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TENTH ANNUAL REPORT
UNITED STATES CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION.
WASHINGTON, D. C., November 20, 1893. SIR: During the fiscal year ended June 30, 1893, only one post office, viz, Lowell, Mass., became a classified office by reason of having reached the limit of 50 employés, and was the fifty-third office classified in this manner. On the 5th of January, 1893, the President amended Postal Rule I so as to include in the classified postal service all the free-delivery post-offices. This act brought into the classified service 548 offices; and since its promulgation the free delivery service has been extended to 9 other offices, thus making the total number of classified post-offices at this time 610, including the 53 classified prior to this extension.
During the last year the great feature in the operations of the Commission has been the work done in connection with the extension of the classified service to the free delivery post-offices as above stated. This is, perhaps, the most important extension that has ever taken place under the civil-service law. The only one approximating to it was the extension of the classified service to the railway mail service in 1889,
By this extension there were added to the classified service in the 557 offices classified a total of 7,660 employés. The addition of this large number of offices and employés to the service very nearly doubled the work of the Commission. The greatest exertions were made to arrange boards of examiners in these offices and to hold examinations therein; and the Commission takes this opportunity to express its hearty appreciation of the way in which the Postmaster-General facilitated in every manner the efforts of the Commission to complete the classification in these offices.
Under the opinion of the Attorney-General (which will be found in the appendix to this report), promulgated on May 5, it was held that no office became classified until an examination took place thereat, Examinations were held at a few of the offices as early as February, and at other offices on various dates thereafter until July 1, when the H, Ex. 1, pt. 8-1
last examinations were held, which concluded this part of the work and completed the classification of the whole free-delivery service. About one-third of these offices were visited in person by a Commissioner, or by one of the Commission's employés, for the purpose of selecting and instructing the boards of examiners. At the remaining offices the boards were chosen as carefully as might be after consultation by letter with the postmaster, and in many cases with citizens of the com. munity as well. In every case the Commission endeavored to secure representation for both political parties on these boards; and, as a matter of fact, in four-fifths of the offices at present both parties have such representation. In the remainder the boards are composed exclusively of persons belonging to one or the other of the two parties. Changes will, however, be made in these boards as rapidly as possible until there is no board which does not represent in its membership more than one political party.
In the first examinations, conducted by uninstructed and inexperienced boards, many errors naturally occurred, and a number of exami. nations had to be held over again. At many offices the Commission invited private citizens of both political parties to be present at the examinations, to observe the manner in which they were conducted, whether with fairness and impartiality or not, and to report to the Commission their impressions and any delinquency or misconduct on the part of the examiners observed by them. In every case where such persons attended and reported to the Commission, their reports were satisfactory; and wherever there was legitimate ground for belief that the management of the examination had been unsatisfactory, the Commission canceled it and held another in its place under the supervision of a member of its own force, sent from Washington for the purpose. The Commission is glad to say, however, that these cases were extremely
very creditable to the boards as a whole. The Commission also provided for several tours of inspection, taking in as many of the post-offices as possible, so as to find how the law was working and to detect any irregularities or abuses of any kind. In short, the Commission took every means possible to secure the immediate application of the executive order of the President to the offices embraced in its terms, and, further, to see that both the incumbents in the different positions in these offices and the applicants for them were treated with fairness and justice, and without prejudice because of their party affiliations.
At several offices the postmasters were changed prior to the classification, and in most of these cases sweeping removals of the old employés were made before the examination was held. After the holding of the examinations there was, of course, very much less trouble with sweeping removals of this kind, although in several instances complaints of removals for partisan reasons have been made.
It is needless to point out the very great benefit conferred upon the
rare, a fact
public at large and upon the cause of decent politics by this extension of the classified service. Prior thereto, in a large majority of these free delivery offices, the whole force had been treated as spoils, and appointments and dismissals had been made largely without regard to the convenience of the public, and often solely to advance the fortunes of some faction or some individual. The course followed in certain of the offices, where postmasters were appointed before examinations were held and where sweeping removals were made, affords a striking instance of the truth of these statements, and also illustrates well the absurdity of the claim that under the spoils. system the interests of the people were as carefully guarded as under the merit system.
Special note was made of what occurred at two of the places where postmasters were enabled to make clean sweeps in the service prior to the classification of the offices. At one office the Commission's agent in his report mentions that each of the newly appointed letter-carriers actually paid $35 as a lump sum, and a further sum of $5 a day to his predecessor in the old force to teach him to perform his duties. In other words, each had to pay what may safely be set down at a minimum of $50 to the man whom he succeeded, so that the latter might teach him to perform his duties at all. This is clear proof that so far from the changes being for the good of the service, they were each for the detriment of the service. At the other office the new force performed their duties so very badly that the merchants and business men, regardless of party, joined in complaints, and in many cases had to arrange to have their mail delivered by messenger instead of through the post-office. Only the extension of the classified service to include the free delivery offices generally prevented such cases as those just mentioned from being the rule instead of the exception.
Great though the good has been to the service by this extension to include the free-delivery offices, there are one or two considerations which must not be overlooked before concluding that the system, as regards these offices, is now in an entirely satisfactory condition. In the first place, the system seemingly works better in the larger offices than in the smaller ones. In the large offices, with one or two exceptions, it has worked as well as in the departmental and railway-mail services. As much can not be said for the smaller offices. Even in the smallest it works much better than the old system worked; but, especially in those offices where there are but eight or ten employés or less, all told, it is far more difficult to prevent the law being evaded than is the case in the larger offices; and in these small offices it may be necessary to introduce further regulations in regard to removals and appointments, so as to reduce to a minimum the possibility of actions for political reasons by postmasters. The Commission is strongly of the opinion that it should be allowed to investigate and report upon all cases of removal, and should be given power to admin. ister oaths and examine witnesses.
Moreover, in all of these post-offices the number of excepted places is absurdly great; and these excepted places are still treated simply as spoils in a great majority of cases. In many of the small offices very nearly all of the clerks are excepted from examination on one plea or another. The more carefully the Commission has studied this question of excepted places, the more thoroughly it is convinced that in the great majority of cases it is a positive detriment to the service to except them. This applies not only to the postal service, but also to the departmental service at Washington, where the chiefs of division and many other offices are excepted, as the Commission firmly believes, to the detriment of the public service. A large proportion of the present excepted places ought to be struck from the list, and appointments thereto should be made either by open competitive examination or by promotion. The latter should undoubtedly be the method applied in most cases.
To except stamp clerks and money-order clerks on the plea that they handle money or its equivalent and have to give bonds to the postmaster for good behavior is a serious mistake. They could perfectly well be appointed after competitive examination on condition of filing the necessary bonds. Even in the largest offices it is the belief of the Commission that there should not be more than six or eight excepted places at the outside; and in the smaller offices it is doubtful if there should be more than one. In theory, excepted places are so exeepted with the object of filling them with the best men, who possess qualifications that can not be tested by competitive examination; in practice, they are usually filled for merely political reasons, and often with men who are distinctly inferior to those who would secure them by promotion or be provided through the examinations of the Commission. As an illustration, take the following extracts from letters written by the present postmaster of a recently classified free-delivery office to two of the old employés in his office, who were holding excepted positions.
No comment is necessary on these extracts; they themselves show how questions of removal from and appointment to these excepted places are made for merely party reasons, entirely unconnected with the good of the service or the merits of the individuals. The first letter is in part as follows:
Your conduct as chief register clerk while under my charge as postmaster, calls from me an expression that is well merited. The place you occupied being an excepted place, and one that I am necessarily compelled to fill with one of my own party, makes it necessary for us to part; no cause of complaint in regard to your official acts, as I have found yon an efficient officer, besides your gentlemanly treatment of myself, prompts me to write you this letter, and I recommend you as an honorable and capable man, and anyone would do well to have such men as yourself in their employ.
The second is in part as follows: I assure you that it is with feelings akin to pain that circumstances over which I have no control make it necessary that I should fill the offices under my control
with gentlemen of my own party affiliations. Your gentlemanly and courteous treatment, and your business qualifications are such that I feel warranted in recommending you to any position to which you aspire. Since you have been associated with me you have proved by your works that nothing I could say in your behalf would be amiss. In parting with you I part with a man who is not only capable, but honest, and in every sense a gentleman; and I can truthfully say that our party differences is the only reason of our severing the pleasant business relations that have existed between us.
It must be distinctly understood that these letters are not given as in any way reflecting upon this postmaster more than upon all the other postmasters in the land who, almost without exception, are obliged by party pressure to treat the excepted places as spoils, to be used for the benefit of the dominant party or faction.
The Commission again earnestly calls attention to the evil results of the present system of having a salary limit to the classified service in the custom-houses. The classification should be by grade and not by salary. At present openers and packers, with precisely the same duties, are classified or unclassified according as their salaries are above or below $900. An interesting comment upon this state of things is furnished by the report of the changes in the New York custom-house for October, 1893.
In the appraiser's office forty-two changes of openers and packers were made in that month. Only one of these was in the classified service; all the others were in the unclassified service. This of course inust mean either that the people in the nonclassified service appointed under the old methods are far less satisfactory than those appointed under the civil-service examinations, or else that if satisfactory they are removed for political or patronage reasons. Without doubt both suppositions are correct. Another evil result from this is that a customs official is always tempted to have positions taken out of the classified service by having the salaries attached to them reduced. In this manner four years ago the collector at a frontier port was enabled practically to change his entire force; and within the last month the collector at another frontier port, in requesting the resignations of two of his employés, remarked that if they did not give them it wouldn't make any matter, for he would recommend to have their places abolished and would put in their stead three places each at a salary so low as to keep them beneath the classified service.
Mention was made above of the classification of the Railway Mail Service in 1889. If civil-service reformers ever wish to point to a satisfactory object lesson in reform they can well afford to take the railway mail service. At the time of the changes of administration in 1885 and 1889 the railway mail service was unclassified, and, accordingly, with each change of parties great blocks of railway-mail clerks were changed and the whole service demoralized and thrown out of gear, to the great detriment of the business interests of the country. In 1893, the service having been classified nearly four years, the change