Page images

duties, and he has thereupon been finally rejected as manifestly not qualified. The rigid enforcement of the rules in this particular, although it has caused some dissatisfaction, has unquestionably had a good effect upon applicants, in making them careful in drawing up their applications, and in teaching them that the rules contain nothing which can be treated as superfluous.

The power to reject applicants as manifestly not qualified, being of an arbitrary nature, has been sparingly used, and only in cases where there could be no question in the mind of any intelligent person as to the applicant's unfitness; and the names of all applicants whose applications, when completed, showed that they possesseven the most moderate degree of fitness for clerical service, have been placed upon the list of candidates eligible for examination. Notwithstanding numerous suggestions that printed forms should be provided for the use of those making applications under the rules, the Board has preferred to require each applicant to write his application in full, without the assistance of a form, leaving to his judgment the style and phraseology to be used. The application thus furnishes something of a test of the applicant's capacity, and constitutes a much better guide in the selection of the practicable number for examination than would one written in a printed form. This application, made in the manner prescribed, has been considered by the Board as furnishing the evidence as to character, health, age, and knowledge of the English language required by the first rule and the second regulation for the Civil Service.


[ocr errors]

The only limitations placed by the rules and regulations upon the classes of persons who may make application for admission to the Civil Service are those contained in the first of the rules promulgated December 19, 1871, and in the first of the regulations promulgated April 16, 1872, which declare that “no person shall be admitted to the Civil Service

who is not a citizen of the United States; who shall not have furnished satisfactory evidence in regard to character, health, and age,” and 6 of his fidelity to the Union and the Constitution of the United States;" “and who shall not have passed a satisfactory examination in speaking, reading, and writing the English language." The fair inference from these provisions is, that any citizen of the United States who furnishes the required evidence, and who passes the prescribed preliminary examination, is entitled to make application for admission to the service under the rules. Inasmuch, therefore, as women born or naturalized within the

United States are citizens under the fourteenth amendment of the Constitution, and as the act of July 12, 1870, (16 Statutes, 250,) authorizes the appointment of “female clerks who may be found competent aud worthy to any of the grades of clerkships known to the law," the Board considered that, under the rules and regulations for the Civil Service, women are entitled to compete for admission to the lowest grade of any group in the Department on the same terms as men, Moreover, it was thought that if the system is a fair test of the relatirequalifications of men for the Government service, it is an equally fair test of the relative competency of men and women. Women have, there fore, been admitted to the examinations for clerkships of class one on the same terms as men, and, as a consequence, nineteen women have been appointed to that grade. Of these, fifteen were already employed in the Department as “ female clerks, at $900 a year,” the remainder being original appointments. In a large proportion of the offices of the Department women had been employed to some extent prior to the promulgation of the Civil Service rules. In these no objection was made to the appointment of women; but in those in which women had not been employed, and which possess no proper conveniences for theni, some reluctance to employ them was shown. In consequence of this feeling, the Secretary has in two instances availed himself of the power of objection conferred by the regulations, to enter conditional objections to the appointment of women who had been certified by the Board, but with the request that their names and standing should be carried forward to subsequent examinations.


The evidence concerning the character of applicants, required by the third of the regulations governing admission to the Department, is " a certificate signed by two trustworthy and responsible persons, well known in the community in which they reside, that the applicant is personally well known to them to be of good moral character, and of temperate and industrious habits, and to be faithful to the Union and the Constitution.” It has been urged that this evidence is insufficient to exclude persons of bad character or habits. If but one candidate were certified for each place, and if the head of the Department were compelled to accept him, it would, indeed, be necessary that a searching inquiry should be made into the habits and character of each applicant before he should be admitted to the examination. But, as under the present system the head of the Department has his choice of three persons for each place, and as he can take character and

habits into consideration in making his selection, it does not seem necessary to guard the entrance to the examination with greater care than the rules now require. Nearly every Department, it is presumed, possesses the means required for making inquiries of this kind, and there is nothing in the rules to prevent them from being used. It is quite unlikely that three persons of bad character or habits should be presented to the head of the Department in one certificate; but even should such a misfortune occur no great harm could result so long as the power remains to remove at once the objectionable appointee. The selection by the head of the Department is quite as much a part of the system as the examination or the certification by the Board, and cases may occur where it must be wisely exercised in order to prevent unfit appointments.

It is, therefore, not deemed necessary that any additional evidence of good character should be required of applicants. It was thought best, in preparing the rules, to surround the entrance to the examination with as little formality as prudence would permit, and the Board adheres to that opinion. The preparation of the evidence required is, for many, but a fruitless task, since, from the nature of the system, a large proportion of the applicants must fail to secure places; and it is well to make the task as light as it safely can be made. To require, as a condition precedent to admission to the examination, the preparation of a mass of evidence as to character, which a failure to receive an appointment would render worthless, might deter some really competent persons from making application. Besides, it may be said that no kind of written evidence can be devised which rogues, or at least persons of loose character, will not be able to procure. The ease with which recommendations for public place are obtained is notorious. But the best answer to the suggestion is the statement of the simple fact that a case of the appointment of a dishonest or intemperate person under the rules has not thus far been brought to the knowledge of the Board.


The rooms formerly used for examinations under the old system of appointment being inadequate for the use of the Board, and there being no others of sufficient size in the Treasury building which could be secured, the Board was compelled to seek commodious rooms elsewhere. It was deemed wise, in order to give the system a fair trial, that, if practicable, all applicants for admission to the Department whose applications showed a reasonable degree of fitness for clerical

service should be examined; while, as the rules make no provision for excluding from examinations for promotion any persons in the group in which the vacancy exists, it was foreseen that the number of competitors for vacancies in the higher grades in the larger offices of the Department would be large. Moreover, under the construction placed by the Board upon the last paragraph of the regulations governing admission to the Departments, which states that “Candidates will be examined during office hours, and in no case will their examination be continued more than one day," it is necessary that all candidates for the same vacancy or vacancies shall be examined during the same day. It was, therefore, deemed necessary that the rooms should be large enough to accommodate at least sixty.candidates at the same time. It should be mentioned that the Board has construed the adoption of the Rules and Regulations for the Civil Service, and the appointment of its members thereunder, as conferring upon it authority to call upon the Department for everything needed to put the system into full and proper operation. It has, therefore, felt no hesitation in making requisition for the rooms, furniture, printing, stationery, and clerical assistance which were in its opinion required for that purpose.

Rooms of the requisite capacity, and possessing the proper conveni encies, were obtained at No. 1328 F street, second floor. The rooms are six in number, two of which have been fitted up for the use of the Board and its assistants, and the other four for the examination of candidates. The examination-rooms are furnished with sixty small desks for the use of the candidates, so placed as to afford ample room for each person. Each desk is supplied with pens, ink, a pencil, a ruler, and blotting paper, and with a block or tablet upon which the candi date may write the first draughts of his answers. The rooms have also been used for the sessions of the Advisory Board, and for the meetings of the associated boards for the several Departments, and have in two instances been partially occupied for considerable periods by examining boards for the Revenue Marine Service.


The regulations of April 16, 1872, anticipating the receipt of applications from a larger number of persons than could be examined, provide that "then the applicants are so numerous that the examination of all whose preliminary papers are satisfactory is plainly impracticable, the head of the Department shall select for examinatiou a practicable number of those who are apparently best qualified.” Foreseeing that in the Treasury Department it would be impracticable for the head of

the Department to make the selection contemplated by the rules, and appreciating the importance of having the selection and the examination of candidates in the same hands, so that uniform tests of capacity might be applied, the Board requested the Secretary of the Treasury, soon after the promulgation of the regulations governing admission to the Departments, to delegate to it the power of selection. To this request the Secretary assented, and he has ever since left the Board entirely untrammelled in its action, carefully refraining from even the expression of a preference as to the decision to be rendered by it in any case.

Thus far there has been but little occasion for the exercise of the power of selecting candidates for examination. The first examination for admission to the Department was held on the 10th day of June, 1872, so that the notifications to candidates had to be sent on the 30th of May. As the rules had then been in operation but sixteen days, it was found that the number of persons who had complete applications on file was so small that it was neither necessary nor advisable to exclude any of them from the examination, and they were accordingly all summoned to appear. The next examination for admission was held on the 2d day of July, 1872, and for that examination only, was a selection of candidates made from the eligible list. The Board had facilities for the examination of about fifty candidates, and that number was selected, according to apparent qualification, as shown by the applications. But the result proved that even the most conscientious exercise of this power of selection was extremely distasteful to the excluded applicants and their friends, and that it gave rise to charges of favoritism and of deference to political influence.

The next examinations for admission were held in October, to fill a large number of vacancies then existing in clerkships of class one. The number of applicants was so large that it was at first deemed impracticable to examine all of them, and the Board accordingly began to make a selection of those apparently best qualified. It was soon found, however, that, notwithstanding the repeated warnings of the inefficacy of personal importunity, and the assurance that only manifest merit could secure a summons for examination, the members of the Board were so besieged by applicants and their personal and political friends, for the purpose of securing notifications to appear for examination, that but little time was left for the performance of their customary duties. To avoid this incessant importunity, the Board at length determined to summon for examination all the applicants whose

« PreviousContinue »