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Civil Service Commission in the Administration of General Grant. I want you to be perfectly independent of mere influence from any quarter. Neither my recommendation, nor that of Secretary Sherman, nor of any Member of Congress or other influential person must be specially regarded. Let appointments and removals be made on business principles and according to rules. There must be, I assume, a few places filled by those you personally know to be trustworthy, but restrict the area of patronage to the narrowest limits. Let no man be put ont merely because he is a friend to Mr. Arthur, and no man put in merely because he is our friend. The good of the service should be the sole end in view. The best means yet presented, it seems to me, are the rules recommended by the Civil Service Commission. I shall issue no new order on the subject at present. I am glad you approve of the message, and I wish you to see that all that is expressed or implied in it is faithfully carried out.
Again congratulating you, and assuring you of my entire confidence, I remain, sincerely,
R. B, HAYES. Gen. E. A. MERRITT.
THE SYSTEMATIC INTRODUCTION OF COMPETITIVE EXAMINATIONS THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE CIVIL SERVICE OF THE COUNTRY.
(Third annual message of President Hayes, December 1, 1879.] To command the necessary support, every measure of reform must be based on common right and justice and must be compatible with the healthy existence of great parties, which are inevitable and essential in a free state.
When the people have approved a policy at a national election, confidence on the part of the officers they have selected and of the advisers who, in accordance with our political institutions, should be consulted in the policy which it is their duty to carry into effect is indispensable. It is eminently proper that they should explain it before the people, as well as illustrate its spirit in the performance of their official duties.
Very different considerations apply to the greater number of those who fill the subordinate places in the civil service. Their responsibility is to their superiors in official position. It is their duty to obey the legal instructions of those upon whom that authority is devolved, and their best public service consists in the discharge of their functions irrespective of partisan politics. Their duties are the same whatever party is in power and whatever policy prevails. As a consequence, it follows that their tenure of office should not depend on the prevalence of any policy or the supremacy of any party, but should be determined by their capacity to serve the people most usefully, quite irrespective of partisan interests. The same considerations that should govern the tenure should also prevail in the appointment, discipline, and removal of these subordinates. The authority of appointment and removal is not a perquisite which may be used to aid a friend or roward a partisan, but is a trust, to be exercised in the public interest under all the sanctions which attend the obligation to apply the public funds only for public purposes.
Every citizen has an equal right to the honor and profit of entering the public service of his country. The only just ground of discrimination is the measure of character and capacity he has to make that service most useful to the people. Except in cases where, upon just and recognized principles—as upon the theory of pensions-offices and promotions are bestowed as rewards for past services, their bestowal upon any theory which disregards personal merit is an act of injustice to the citizen, as well as a breach of that trust subject to which the appointing power is held.
In the meantime, however, competitive examinations, under many embarrassments, have been conducted within limited spheres in the Executive Departments
in Washington and in a number of the custom-houses and post-offices of the principal cities of the country, with a view to further test their effects, and in every instance they have been found to be as salutary as they are stated to have been under the administration of my predecessor. I think the economy, purity, and efficiency of the public service would be greatly promoted by their systematic introduction wherever practicable throughout the entire civil service of the Government, together with ample provision for their general supervision in order to secure consistency and uniform justice.
COMPETITIVE EXAMINATIONS A REMEDY FOR DANGERS THREATENING
THE STABILITY OF THE GOVERNMENT.
[Fourth annual message of President Hayes, December 6, 1880.] In my former annual messages I have asked the attention of Congress to the urgent necessity of a reformation of the civil-service system of the Government. My views concerning the dangers of patronage, or appointments for personal or partisan considerations, have been strengthened by my observation and experience in the Executive office, and I believe these dangers threaten the stability of the Government: Abuses so serious in their nature can not be permanently tolerated. They tend to become more alarming with the enlargement of administrative service, as the growth of the country in population increases the number of officers and place men employed.
The reasons are imperative for the adoption of fixed rules for the regulation of appointments, promotions, and removals, establishing a uniform method having exclusively in view in every instance tho attainment of the best qualifications for the position in question. Such a method alone is consistent with the equal rights of all citizens and the most economical and efficient administration of the public business.
Competitive examinations in aid of impartial appointments and promotions have been conducted for some years past in several of the Executive departments, and by my direction this system has been adopted in the custom-houses and post-offices of the larger cities of the country. In the city of New York over 2,000 positions in the civil service have been subject in their appointments and tenure of place to the operation of published rules for this purpose during the past two years. The results of these practical trials have been very satisfactory, and have confirmed my opinion in favor of this system of selection. All are subjected to the same tests, and the result is free from prejudice by personal favor or partisan influence. It secures for the position applied for the best qualifications attainable among the competing applicants. It is an effectnal protection from the pressure of importunity, which, under any other course pursued, largely exacts the time and attention of appointing officers, to their great detriment in the discharge of other official duties, preventing the abuse of the service for the mere furtherance of private or party purposes, and leaving the employee of the Government, freed from the obligations imposed by patronage, to depend solely upon merit for retention and advancement and with this constant incentive to exertion and improvement.
These invaluable results have been attained in a high degree in the offices where the rules for appointment by competitive examination have been applied.
A method which has so approved itself by experimental tests at points where such tests may be fairly considered conclusive should be extended to all subordinate positions under the Government. I believe that a strong and growing public sentiment demands immediate measures for securing and enforcing the highest possible efficiency in the civil service and its protection from recognized abuses, and that the experience referred to has demonstrated the feasibility of such measures.
The most serious obstacle, however, to an improvement of the civil service, and especially to a reform in the method of appointment and removal, has been found to be the practice, under what is known as the spoils system, by which the appointing
power has been so largely encroached upon by members of Congress. The first step in the reform of the civil service must be a complete divorce between Congress and the Executive in the matter of appointments. The corrupting doctrine that “to the victors belong the spoils” is inseparable from Congressional patronage as the established rule and practice of parties in power. It comes to be understood by applicants for office and by the people generally that Representatives and Senators are entitled to disburse the patronage of their respective districts and States. It is not necessary to recite at length the evils resulting from this invasion of the Executive functions. The true principles of government on the subject of appointments to office, as stated in the national conventions of the leading parties of the country, have again and again been approved by the American people, and have not been called in question in any quarter. These authentic expressions of public opinion upon this all-important subject are the statement of principles that belong to the constitutional structure of the Government.
The offices in these cases (farming out of appointments among Congressmen) have become not merely rowards for party services, but rewards for servicos to party leaders.--Hayes.
The civil service can never be placed on a satisfactory basis until it is regulated by law. For the good of the service itself, for the protection of those who are intrusted with the appointing power against the waste of time and obstruction to the public business caused by the inordinate pressure for places, and for the protection of incumbents against intrignes and wrong, I shall, at the proper time, ask Congress to fix the tenure of the minor offices of the several Executive departments, and to prescribe the grounds upon which removals shall be made during the terms for which incumbents have been appointed.-Garfield.
4. PERIOD SUCCEEDING THE PASSAGE OF THE CIVIL-SERVICE
ACT OF 1883.
Upon the good results which that law (the civil-service act) has already accomplished I congratulate Congress and the people, and I avow my conviction that it will henceforth prove to be of still more signal benefit to the public service.
Original appointments should be based upon ascertained fitness. The tenure of office should be stable. Positions of responsibility should, as far as practicable, be filled by the promotion of worthy and efficient officers.- Arthur.
THE SUCCESSFUL OPERATION OF THE PRESENT CIVIL SERVICE ACT.
The continued operation of the law relating to our civil service has added the most convincing proofs of its necessity and usefulness. It is a fact worthy of note that every public officer who has a just idea of his duty to the people testifies to the valne of this reform. Its stanchest friends are found among those who understand it best, and its warmest supporters are those who are restrained and protected by its requirements.
If the people of this country ever submit to the banishment of its underlying principle from the operation of their Government they will abandon the surest guarantee of the safety and success of American institutions.-Cleveland.
I believe that the law is being executed with impartiality, and that the system is incomparably better and fairer than that of appointments upon favor.--- Benjamin Harrison.
The system has the approval of the people, and it will be my endeavor to uphold and extend it.-McKinley.
REASONS FOR THE CLASSIFICATION OF THE LIBRARY
In the Senate on December 15, 1897, Senator Lodge said: “We have just had an example of the other system in regard to the National Library, the Library of Congress, where the offices were carefully excluded from the civil service. I find that for the 108 offices within the gift of the Librarian there were 2,872 applicants. They are given in full in a paper which I shall submit, and I have only to add to it that I inquired of the Librarian as to how much of his time was taken up with the matter of applicants for positions in the Library. He said:
“I have given from eight to fourteen hours a day to the library business and very largely to applications for office. Other work, such as writing my report and attending to a large correspondence, was done at my home in the early morning or late in the evening.'
“In other words, the time of the superintendent of this great Library, which is now housed so appropriately and so well in the noble building on the other side of the square—the time of the man in charge of that important work was given up to listening to applicants for these offices, petty offices for the most part, twenty-eight for every place, and to trying to settle in that scramble who should have the places.
“It seems to me it would have been a saying of the people's money and a great saving of time to their officers if he could have taken persons for those clerical positions from the registers already prepared and open to him.”
The legislative appropriation bill for 1897–98 made appropriation for a force of 187 persons to be employed in and about the Library of Congress. The act provides that the force under the Librarian shall“ be selected by the Librarian of Congress by reason of special aptitude for the work of the Library, including the copyright work,” and “that all persons employed in and about said Library of ('ongress, under the Librarian or the superintendent of the Library building and grounds, shall be appointed solely with reference to their fitness for their particular duties." The Librarian and the superintendent of the Library building and grounds are subject to confirmation by the Senate, and would therefore not be subject to classification under the civil-service act.
At the time of the passage of the act making appropriation for the employees of the Library the question of the method of their appointment was brought to the attention of President Cleveland. He decided that as the appropriation would not become available until after the expiration of his term of office he would leave the consideration of the subject to his successor.
It would be wiser to depend upon the results of examinations in appointments to this force than upon the representations of those who must often be suspected of personal interest in the appointment. The law explicitly requires the Librarian to select all assistants “by reason of special aptitude for the work of the Library." The examinations can best be conducted through the machinery already existing under the civil-service rules. The Commission has had experience in examinations for library employees, and it will be an easy and inexpensive matter to apply like tests, by way of open competition, to all persons who may seek to enter the Library service. The appropriation act, in express terms, excludes all considerations other than fitness in the appointments, and in no other way than by an examination of some kind can this fitness be ascertained.
There are obvious advantages in establishing under the protection of the civilservice rules, and applicable to all the Departments, a system of nonpartisan appointments. The system should be under the civil-service act to protect the officials themselves from importunity to overturn or evade it. It should be established under the protection of the Civil Service Commission, in order that the Commission may apply the same general system of rules to all civil employees, and, where the
conditions are the same, make as nearly uniform as practicable the manner of applications. Congress created the Civil Service Commission to prepare rules based upon special study of the conditions surrounding appointment and enployment and to see that those rules are uniformly applied and enforced in all departments of the Government. The Commission is, in a measure, responsible for the enforcement of the nonpartisan system of appointments, and this responsibility should not be subdivided any more than is absolutely necessary among appointing officers. The Commission is the best judge of the methods to be pursued in testing the fitness of applicants.
With boards of examiners in seven hundred cities throughout the country, the Commission is the only agency equipped to extend to all citizens alike, with little or no added expense to the Government, the opportunity of competition.
It is only through these agencies of the Commission, at all of which examinations are conducted, that appointments may fairly be distributed among the States. It certainly is desirable that every part of the country should have an equal opportunity for appointment. If the examinations were held only at Washington it would exclude a large number of the best qualified applicants, for the reason that they could ill afford the expense of a journey here. It would therefore fail to secure a due apportionment of appointments among the citizens of distant States.
The last census of the United States is an illustration of the unwisdom of attempting tests of fitness without leaving the conduct of those tests to an outside body. The Census Office hal examinations of its own, conducted by skilled examiners from its own force. Commissioner Wright has stated that the census cost more than $10,000,000, and that if the office had been classified under the civil-service rules the work would have been better done and the saving would have been over $2,000,000, and the saving in time of two and one-half years.
Competitive examinations are especially useful in places for which technical qualifications are essential. Pass examinations may exclude the least worthy, but they do not afford a selection from among the most worthy.
That the larger number of the new employees should be persons of special training and technical qualifications is obvious. No one man can make a selection from among the thousands of applicants which will secure results at all comparable to the exactitude and wide scope of the examinations of the Commission. The Library is important to the whole people-a part of their education and an important element in their prosperity. The selection of employees should not be left to chance, nor should the competition be confined to a few. It should be as broad and scientific as the aims of the great Libary itself. It will be a national misfortune if the selection of the employees of the Library is any less nonpartisan and nonsectarian than popular education itself. The Library can only secure the best men--the men of highest capacity, character, and ambition—in a competition that rests solely upon merit and which, in some measure, at least, assures a tenure dependent upon efficiency and fidelity rather than upon political considerations.
As fitness is to be the sole consideration in the new appointments, the Commission my aid the Librarian in ascertaining the qualities, experience, and personal history of the appiicants; their reputation, as shown in testimonials; their general intelligence and force, revealed in a written examination; their technical education and arquirements, with, fin:lly, a probationary test in doing the Library work, to show the possession of tact, judgment, industrious habits, and ability to perform the special work of the Library.
Absolute appointment under the civil-service act can not be made until after a satisfactory probation of six months. This constitutes an additional test of fitness not secured outside of the classified service.
The best results of the competitive system are apparent in technical examinations of the character suggested. It is not merely, or even primarily, a scholastic examination that is proposed, but one such as would be approved by the library experts of the country, embodying just such tests as they have found most useful in the