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he was as proud of them as he was of that first capture.
While Theodore Roosevelt was spending a large part of his time in hunting and in literary work, and in studying political economy, Grover Cleveland's first term as President came to an end, and Benjamin Harrison was inaugurated to fill the office of Chief Magistrate.
At that time the question of Civil Service was again being agitated. Theodore Roosevelt was a warm advocate of the merit system, and knowing this, President Harrison appointed him, in 1889, a Civil Service Commissioner, and this office he held for six years, until his resignation in 1895. When Benjamin Harrison's term of office was up, and Grover Cleveland was reëlected to the Presidency, it was thought that Roosevelt would have to go, but his friend, the newly elected President, wished him to remain as a commissioner, and he did so for two years longer, thus serving both under a Republican and a Democratic administration.
To some of my young readers the term Civil Service, as applied here, may be a bit perplexing. For the benefit of such let me
state that civil service here applies to the thousands of persons who work for the government, such as post-office clerks, letter carriers, clerks in the various departments at Washington, like the Treasury, the Congressional Library, the Government Printing Office, the War Department, and the hundred and one other branches in which Uncle Sam needs assistance.
For seventy or eighty years these various positions had been under what is commonly called the “spoils system.” “To the victor belong the spoils,” had been the old motto, which generally meant that the party happening to be in power could do as it pleased about dealing out employment to those under it. A worker might have been ever so faithful in the discharge of his duties, but if the administration was changed, he ran the risk of losing his position without any notice.
Statesmen of both great political parties had long seen the injustice of the spoils system, but few cared to take the matter
up for fear of offending their political friends. But as matters grew worse, those who were honest said they would stand such a system no longer, and they began to advocate the
merit plan, whereby each worker for our government should stand on his merit, so that he could not be removed from his position without just cause. This merit system is in operation to-day and is a most excellent thing, only becoming dangerous when extended too far.
There were two other commissioners besides Mr. Roosevelt on the Commission, but all worked together in harmony, although in many moves taken Mr. Roosevelt was the leader. About this work he has written a notable essay called “Six Years of Civil Service Reform," in which he reviews much of the work done. In this essay, among many other things, he says:
“No republic can permanently endure when its politics are corrupt and base; and the spoils system,— the application in political life of the degrading doctrine that to the victor belong the spoils, — produces corruption and degradation. The man who is in politics for the offices might just as well be in politics for the money he can get for his vote, so far as the general good is concerned.” Certainly wise words and well worth remembering.
The work of the Commission was by no means easy, and the members were often accused of doing some things merely to benefit their own particular party or friends. Politicians of the old sort, who wanted everything they could lay hands on, fought civil service bitterly, and even those who might have been expected to help often held back, fearing they would lose their own popularity. Yet on the other hand, , some members of Congress upheld the Commission nobly, and when President Garfield was assassinated by a half-crazy office-seeker many more came forward and clamored to put public offices on the merit system by all means.
Part of the work of the Commission was to prosecute the head of any bureau or department where an employee had been discharged or had suffered without just cause. Such cases came up in large numbers and were prosecuted with all the vigor of which the Commission were capable.
“We were not always successful in these trials,” says Mr. Roosevelt. “But we won out in the majority of cases, and we gave the wrong-doing such a wide publicity that
those who were guilty hesitated to repeat their actions." And he goes on to add that during his term of service not over one per
cent. of those who worked for Uncle Sam were dismissed purely for political reasons. This was certainly an excellent record, and our government will do well to maintain such a high standard in the future.
To give a further idea of the work required in the way of examinations for positions under our government, let me state that during the year from July 1, 1890, to July 1, 1891, 5251 applicants were examined for the departments service, 1579 for the customs service, 8538 for the postal service, 3706 for the railway mail service, making a total of nearly 20,000, of which about 13,000 passed and the balance failed. Since our war with Spain, the work of the government has been vastly increased, and the places to be filled every year run up into figures that are startling.
One of the best and wisest acts of the Commission was to place the colored employees of the government on an equal footing with the white employees. In the past the colored employees had occupied their