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CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION

CHAPTER VI

CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION

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the race.

FTER these strenuous and profitable years of ranch life, Mr. Roosevelt's eye turned back to

the great city again and to the whirl of politics for which he seems to have been made. He led the Republican ticket in a three-cornered fight for the mayoralty of New York City, in which Abram S. Hewitt ran on the Democratic ticket and Henry George on the United Labor platform. Mr. Hewitt was elected Mayor. Mr. Roosevelt came out third in

His friends thought he could have been elected, if a large number of Republicans had not been afraid that Henry George, with his new theory of which they had suspicions, at least, would win. Hence, they voted the Democratic ticket. Though defeated in this mayoralty fight, he again became a national figure by the things he said and did in the campaign, and by the fact that so young a man as he should be put at the head of the Republican ticket for such a responsible office.

He had supported Benjamin Harrison in his campaign for the Presidency, and Mr. Harrison appointed him as a Civil Service Commissioner, a job which nobody wanted, as it was so very unpopular, but which Mr. Roosevelt accepted, with gratitude, because he saw in it an opportunity for usefulness; a call to carry out notions of reform which he had had in his own mind for a number of years, and the chance to fight what he thought was one of the greatest evils of American politics and one of the greatest dangers to the American commonwealth. It would be hard to find words to express the difficulty of the task to which he was called. For seventy years it had been understood, by all political parties, that the offices of the government were to go, with the election, to those who were victorious. It was almost universally understood that the spoils of office belonged to the successful candidates, and the bosses saw to it that their henchmen received them. And the ward politician, the Assemblyman, the Congressman, the United States Senator paid their election debts with the offices they distributed.

During those seventy years the average man said, “What are we in politics for, if it is not for the offices?This rule that "to the victor belong the spoils” led to much corruption and bribe-taking. The spoils-giver and the spoils-receiver naturally became the bribe-givers and bribe-takers and a deep-seated, moral corruption polluted and threatened to destroy our free form of government. Some wise statesman had secured the passage of a National Civil Service Law. This law had been on the statute books only six years when this vigorous ranchman-reformer took his place on that commission. The law was a dead letter, and the leaders of both parties did all they could to keep it so.

Immediately upon taking office he did as he always had done, felt the sanctity of his oath and set himself

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to work, whole-heartedly, to keep it. At the very start in his office he commenced to make the fur fly in every direction. He did not hesitate to tackle the most influential member of the House of Representatives, or Senate of the United States, or even a member of the Cabinet and rebuke his wrong-doing in upholding the spoils system and fighting the Civil Service Commission. Failing to repeal the law, they cast reflection constantly on his administration of it, and were continually asking for some kind of investigation to hamper or destroy the working of the law.

In one of those investigations one of the insolent advocates of the spoils of office in criticising the law said, “You yourself, Commissioner Roosevelt, cannot take an examination which you require all candidates for office to take, on the question of handwriting, for instance, with those little pinched letters which look like a lady's hand ?The Commissioner replied promptly, “That is true. I perhaps cannot take a position as a clerk in a department, but I am not applying for that place, and I am qualified to be a Commissioner of Civil Service, I think, and maintain its principle in the face of you men who are doing so much to break it down and injure our governmental system.

Afterward President Roosevelt thus recommends the civil service idea to the administration in the Philippine Islands: “This should no more be a party question than the war for the Union should have been a party question. At this moment the man in highest office in the Philippine Islands is the Vice-Governor, General Luke Wright, of Tennessee, who gallantly wore the gray in the Civil War and who is now working hand in hand with the head of our army in the Philippines, Adna Chaffee, who in the Civil War

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