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FIRST ANNUAL REPORT
THE UNITED STATES CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION.
The first report from a new branch of the executive service, the purpose and methods of which are by many misunderstood, should present all the facts and explanations needed for a correct judgment.
In conformity with the requirement of the civil service act, the rules and regulations in force for carrying it into effect are made a part of this report.* They will be more readily understood if we have in mind the leading provisions of the act itself. Its ultimate purpose is plainly declared in its title, which is, “An act to regulate and improve the civil service of the United States.” But, subordinate to that end, several results must be attained which, both in the law and in the rules, ap. pear to be the more direct objects of their provisions.
1. Official authority and influence must no longer be used to impair the freedom of elections or to coerce the political action of citizens.
2. Extortion from those in the public service, whether under the form of political assessments or otherwise, for the purpose of paying the expenses of parties or candidates, must come to an end.
* The act was approved January 16, 1883. It took effect from its passage, though one of its provisions allowed vacancies in the service to be filled, according to the old methods, until July 16; after which none could be filled, within the sphere of its first application, except from among those who had been examined under it. It is the six months from July 16 to January 16, the close of the first year, to which all the appointments herein mentioned refer. The three commissioners nominated by the President, Dorman B. Eaton, of New York, John M. Gregory, of Illinois, and Leroy D. Thoman, of Ohio, were confirmed by the Senate March 1. On the 9th of that month they took the oath of office, and on the same day the first meeting of the Commission was held at Wormley's Hotel, Washington, D. C. Mr. Thoman acted as secretary until June 11, when W. S. Roulhac entered upon his duties as secretary.
Pursuant to a request from the President, the Commission entered at once upon the consideration of the subject of rules, which, after very slight modifications, were approved and promulgated by the President on the 7th day of May. Mr. Charles Lyman entered upon his duties as chief examiner May 12. During that month and the next, the members of the Commission more than once visited every office, except those in California, to which the rules were applicable; first for the purpose of selecting examiners, and next for the supervision of the first examinations. It was essential to have persons examined, marked, graded, and ready for filling all vacancies after July 16. There was no failure or delay in that regard.
3. Selections for the executive service on the basis of official favor and partisan influence must be suppressed by requiring examinations and other adequate tests of character and capacity as the conditions of antering this service.
4. The true responsibility and independence of the legislative and executive departments under the Constitution must be restored and preserved.
The civil service act (section 2, clause 2, sub. 6), referring to the public service at large, declares “that no person in said service has any right to use his official authority or influence to coerce the political action of any person or body."
In making the rules, the President exercised not only the authority conferred by that act and by the Revised Statutes (section 1753,) but also that vested in the Executive by the Constitution. This ample authority, exercised in the spirit of the act, enabled the President to give its purpose a more emphatic and comprehensive expression in the language of the first rule.
The second rule, which declares that no person by reason of being in the employment of the people shall be under any obligation to render any political service, and that he will not be removed or otherwise prejudiced for refusing to do so, is in the same spirit, and may be regarded as a complement of the first rule; the first asserting the right of the private citizen to freedom from the coercion of executive officers, and the second asserting the right of such officers to freedom from the coercion of parties and factions.
The enactment by Congress of the provisions quoted is the highest evidence of grave abuses against which such rules are aimed. It is too early to speak with definiteness of the effects of these rules. The influence of old habits and theories affects conduct long after new standards of duty have been accepted. Though under Rule 23 a violation of either rule is made good cause for removal, the utility of such rules must in some degree rest in their power as precepts; for obviously only gross forms of their violation can be easily proved. The first step towards the protection of all rights is the distinct recognition of them and the public acknowledgment of a duty to protect them. That step at least has been taken. In the face of pledges at once formal and public, it will require more audacity to invade, and there will be a readier courage to defend, the freedom which it is the object of the first two l'ules to guarantee.
No case of the violation of either, in the particulars referred to, has been laid before the Commission. Whether in the period since the Civil Service rules went into effect there has not been a diminished tendency on the part of Federal officers to meddle with the political action of citizens, and a more vigorous and general condemnation of the practice by the public, are questions to be decided upon a careful observation of the facts, which are as open to all others as to the members of the Commission.
Those parts of the act and of the rules which forbid political assessments, which probibit discrimination by reason of political or religious opinions in making appointments (Rule 8) and which compel selections for the public service on the basis of merit instead of favor and influence, strongly support the freedom and justice which it is the special object of the first two rules to maintain.
The provisions of the act (sections 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15) against assessments or other forms of extortion for political purposes from the fears of those whose tenure of office is precarious, prohibit officers and employés paid from the national Treasury becoming the collectors or receivers for such purposes of any part of each other's earnings. They forbid the solicitation or reception of assessments in the offices, navy. yards, forts, or arsenals of the nation. They make penal the discharge,. promotion, change of compensation, or any form of degradation of any public servant by reason of any payment or non-payment for such purposes. Their aim is to secure to that class of citizens the real liberty to pay or not to pay, without loss of salary or occupation, of which many of them have long been deprived. Statutory provisions so ample made it unnecessary for the President to do more than to declare his accord with their spirit, and to pledge the exercise of his authority for the same ends. This much is done in Rule 2, taken in connection with Rule 23, which makes any violation of these provisions or of the rules “good cause for removal.”
The fifteenth section of the act, moreover, makes the violation of any of these provisions punishable by fine or imprisonment. This fact, as well as the very nature of the subject itself, points to the courts as the most appropriate and efficient bodies for dealing with such offenses. They alone can compel the attendance of witnesses, administer oaths, require the production of papers, and decide upon and enforce adequate punishment.
The Commission has, nevertheless, the duty to bring to the notice of the President, or of other proper executive officers, any information it may have calling for a removal. It may investigate charges. It is required to state in its reports the practical effect of the law and the rules in this as well as in other particulars.
No information calling for such removal has as yet come before the Commission. An investigation now being conducted by the Commission tends to show that the twelfth section of the act has been violated by a private citizen from each of two States, in the form of surreptitiously sending or carrying circulars into the Departments at Washington, by which contributions were solicited from those in the public service in aid of