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BY

THEODORE ROOSEVELT

THE FIFTH INSTALLMENT OF

“CHAPTERS OF A POSSIBLE AUTOBIOGRAPHY”!

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THEODORE ROOSEVELT

Civil Service Commissioner

N the spring of 1889 I

Even better work was makwas appointed by Presi

ing the law efficient and gendent Harrison Civil Sery

uine where it applied. As ice Commissioner. For nearly

was inevitable in the introducfive years I had not been

tion of such a system, there very active in political life;

was at first only partial sucalthough I had done some

cess in its application. For routine work in the organiza

instance, it applied to the tion and had made campaign

ordinary employees in the speeches, and in 1886 had

big custom-houses and postrun for Mayor of New York

offices, but not to the heads against Abram S. Hewitt,

of these offices. A number Democrat,and HenryGeorge,

of the heads of the offices Independent, and had been

were slippery politicians of a defeated.

low moral grade, themselves I served six years as Civil

appointed under the spoils Service Commissioner-four

system, and anxious, directly years under President Harri

or indirectly, to break down son and then two years under

the merit system and to pay President Cleveland. I was

their own political debts by treated by both Presidents

appointing their henchmen with the utmost consideration. Among my and supporters to the positions under them. fellow-Commissioners there was at one time Occasionally these men acted with open ex-Governor Hugh Thompson, of South and naked brutality. Ordinarily they sought Carolina, and at another time John R. Proc- by cunning to evade the law. The Civil tor, of Kentucky. They were Democrats and Service Reformers, on the other hand, were ex-Confederate soldiers. I became deeply in most cases not much used to practical attached to both, and we stood shoulder to politics, and were often well-nigh helpless shoulder in every contest in which the Com- when pitted against veteran professional mission was forced to take part.

politicians. In consequence I found at the beginning of my experiences that there were

many offices in which the execution of the During my six years' service as Commis

law was a sham. This was very damaging, sioner the field of the merit system was extend

because it encouraged the politicians to ed at the expense of the spoils system so as to

assault the law everywhere, and, on the other include several times the number of offices that hand, made good people feel that the law had originally been included. Generally this

was not worth while defending. was done by the introduction of competitive entrance examinations; sometimes, as in the Navy-Yards, by a system of registra

The first effort of myself and my colleagues tion. This of itself was good work.

was to secure the genuine enforcement of the Copyright 1913 by the Outlook Company, Special Notice: This series of articles is fully protected by copy.

law. In this we succeeded after a number of right in the United States, in England, and on the Continent. All rights, including the right of translation into

lively fights. But of course in these fights we foreign languages, are reserved. This matter is not to be were obliged to strike a large number of inrepublished either in whole or in part without special permissior of the publishers.

fluential politicians, some of them in Congress,

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WHEN AMATEUR MEETS PROFESSIONAL

THE FIGHT FOR ENFORCEMENT OF THE LAW

us.

an

some of them ihe supporters and backers of constituents then turned their attention to the men who were in Congress. Accordingly we Congressman, and the result was that in the soon found ourselves engaged in a series of long run we obtained sufficient money to contests with prominent Senators and Con- enable us to do our work. On the whole, gressmen. There were a number of Sen- the most prominent leaders favored ators and Congressmen—11. 'n like Con- Any man who is the head of a big departgressman (afterwards Senator) H. C. Lodge, ment, if he has any fitness at all, wishes to of Massachusetts; Senator Cushman K. Davis, see that department run well; and a very of Minnesota ; Senator Orville H. Platt, of little practical experience shows him that it Connecticut ; Senator Cockrell, of Missouri ; cannot be run well if he must make his Congressman (afterwards President) McKin- appointments to please spoilsmongering poliley. of Ohio, and Congressman Dargan, of ticians. As with almost every reform that South Carolina – who abhorred the business I have ever undertaken, most of the opposiof the spoilsman, who efficiently and reso- tion took the guise of shrewd slander. Our lutely championed the reform at every turn, opponents relied chiefly on downright misrepand without whom the whole reform would resentation of what it was that we were trycertainly have failed. But there were plentying to accomplish, and of our methods, acts, of other Senators and Congressmen who and personalities. I had more than one hated the whole reform and everything con- lively encounter with the authors and sponcerned with it and everybody who cham- sors of these misrepresentations, which at the pioned it; and sometimes, to use a legal time were full of interest to me. But it phrase, their hatred was for cause, and would be a dreary thing now to go over the sometimes it was peremptory—that is, some- record of exploded mendacity, or to expose times the Commission interfered with their the meanness and malice shown by some most efficient, and incidentally most corrupt men of high official position. A favorite and unscrupulous, supporters, and at other argument was to call the reform Chinese, times, where there was no such interference, because the Chinese had constructed a man nevertheless had an innate dislike of inefficient governmental system based in anything that tended to decency in govern- part on the theory of written competitive ment. These men were always waging war examinations. The argument was simple. against us, and they usually had the more or There had been written examinations in less open support of a certain number of China ; it was proposed to establish written Government officials, from Cabinet officers examinations in the United States ; therefore down. The Senators and Congressmen in the proposed system was Chinese. The question opposed us in many different ways. argument might have been applied still furSometimes, for instance, they had commit- ther. For instance, the Chinese had used tees appointed to investigate us—during my gunpowder for centuries ; gunpowder is used public career without and within office I in Springfield rifles; therefore Springfield grew accustomed to accept appearances rifles were Chinese. One argument is quite before investigating committees as part of as logical as the other. It was impossible to the natural order of things. Sometimes they answer every falsehood about the system. tried to cut off the appropriation for the But it was possible to answer certain falseCommission.

hoods, especially when uttered by some Sena

tor or Congressman of note. Usually these THE OPPOSITION

false statements took the form of assertions Occasionally we would bring to terms these that we had asked preposterous questions of Senators or Congressmen who fought the applicants. At times they also included the Commission by the simple expedient of not assertion that we credited people to districts holding examinations in their districts. This where they did not live ; this simply meaning always brought frantic appeals from their that these persons were not known to the constituents, and we would explain that active ward politicians of those districts. unfortunately the appropriations had been cut, so that we could not hold examina

CONGRESSMAN GROSVENOR'S “ JESTS” tions in every district, and that obviously we One opponent with whom we had a rather could not neglect the districts of those lively tilt was a Republican Congressman Congressmen who believed in the reform from Ohio, Mr. Grosvenor, one of the floor and therefore in the examinations. The leaders. Mr. Grosvenor made his attack in

BRIGHT YOUNG MAN

man.

the House, and enumerated our sins in he did not consider exactitude of statement picturesque rather than accurate fashion. necessary when he was speaking as a ConThere was a Congressional committee inves- gressman. Finally he rose with great tigating us at the time, and on my next dignity and said that it was his “constituappearance before them I asked that Mr.

tional right " not to be questioned elsewhere Grosvenor be requested to meet me before as to what he said on the floor of the the committee. Mr. Grosvenor did not take House of Representatives; and accordingly up the challenge for several weeks, until it he left the delighted committee to pursue its was announced that I was leaving for my investigations without further aid from him. ranch in Dakota; whereupon, deeming it safe, he wrote me a letter' expressing his

SENATOR GORMAN'S ardent wish that I should appear before the A more important opponent was the then committee to meet him. I promply can- Democratic leader of the Senate, Mr. Gorceled my ticket, waited, and met him. He

In a speech attacking the Commission proved to be a person of happily treach- Mr. Gorman described with moving pathos erous memory, so that the simple expe- how a friend of his, “a bright young man dient of arranging his statements in pairs was from Baltimore," a Sunday-school scholar, sufficient to reduce him to confusion. For well recommended by his pastor, wished to instance, he had been trapped into making be a letter-carrier; and how he went before the unwary remark, “ I do not want to repeal us to be examined. The first question we the Civil Service Law, and I never said so.” asked him, said Mr. Gorman, was the shortI produced the following extract from one of est route from Baltimore to China, to which his speeches : “I will vote not only to strike the "bright young man " responded that he out this provision, but I will vote to repeal didn't want to go to China, and had never the whole law.” To this he merely replied studied up that route. Thereupon, said that there was “no inconsistency between Mr. Gorman, we asked him all about the those two statements." He asserted that steamship lines from the United States to “Rufus P. Putnam, fraudulently credited to Europe, then branched him off into geology, Washington County, Ohio, never lived in tried him in chemistry, and finally turned Washington County, Ohio, or in my Con- him down. gressional district, or in Ohio as far as I Apparently Mr. Gorman did not know know.” We produced a letter which, thanks that we kept full records of our examinato a beneficent Providence, he had himself tions. I at once wrote to him stating that written about Mr. Rufus P. Putnam, in which I had carefully looked through all our examhe said : “Mr. Rufus P. Putnam is a legal ination papers and had not been able to find resident of my district and has relatives living one question even remotely resembling any there now.” He explained, first, that he had of these questions which he alleged had been not written the letter ; second, that he had asked, and that I would be greatly obliged if forgotten he had written the letter; and, he would give me the name of the “ bright third, that he was grossly deceived when he young man ” who had deceived him. wrote it. He said: “I have not been in- However, that “ bright young man” reformed of one applicant who has found a mained permanently without a name. I also place in the classified service from my dis- asked Mr. Gorman, if he did not wish to give trict." We confronted him with the names us the name of his informant, to give us the of eight. He looked them over and said, date of the examination in which he was

Yes, the eight men are living in my district supposed to have taken part; and I offered, as now constituted,” but added that his dis- if he would send down a representative to trict had been gerrymandered so that he could look through our files, to give him all the aid no longer tell who did and who didn't live in we could in his effort to discover any such it. When I started further to question him, questions. But Mr. Gorman, not hitherto he accused me of a lack of humor in not appre- known as a sensitive soul, expressed himself ciating that his statements were made " in a as so shocked at the thought that the veracity jesting way," and then announced that “a

of the “ bright young

should be Congressman making a speech on the floor of doubted that he could not bring himself to the House of Representatives was perhaps in answer my letter. So I made a public statea little different position from a witness on ment to the effect that no such questions had the witness stand”—a frank admission that ever been asked. Mr. Gorman brooded over

man

this ; and during the next session of Congress It would be well for writers and speakers he rose and complained that he had received to bear in mind the remark of Puddin'head a very "impudent" letter from me (my let- Wilson to the effect that while there are nine ter was a respectful note calling attention to hundred and ninety-nine kinds of falsehood, the the fact that, if he wished, he could by per- only kind specifically condemned in Scripture, sonal examination satisfy himself that his just as murder, theft, and adultery are constatements had no foundation in fact). He demned, is bearing false witness against one's further stated that he had been “cruelly” neighbor. called to account by me because he had been

FAVORITISM AND CRUELTY endeavoring to right a "great wrong" that the One of the worst features of the old spoils Civil Service Commis

system was the ruthless sion had committed ;

cruelty and brutality but he never, then or

it so often bred in the afterwards, furnished

treatment of faithful any clue to the identity

public servants without of that child of his fond

political influence. Life est fancy, the bright

is hard enough and young man without a

cruel enough at best, name.

and this is as true of

public service as of 999 KINDS OF FALSE

private service. Under HOOD

no system will it be The incident is of

possible to do away note chiefly as shed

with all favoritism and ding light on the mental

brutality and meanness make-up of the man

and malice. But at least who at the time was

we can try to minimize one of the two or three

the exhibition of these most influential lead

qualities. I once came ers of the Democratic

across a case in Washparty. Mr. Gorman had

ington which very keenbeen Mr. Cleveland's

ly excited my sympathy. party manager in the

Under an AdministraPresidential campaign,

tion prior to the one and was the Demo

with which I was concratic leader in Con

nected a lady had been gress. It seemed ex

ousted from a Governtraordinary that he

ment position. She should be so reckless

came to me to see if as to make statements

she could be reinstated. THE HOUSE, AND ENUMERATED OUR with no foundation in

IN PICTURESQUE RATHER

(This was not possible, fact, which he might THAN ACCURATE FASHION.

but by active work I have known that I HE PROVED TO BE A PERSON

did get her put back OF HAPPILY TREACHwould not permit to

in a somewhat lower pass unchallenged.

position, and this only Then, as

now,
the

by an appeal to the ordinary newspaper, in New York and else- sympathy of a certain official.) She was so where, was quite as reckless in its misstate- pallid and so careworn that she excited ments of fact about public men and measures ; my sympathy and I made inquiries about but for a man in Mr. Gorman's position of re- her.

She was
a poor woman

with two sponsible leadership such action seemed hardly children, a widow. She and her two chilworth while. However, it is at least to be dren were in actual want. She could barely said for Mr. Gorman that he was not trying by keep the two children decently clad, and she falsehood to take away any man's character. could not give them the food growing chil

dren need. This is a condensation of a speech I at the time made to

Three years before she had the St. Louis Civil Service Reform Association. Senator been employed in a bureau in a department Gorman was then the Senate leader of the party that had just been victorious in the Congressional elections.

of Washington, doing her work faithfully, at

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MR. GROSVENOR MADE HIS ATTACK IN

SINS

EROUS MEMORY

same

a salary of about $800. It was enough to to refuse; I do not even very much blame keep her and her two children in clothing, the Senator, who did not know the hardship food, and shelter. One day the chief of the that he was causing, and who had been bureau called her up and told her he was calloused by long training in the spoils system; very sorry that he had to dismiss her. In but this system, a system which permits and great distress she asked him why; she encourages such deeds, is a system of brutal thought that she had been doing her work iniquity. satisfactorily. He answered her that she

THE UNDERWORLD OF POLITICS had been doing well, and that he wished very Any man accustomed to dealing with pracmuch that he could keep her, that he would tical politics can with difficulty keep a straight do so if he possibly

face when he reads or could, but that he could

listens to some of the not; for a certain Sena

arguments advanced tor, giving his name, a

against Civil Service very influential member

Reform. One of these of the Senate, had de

arguments, a favorite manded her place for

with machine politia friend of his who had

cians, takes the form of influence. The woman

an appeal to “ party told the bureau chief

loyalty" in filling minor that it meant turning

offices. Why, again her out to starve. She

and again these very had been thirteen or

machine politifourteen years in the

cians take just as good public service; she had

care of henchmen of lost all touch with her

the opposite party as friends in her native

of those of their own State ; dismissal meant

party. In the underabsolute want for her

world of politics the and her children. On

closest ties are somethis the chief, who was

times those which knit a kind man, said he

together the active prowould not have her

fessional workers of turned out, and sent

opposite political parher back to her work.

ties. A friend of mine

in the New York LegisBY THE SENATOR'S

lature—the hero of the

alpha and omega inciBut three weeks af

dent-once remarked MR. GORMAN, NOT HITHERTO KNOWN AS terwards he called her

to me : • When you A SENSITIVE SOUL, EXPRESSED HIMSELF up again and told her

SHOCKED AT THE THOUGHT have been in public he could not say how

THAT THE VERACITY OF THE BRIGHT life a little longer, Mr.

YOUNG MAN 'SHOULD BE DOUBTED sorry he was, but the

Roosevelt, you will unTHAT HE COULD NOT BRIXG HIMthing had to be done. SELF TO ANSWER MY LETTER

derstand that there are The Senator had been

no politics in politics.” around in person to

In the politics to which know why the change had not been made, and he was referring this remark could be taken had told the chief that he would be himself re- literally. moved if the place were not given him. The Another illustration of this truth was inciSenator was an extremely influential man. dentally given me, at about the same time, His wants had to be attended to, and the by an acquaintance, a Tammany man named woman had to go. And go she did, and Costigan, a good fellow according to his turned out she was, to suffer with her children lights. I had been speaking to him of a and to starve outright, or to live in semi- fight in one of the New York downtown starvation, just as might befall.

I do not districts, a Democratic district in which the blame the bureau chief, who hated to do Republican party was in a hopeless minority, what he did, although he lacked the courage and, moreover, was split into the Half-Breed

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ORDERS

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AS

SO

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