Page images
PDF
EPUB

saving the country. President Harrison was not impetuous in seizing the thorny subject; and when two months elapsed and nothing remarkable occurred in the way of transformation, the country was just settled down to a calm condition when Roosevelt was appointed, and after four years, Cleveland continued him. This lap of Administration was the beginning of going into business on a legitimate basis.

The most impressive exhibition of the Civil Service work that is recorded is the testimony of Theodore Roosevelt, examined by Senator Lodge in an inquiry made by the Senate. Senator Lodge, in October, 1900, contributed his views to the Century Magazine, presenting the point that patronage in offices was un-American, and giving this account of the Civil Service in the early days of the Republic:

"In the interval between Jefferson and Jackson, political patronage subsided. Madison, long before his coming to the Presidency, had declared himself against removals without cause, which was the view of the younger Adams also, and probably of Monroe as well. The real cause, however, of the small number of changes during this period lay deeper than the personal views and characters of the Presidents. The long continuance of one party in power, followed by the disappearance of the Federalists and the merging of all parties—nominally at least—in one, was the efficient and obvious reason for the small number of changes under Madison, Monroe and Adams. The system, however, remained at bottom entirely unchanged, and when Jackson came into power with a new set of followers and a new set of ideas he merely put into active operation a practice which had slumbered for twenty years, but which had been the same from the beginning. Under Jackson the distribution of the offices for political purposes was extended and systematized, and the theory upon which it was done was thrown by Marcy into the famous formula, 'to the victors belong the spoils.' Dating the spoils system from Jackson's time, therefore, is dating it from the declaration of the formula, which has no real connection with either its origin or its practice. Since Jackson's day, as the Government has grown, political patronage has grown and spread, until it has assumed the enormous proportions with which the present generation is familiar. The effort to do away with it by an impersonal and disinterested machinery of appointment is a wholly modern idea, and not in any sense a reversion to the early practice of the Republic."

Testimony of the operation of the Civil Service law was taken in the course of the inquiry as to the execution of the law by the Senate Committee on Civil Service and retrenchment, February 1st, 1898, Commissioner John R. Proctor on the stand was examined by Senator Lodge, and instances given of the methods by which Postmasters managed to move Republican incumbents and to appoint Democratic successors without examination and certification. There were cases cited at Portsmouth, Ohio, and Raleigh, North Carolina. One way of managing it was for a new Postmaster to bring with him from Washington a slip of paper prepared in one of the divisions of the Postoffice Department, which showed how the roster titles of his clerks could be changed to make it appear positions could be accepted because the occupants were custodians of money. In one case, an incumbent spent about half an hour a day in attending the money order window, and the rest of the time he was mailing clerk. In another case a registry and stamp clerk was rechristened as register and money order clerk, and then was discharged without offense and the successor was the son of the Postmaster and got into office without examination. Nothing was said about politics. The general delivery clerk was informed that he had been born again, and was styled the General Delivery and stamp clerk, upon which his services were dispensed with and he was succeeded by "a good and faithful Democrat without examination." This was in North Carolina, and a letter from the Postmaster dated July 13, 1894, contained this clause as to the Postmaster appointed to fill his place when Mr. Cleveland came in. The new Postmaster said he didn't like Republican clerks, and he shifted office several times "to the end ye Postmaster might bounce Republicans without charges and induct their Democratic successors without examination;" but he never said a word about politics. Mr. Proctor was on the stand giving statistics when Theodore Roosevelt came in, and was duly sworn and testified concerning his experiences in the Navy Department. He was held to be a very important witness because he had been Civil Service Commissioner, and was Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and between times, for two years had been the President of the Police Board of New York: When asked what his experience had been as he had passed from the Civil Service Commission to an Executive Department— what were his experiences with the classified service, Assistant Secretary Roosevelt's reply was that the application of what was called Civil Service Reform through those departments worked an improvement; and more than that "it is practically indispensable if really good work is to be gotten out," and if the law was abolished the Navy Department would in self-defense have to re-establish it so far as it might by departmental regulation.

If the yards and the departments of the Navy were deprived of Civil Service regulations, it would mean that the great part of the time of every officer who ought to be engaged in the transaction of public business would be taken up in trying to reconcile conflicting claims to appointment. The Assistant Secretary produced what he called the little memorandum, saying the old system employing laborers in the navy yards in accordance with the wish of local politicians was in vogue when the new navy began to be built. The old system worked just about the same way under any secretary, and grew

[graphic]

THEODORE ROOSEVELT AT HIS DESK IN THE NAVY DEPARTMENT,
DURING HIS SERVICE AS ASSISTANT SECRETARY
OF THE NAVY (1897 And 1898)
From a photograph by C/int-dinst. Washington

so intolerable that Secretary Tracy put into effect a system of registration of laborers, almost completely eliminating politics from the laboring force. There had formerly been abuse in the way of employment of labor in the navy yards just before an election, and there was a law prohibiting such employment except in case of urgency. There was, of course, always an urgency. In the Presidential election of 1888, under the old system, there were on September 1st 1,400 employees in the Brooklyn navy yard, November 1st there were 2,500, and by December 1st, the number had shrunk to 1,400. In the next Presidential term the service was classified, registration established, and September 1, 1892, there were 2,200 men employed. November 1st, 150 less were employed. This change was credited to Harrison's term.

When Assistant Secretary Roosevelt took that position in the navy a bill for furniture for the Monitor Terror came to him to pass upon. It was an old bill. The expense had been incurred ten years, and the cost was ten times as much as it should have been, and the work was done at the navy yard. Officials had been reluctant to pass upon this bill. Bureaus cost $400 apiece. Roosevelt refused to pass it; but it was regularly audited in every way, and it had to be passed. Then it was investigated, and the officers did not like to cast reflections upon their predecessors, and their predecessors did not have anything to do with employing the laborers; certain Congressmen were responsible. The Congressmen employed the men, the officers had to accept them, and the cost of bureaus was managed up to $400 apiece. A great lot of voters put in were put to work on furniture. They "could with the least damage to the public service be employed in building furniture," Roosevelt's phrase. He went on to say he had investigated personally the navy yards of New York, League Island, Boston, and Norfolk, and all the officers informed him "That the change for the better had been beyond belief since the navy yard laboring force had been employed without regard to politics;" and in the clerical force the work was done quicker and better. A man had been discharged after being off on an eight-days' spree. The officer said, "Yes, we can get rid of him now. If it were eight years ago he would be back within three days." We quote from Assistant Secretary Roosevelt's memorandum: "For instance, Commodore Erben, the 'man behind the gun' commodore, the author of that speech, the Commandant of the New York Navy Yard, reported in writing that 'the general effect of the system has been to reduce the cost of all work done in the yard during the year about 25 per cent.' It has been a saving of money to the Government of about 25 per cent.

"I have these statements made to me continually. I have usually not kept a record of them. On looking over the letters, I find such a letter as this, for instance, of December 28 last, a month ago, from the pay inspector and

« PreviousContinue »