« AnteriorContinuar »
PART I.—THE DEMAND FOR REFORM FROM THE PRESIDENTS AND
CONTEMPORARY STATESMEN-DEMONSTRATED ECONOMY.
EVILS THREATENED AS A RESULT OF THE TENURE-OF-
THE TENURE-OF-OFFICE LAWS.
The following is repeated from the Thirteenth Report United States Civil Service Commission:
It was the intention of the founders of our Government that administrative officers should hold office during good behavior. The Constitution fixed the term of no officer in the executive branch of the Government except that of President and VicePresident. 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 Cabinet, 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 Presi. dent 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 office a feudatory." *
It is a detestable system, drawn from the worst periods of the Roman Republic, and if it were to be perpetuated-if the offices, the honest dignities of the people, were to be put up to a scramble, and to be decided by the results of every Presidential election-our Government and institutions, becoming intolerable, would finally end in a despotism as inexorable as that of Constantinople.
Calhoun also pointed out the evils growing out of the four-year tenure 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 administrative system a relic of feudalism that has 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 tenure-of-office 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, collectors 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.
EXTRACTS FROM REPORT OF SELECT COMMITTEE IN THE SENATE, CONSISTING OF SENATORS CALHOUN, SOUTHARD, BIBB, WEBSTER, BENTON, AND KING OF GEORGIA, FEBRUARY 9, 1835, TWENTY-THIRD CONGRESS.
But greatly as these causes have added to the force of patronage of late, there are others of a different nature which have contributed to give it a far greater and more dangerous influence. At the head of these should be placed the practice so greatly extended, if not for the first time introduced, of removing from office persons well qualified and who had faithfully performed their duty in order to fill their places with those who are recommended on the ground that they belong to the party in power.
So long as offices were considered as public trusts, to be conferred on the honest, the faithful, and capable, for the common good and not for the benefit or gain of the incumbent or his party, and so long as it was the practice of the Government to continue in office those who faithfully performed their duties, its patronage, in point of fact, was limited to the mere power of nominating to accidental racancies or to newly created offices, and could of course exercise but a moderate influence, either over the body of the community or of the officeholders themselves; but when this practice was reversed—when offices, instead of being considered as public trusts, to be conferred on the deserving, were regarded as the spoils of victory, to be bestowed as rewards for partisan services without respect to merit; when it became to be understood that all who hold office hold by the tenure of partisan zeal and party serviceit is easy to see that the certain, direct, and inevitable tendency of such a state of things is to convert the entire body of those in office into corrupt and supple instruments of power, and to raise up a host of hungry, greedy, and subservient partisans, ready for every service, however base and corrupt. Were a premium offered for the best means of extending to the utmost the power of patronage, to destroy the love of country and to substitute a spirit of subserviency and man worship; to encourage vice and discourage virtue; and, in a word, to prepare for the subversion of liberty and the establishment of despotism-no scheme more perfect could be devised; and such must be the tendency of the practice, with whatever intention adopted or to whatever extent pursued.
If we turn our eyes to the Government, we shall find that, with this increase of patronage, the entire character and structure of the Government itself is undergoing a great and fearful change.
The disease is daily becoming more aggravated and dangerous; and if it be permitted to progress for a few years longer with the rapidity with which it has of late advanced, it will soon pass beyond the reach of remedy. This is no party question. Every lover of his country and of its institutions, be his party what it may, must see and deplore the rapid growth of patronage, with all its attending evils.
and the certain catastrophe which awaits its further progress if not timely arrested. The question now is, not how or where or with whom the danger originated, but how it is to be arrested; not the cause, but the remedy; not how our institutions and liberty have been endangered, but how they are to be rescued.
FROM REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE, TWENTY-SEVENTH
CONGRESS, JULY 27, 1842. Garrett Davis, chairman:
The practice of treating all the offices of this great Government as “the spoils of victory,” and with the rise and fall of contending parties the ejection of a large multitude of experienced, honest, and capable incumbents to make room for needy mercenaries who entered the political conflict without any principle or love of country, but impelled wholly by a hope of plunder, is the greatest and most threatening abuse that has ever invaded our system.
It is the degenerate and demoralizing “spoils principle” which has contributed more than any other cause to defile our whole system, and is precipitating us so rapidly upon premature decay and ruin; and we must expel it if we would save our free and glorious institutions.
EXTRACTS FROM REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON RETRENCHMENT, MAY 23, 1842, TWENTY-SEVENTH CONGRESS, SECOND SESSION.
Party organization which looks to the measures and policy of Government as its guides must therefore necessarily look also to men as the agents or means by whom measures are to be accomplished; and not only to the President, whose constitutional duty it is to recommend measures, and who is vested with a qualified veto on the will of Congress, but also to those other officers of the Government who stand to the President in the confidential relation of advisers, and who, under the laws, have a discretion which may be employed to aid or to defeat the political policy of an Administration. Such are what may be termed political, as contradistinguished from mere ministerial officers. They are few compared with the multitude of inferior officers, whose duties are simple, clearly defined, and involving no political discretion. A cabinet minister, or one charged with important foreign negotiations, may aid in executing or defeating the views of a political party, at home or abroad; but a clerk in a department or in a custom-house is, or ought to be, employed to perform duties under fixed laws, and which remain the same under all parties. The country is much more interested in the skill and fidelity of such officers than it can possibly be in their political opinions. * * The habit of applying mere political tests to the mass of appointments is believed to be injurious to the public service, by often filling important offices with incompetent men; to political morals, by inducing hypocrisy and deception; to political parties, by encouraging the most selfish and sordid motives of action.
The committee believe that any measure calculated to raise the standard of competency and fidelity in these offices will produce the happiest effects on the business of the Government. In other branches of the service the advantages of preliminary examinations as to the qualifications of those intrusted with duties sometimes less important than the duties of clerks have been manifested. Cadets, midshipmen, and applicants for appointments as surgeons in the Army and Navy have for years been subjected to this test. The committee have no doubt that the application of the same principle in the original appointment of clerks would be attended with beneficial results.
EXTRACT FROM REPORT OF SENATOR MOREHEAD, FROM THE COMMITTEE ON RETRENCHMENT OF THE SENATE, JUNE 15, 1844, TWENTY-EIGHTH CONGRESS.
For more than thirty years after the adoption of the Constitution, during fire successive Administrations, the power of removal was seldom resorted to, and, when resorted to, exerted alone, with rare exceptions, for just cause and for salutary purposes. Neither the attention of Congress nor of the nation was awakened, by its perversion and abuse, to the dangers that attended it.
Representative Herbert, in debate on the civil-service bill:
It was never the intention of the framers of the Constitution that those holding political offices, such as Representatives and Senators in Congress, should use minor offices to bribe the people to keep themselves in power, putting unworthy men in place for their own personal gain. Such practices have been denounced by the greatest men of the past-by Clay, by Webster, and Calhoun.
I believe that all the gentlemen who have spoken or written upon this question are practically agreed that the greatest evils which at present aftlict our civil service have grown out of the tenure-of-office act, and the abuses of that act—the usurpation under it of powers never intended by the Constitution to be exercised by them.
EVILS OF THE SPOILS SYSTEM WHICH THE CIVIL-SERVICE
LAW WAS DESIGNED TO CORRECT.
FROM REPORT OF COMMITTEE ON RETRENCHMENT.*
(Senate Report 576, Forty-seventh Congress, first session.) Political considerations have come to play the most important part in the distribution of the vast patronage. It boots not to consider the origin of the evil or the responsibility of one party more than the other. The fact is confessed by all observers and commended by some, that “to the victors belong the spoils;” that with each new Administration comes the business of distributing patronage among its friends.
The necessity of good administration imperatively demands a change.
It has come to be a widespread belief that the public service is a charitable insti. tution, furnishing employment to the needy and a home to those adrift. Employment is sought of the Government because it can not be found elsewhere and to escape actual want. The number of those who thus crowd all avenues of approach to places in the public service is constantly on the increase and is daily becoming more importunate. The late Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Windom, is reported to have said that five-sixths of the applicants for office, while he administered the Treasury, based their demands not on merit, or fitness, or character, but on their poverty and incapacity otherwise to obtain a livelihood. This class of place seekers follows the public service everywhere, and the public man in every position who has intluence to exert or a place to fill.
* Joseph R. Hawley, chairman; E. H. Rollins, John P. Jones, H. L. Dawes, John I. Mitchell, M. C. Butler, James D. Walker, John S. Williams, George H. Pendleton.