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Constitution fixed the term of no officer in the executive branch of the Government except that of President and Vice-President. Madison, the expounder of the Constitution, said that the wanton removal of a meritorious officer was an impeachable offense. It was the established usage without question or variation during the first forty years of our Government to permit executive officers, except members of the Cabi. net, to hold office during good behavior, and this practice was only changed by the four-year tenure act of 1820, which was passed at the instance of an appointing officer for the purpose of using this power to secure his nomination as a Presidential candidate. Shortly after this law was passed, Jefferson made the following comment upon it:
The late mischievous law, vacating every four years nearly all the executive offices of the Government, saps the Constitution and salutary functions of the President, and introduces a principle of intrigue and corruption which will soon leaven the mass, not only of Senators but of citizens.
And later Webster said:
I am for staying the further contagion of this plague. Men in office have begun to think themselves mere agents and servants of the appointing power.
Clay remarked on the same subject:
The tendency has been to revive the dark ages of feudalism and to render an ofice a feudatory.
Calhoun also pointed out the evils growing out of the four-yeartenure law, and advocated its repeal, as well as Webster, Clay, Benton, and other able and patriotic statesmen.
In 1836, when the nomination of candidates for the Presidency by convention first became an established practice, additional “workers” were required, and the provisions of the four-year tenure were extended to postmasters receiving a compensation of $1,000 or upward, and thus was introduced into our administration system a relic of feudalism that las proved most disastrous in its influence.
The civil-service act of 1883 was intended to cure in part the evils traceable to the spoils system, which grew out of the four-year tenureof-ofïice act. Our administrative system now presents the anomaly of filling certain inferior positions by the test of merit, and changing every four years the higher positions (collectors of customs, collector's of internal revenue, postmasters, and chiefs of bureaus), in which the largest capacity and longest experience are required, and thus frequently subjecting subordinates to inexperienced and incompetent superiors, to the demoralization of the public service. The repeal of the four-year tenure would not change the present method of appointing, but would promote the retention in the public service of faithful and efficient officers.
The gradual increase in the number of Presidential offices is bound to force a change in the method of filling them. There are now nearly 10,000 persons in the public service commissioned by the President, and this number is growing from year to year. At this rate of increase
in a few years it will be physically impossible for the President and Cabinet officers to examine the papers and to hear the arguments and complaints relating to the large number of persons to be commissioned, and the repeal of the four-year-tenure laws will be absolutely necessary, so that our executive officers may devote more of their time to the consideration of the public business.
The revised civil-service rules promulgated by the President last May authorize the consolidation of the small post-offices with the freedelivery offices. When such consolidations are effected, the postmas. ters of the offices so consolidated become employees of the free delivery offices, and are consequently included in the classified service. The Postmaster-General, in his report for 1896 (pages 14 and 15), comments upon the advantages gained by the consolidation of a number of small offices with large offices, and it is believed from the results stated by him that when the work of consolidation is carried as far as may be practicable it will prove one of the most economical administrative reforms ever inaugurated by the Post-Office Department, besides adding to the efficiency of the postal service by increasing the postal facilities of the people.
In addition to the above consolidation, it is the opinion of the Commission that the fourth-class post offices may be included in the classification by Executive order. When these extensions of the classification have been made, and the four-year tenure-of-office acts are repealed, and when regulations are in successful operation in all the Departments requiring that promotions be based upon the eficiency of employees, the reforms in the executive civil service will be practically complete. The service will then be restored to that condition in which it was intended to be kept by the wise founders of our Government.
THE COMMISSION'S FORCE.
The work of the Commission has been performed under many difficulties in a building wholly unadapted for office purposes, and more suitable accommodations are greatly needed.
The Commission takes pleasure in testifying to the fidelity and efficiency with which its employees have discharged their duties, and it is also indebted for the efficient service rendered by many of the clerks who have come to it on detail from the Departments,
The Commission was deprived of the valuable services of its chief examiner, Maj. William H. Webster, by his sudden death on March 23, 1896. The loss of a man of such unusual abilities and high character would at any time have been a serious blow, and it was more keenly felt because of his long connection with the service, he having been with the Commission from its first organization to his death, first as
chairman of the Central Board of Examiners, and from 1886 as chief
JOHN R. PROCTER,
JOHN B. HARLOW,
UNITED STATES CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION.
JOHN R. PROCTER, Kentucky, President.
A. RALPH SERVEN, Chief Examiner.
List of Commissioners, chief examiners, and secretaries since 1883.
2 Mr. Doyle was appointed stenographer to the Commission March 9, 1883, and promoted upon appointment by the President from that position to secretary.
33 H. Doc. 321 -3