than he would of sending to Texas
for one. But even this might not be so bad if the
best men of the successful party were always
selected to fill the places. For the party is numer-
ous and contains many competent men. But,
unhappily, under the spoils system, men are not
chosen because they are competent, but because
they are useful to the boss or the party. A laborer
is appointed to take charge of a gang of men, not
because he can get the best work from that gang,
but because he can get the most votes from it. A
clerk is appointed, not because he can figure cor—
rectly, but because he has voted correctly. I shall
never forget the account which I received some
years ago from an eye-witness of a scene in one
of the departments in Washington. A candidate
for office was being examined as to his qualifica—
tions by the appointing officer. What he was
questioned and cross—questioned upon was not as
to his capacity for doing the work, but as to what
ticket he had voted, how many years he had voted
it, what he had done and could do for the party,
and what his influence was with his race. The
course of the examination lasted more than twenty
minutes while other visitors in the office had to
wait their turn in the room, among them the eye-
witness in question. The person examined for
office was an ignorant negro, an applicant for a
postmastership in the South; the oflicer who was
conducting the examination was the then post—
master-general of the United States of America.
No comment is needed on such a system of exam-



ination for office as this. What does Civil Service
Reform offer as a substitute in its place? A per-
fectly simple form of competitive examination,
under which any man, whatever his race or reli-
gion or politics may be, can apply for examination
and be placed upon a waiting list according to his
success in meeting the various simple and practical
tests imposed upon him. These tests are physical
if the position requires physical strength; mental
for those requiring mental processes; and, in all
respects, as simple and practical as years of expe-
rience on the part of boards of competent examiners
can make them. The stories to the contrary are
merely idle fables. When an appointing oflicer
desires an employee, he has only to send to the
Civil Service Board, receive the names of a small
group of applicants from the head of the list, from
whom he can make his selection and complete the
examination of the man’s qualifications by testing
him in the practical work of the place for six
months. If the man passes his final examination
of experience, he receives his appointment. Can
anything be simpler or better adapted to promote
the welfare of the people? Indeed, on this side
of the reform, there is little danger of misun—
derstanding; it is a pure fight between the plun—
derer and the defenders, and labor in general
needs only to be well informed of its rights and
interests to side heartily with the Reformer.

Let us now turn to the second side of the shield
and look at it from the point of view of those who
are served, and, more especially, from the point
of view of those who appoint to office. Here we
shall find somewhat less simplicity and much less
harmony. We shall meet at once two groups who
are distinctly hostile, or, at least, doubtful about
the value of the merit system. One group rep-
resents the vehement party-man; the other the
appointing oflicer of superior ability and independ-


ent views who is hampered by the rules of the
Civil Service. These two classes of objectors are
especially worth considering, for both contain men
of recognized standing and intelligence, who have
a right to be heard.

Take first the case of the strong party-man. At
the start you will find no difficulty. He recog-
nizes the growth of the idea that public funds are
trust funds; he goes with you most of the way,
and it is only the last step that he refuses to take.
Trace for a moment the growth of this trust idea.
If you go far enough back in history, you find the
fiction that the king was the state, and that, there—
fore, the money of the state was the money of the
king, to be disposed of as suited his pleasure.
But that fiction was long ago wiped out, and the
money of the state has long been recognized as
belonging to the public, from whom it comes. It
is universally agreed, too, that the money of the
state, as such, cannot be diverted for the private
benefit of any man, whether that man be acting
alone or acting jointly with others. To so divert
it is now everywhere recognized as stealing or
embezzling. With a few belated exceptions, it is
also agreed by this time that the public has not
only a right to this money, but also a right to that
which this money produces; in other words, that
it has a right to have this money so spent as to
bring the greatest return possible, and that to take
away from it this right and divert it to private use
is just as fundamentally a breach of trust as to
divert the money itself. You will find, therefore,
that substantially all men, whether in private life
or in public life, whether laymen or politicians,
whatever their practice may be, agree with you in
theory that public office is a public trust, and that
no appointing officer has a right to use the power
of appointment to pay his private debts or dis-
charge his own personal obligations, political or




otherwise. The practice of some of them may be
quite otherwise, but in theory, at least, you will
find an almost universal agreement on this point.
They would agree that selling appointments to
places for actual money or the equivalent of money
was clearly criminal, and that to use the light of
appointment to pay off your private obligations to
some one who had worked or voted for you was
clearly wrong, and, if done, it were distinctly wise
to conceal the fact :61 om public notice. But where
you will meet with conflict, not merely as to practice
but as to theory , is in the case where the appoint—
ing officer uses this power of appointment, this
right of the state, not for his sole private and indi—
vidual advantage, but for the benefit of himself
jointly with a large number of other persons who
are of the same way of thinking, and who, because
they happen to be of the same way of thinking, are
known in these days as “ a party.” If he diverts
the property of the public for the benefit of this
large group,—in other words, if the breach of
trust is not for himself alone, but for himself and
others, is not for individuals, but for groups of indi—
viduals, —-he considers it as not only not wrong,
but as a fit and proper carrying out of his duty.
This seems a strange view, and yet you will find
that it is held by many men of highly respectable
position, both in office and out of office, in the
higher public positions as well as in the lower. It
denotes a somewhat curious condition of mind, not
altogether unlike the view which many apparently
respected persons in the South hold on the subject
of lynching. Not one of these would think of
going alone to the victim, cold—blooded, and killing
him, but he has no hesitation whatever about going
in company with a large number of other men of
the same way of thinking and killing the victim
with great deliberation and cruelty, and sees
nothing wrong in so doing. In other words, from


his point of View, single murder is murder, but
co-operative murder is not murder at all, but some—
thing quite justifiable, perhaps meritorious. There
is not much hope of making any immediate impres-
sion on men who are holding such views as these,
for such a View is not really a mental conclusion
which can be combated with argument. It is
rather a mental and moral condition which can be
affected only by public enlightenment and public
pressure. We can only hope thatit will be changed,
as the sentiment of so many people in the North as
to slavery has changed in the last forty years;
changed so completely that many men who look
back on their views of 1860 can scarcely be made
to believe that they ever held them. Time and an
advancing public sentiment is our best hope here.
The other class of objectors are much less
numerous, but they are important because they
are men of standing and they are in the midst
of the Civil Service. It is not two weeks since the
wife of one of them said to me that her husband,
who was an appointing officer, was “ very much
hampered by the rules of the Civil Service. He
did not like to say much about it because he was
friendly to Civil Service Reform, but he could do
a great deal better if there were no rules and if he
could make his own appointments.” Now, it is
possible that this may have been literally true, and
yet it was perfectly inevitable. It was simply the
penalty of living in a democracy. With certain
exceptions,—-—exceptions of which Massachusetts
has had a most noble line of examples,———with
these exceptions it must be true as a general rule
that a government by universal suffrage must be a
government of averages, and not of excellencies;
and that, if a man who is a member of the govern-
ment does, in fact, greatly excel his fellows, he
will inevitably be hampered by laws and by regu-
lations made for the average man. It has been




absolutely proven, not as a theory, but as a fact
shown by yea1s of experience, that the appointing
oflicer of average ability, if left to himself, does
not make the best appointments that are to be had
in the community. He may misuse his power for
his own use deliberately; or, even if he intends to
make good appointments and would make them if
left alone, he may not in fact make them because
he is not left alone. Some superior power descends
upon him with cunning force and practically orders
him to appoint this man or that, and he must either
obey or lose his standing and, perhaps, his place.
The system of competitive examinations thatI have
described has been devised to prevent this misuse
of his power. It forces him, so to speak, to appoint
the best man, or one among a small group of the best
men. This simple device, known as the “ Merit
System,” has been found to be of enormous force
in preventing the misuse of the appointing power.
Such a rule, intended for the average man,
undoubtedly hampers any man of exceptional
ability, of sturdy honesty and of suflicient strength
to resist any pressure from above. But if the Civil
Service rules are of any value,—-and the deter-
mined opposition of the spoilsman shows how great
their value is, — itis impossible to make exceptions
on behalf of special and favored persons. You
cannot set up a competitive examination for superior
persons who shall be above the law! You are
undoubtedly a superior person, —-that is the very
foundation of the difliculty we are discussing,—

but if you are going to paste on a label publicly
stating that fact, it is quite certain to excite com-
ment in a democracy. And then, again, there is
the practical difficulty arising from the widely
dix ergent views of what constitutes a superior
person. In their own line of business, Mr. Platt
and Mr. (luay are both superior persons, very
superior persons indeed. So that there is not much


to be done for the unfortunate office-holder of
superior ability and independent views, except to
hold his hand and sympathize with him for suffer-
ing from his excess of merit.

The two sides of the shield at which we have
been looking so far both concern the appointment
to office. First, the getting of it, and second, the
giving of it. The first is important and valuable
because it promotes fair treatment to all who wish
to serve the state. The second is much more
important and valuable because it prevents any
breach of trust in public office. It introduces, as
I have said, morality into economics. But valu-
able as both these aspects of the reform movement
are, they are not to be compared in vital import-
ance with the third and final aspect of this great
movement. The legend that is written on the
third side of our shield is “the moral movement
in politics,” and it is just because it is funda-
mentally a moral .movement, that it has so stirred
the people and is daily gaining in strength. We
could get along even if only a small part of those
who desired places had any chance of getting
them; we could get along—badly, it is true,—
even if the appointing officers gave us a service
vastly inferior to anything we are entitled to. But
the one thing that we cannot get along with, if we
are going to make any progress in political life, is
the “Boss,” and what the Boss stands for in
politics. And in politics you will find that the
Boss and the spoils system are inextricably inter-

This is not the time to discuss the Boss. I
assume that you know partially what he is. I say
partially without in any way impugning your intel-
ligence, because I think that no man knows fully
the origin and cause of that strange tyrant who has
come into our lives; the final diagnosis of the Boss
is yet to be made. One thing we know: his advent




was wholly unexpected. If any one had foretold
to Jefferson and to Hamilton that Within a little
over a hundred years there would arise, in certain
parts of the country, under the constitution that
they were making, certain forms of government
which more closely resembled the tyrannies that
existed in Florence, in some other Italian cities,
and in certain of the German cities, during the
middle ages, than anything else, the founders of
our government would have turned their backs on
such a prophet with a scorn too deep for words,
and yet that is precisely what has happened. The
government of the Boss is a tyranny. It is pure
tyranny. It is founded on usurpation and it exists
only by the hope of reward and the fear of punish-
ment. In the middle ages, the axe and the knife
that punished were realistic and literal; to-day
they are symbolical and political, but they punish
effectively and their punishment is dreaded. A
man whose wife and children are dependent for
their bread upon a salary which he earns in a
government office is as purely at the mercy of a
political headsman as if that man controlled his
actual life. He dares not do other than obey.
So, too, the rewards that held the tyrant’s followers
together in the old days were spoils and plunder,
and the coin in which the Boss of to-day pays his
mercenaries consis