Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

On

The next two years brought about a wonderful change. the 16th of January, 1883, the Pendleton bill, in an amended form, having passed both houses of Congress, was approved by President Arthur. He appointed as Civil Service Cominissioners, to aid him in carrying out the new statute, Dorman B. Eaton of New York, John M. Gregory, of Illinois, and Leroy D. Thoman, of Ohio. In February last, the President transmitted to Congress the first annual report of this Commission. It affords an opportunity to observe the practical operation of the new merit system of making appointments, as contrasted with the old spoils system. The first thing that we notice is the extremely limited application of the new statute. None of the post-masters, of whom the number is no less than 48,434, are affected by it in respect to their tenure of office or their salaries. Nor does it touch the mode of appointing any of the officers of the government, the appointment of whom is confirmed by the Senate. Senatorial patronage therefore, so far as regards the power of confirmation, is as yet undisturbed. Persons employed as laborers or workmen are also expressly excepted from the operation of the act.

There are only three branches of the service that have thus far been subjected to the new system of appointment. The first embraces 5,652 clerkships and other places in the execu. tive departments at Washington, with salaries not exceeding $1800 and not less than $900 per annum. The second em. braces 2,573 places, with salaries varying from $900 to $1800 or over, in those customs districts, where the number of such places in each, are "all together as many as fifty." There are only eleven such districts, to wit: Boston, Portland, Burling. ton, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Orleans, Detroit, Port Huron, Chicago and San Francisco. Thirdly, the reformed system applies to 5,699 clerks and other em. ployees in those post offices, where the whole number of such clerks and employees in each, "together amount to as many as fifty." There are twenty-three such post-offices and they are as follows: Boston, Providence, New York City, Brooklyn, Albany, Rochester, Buffalo, Newark, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Washington, New Orleans, Louisville, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis, Chicago, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Kansas City, and San Francisco. Add together the number of places as above stated, in the departments at Washington and in the customs service and postal service, and you have an aggregate of 13,924. According to the Report of the Commis. sion, there has been a subsequent increase, so as to carry the number above 14,000. Stated then in round numbers, there are 14,000 clerks and other employees of the Government, who have been brought under the protection of the civil service act, and who hold their places independently of politics, politicians or political influences. This fact shows a good begin.

. ning. The authors of the Pendleton bill never expected from it as its immediate result any thing more than such a begin. ning. They were practical men and not such visionary theorists as they were often represented to be. They might easily have projected a measure of reform that would have been far more sweeping and radical. But they were dealing with the subject before them from a practical point of view, and they rejected all such radical propositions and suggestions as chimerical. They saw plainly that it would be impracticable to induce Congressmen to surrender all their patronage at a single stroke. They said to themselves : “This is a reform that may be accomplished gradually. We can not do every thing all at once. We will first make an experiment, and the American people shall see how it works. We will select and set off by themselves a few sections or branches of the Civil Service. We will cut them off from all connection with the spoils system, and from the partisan and machine politics of the day, and we will put them under the operation of the merit system.” And this is what has been done by the civil service act.

Some of the other features of the reformed system in actual practice can only be touched upon in the fewest words possible. According to the Report of the Commission, the whole pumber of applicants examined was 3,542. The number of those who were successful, having been graded above the minimum of sixty-five (the figure for the maximum of complete proficiency being 100) was 2,044. Of these, the number appointed to the service during the period of six months from July 16, 1883 (until which date the old methods of appointment were continued) to January 16th, 1884, was 516. Of these, sixtyfive per cent. were educated in the common schools alone. This interesting fact sufficiently disposes of the objection that the new system would create an aristocracy or bureaucracy of college graduates. It has been well said, that this is especially a people's reform, that it deposes bosses as the dictators of appointments in the public service, and opens the doors wide to all the people.

Again, the Reformers have never regarded competitive examinations as a perfect and final test of fitness. Accordingly, the civil service act and the rules promulgated under it, provide for a probationary service of six months, before any absolute appointinent can be made. It is also to be noted that the act is so framed that the reformed system may be extended to other parts of the executive service, whenever the President shall so direct, without the necessity of additional legislation.

It is a prevailing error, that the reform under review aims at a life tenure or some other kind of permanent tenure of office. The civil service act and rules only prohibit removals for refusal to contribute to any political fund or to render any political service. They steer carefully clear of all the vexed ques. tions of tenure.

This reform is inconsistent of course with the doctrine of rotation in office, which is an element of the spoils system. But it is plain that the temptation to make arbitrary removals in order to create vacancies is gone, the moment it is seen that the places thus vacated can no longer be filled on partisan grounds, or with political or personal favorites, without reference to their merits.

Section teu of the civil service act may be referred to as an illustration of the destructive effect of the reformed system upon Congressional patronage. It provides that no recom • mendation from a Congressman except as to the character or residence of the applicant shall be received or considered. To prevent misapprehension, it may also be noted, that the Commission under the power given it in the act, excepts from examination a few persons such as confidential clerks and secretaries, cashiers, interpreters, stenographers, and others.

The civil service act was drawn with wisdom and foresight 80 as to avoid constitutional questions and difficulties. It does not take away any power of appointment vested in the Presi. dent or other executive officers. But this power is one of choice. It is a right of selection for appointment among several.” Congress may regulate it. Accordingly, when a vacancy occurs, it is filled by a selection by the appointing officer from the four naines certified to him by the Commission, as among those graded highest in the list of those who have passed the examination successfully and have thus become eligible. The act is not mandatory upon the President. It does not require him, but only authorizes him to appoint the Commissioners. And they are required “to aid the President, as he shall request, in preparing suitable rules to carry this act into effect." The whole thing, as has well been said, pre

. supposes a friendly President, the whole aim of the examinations being to bring to his notice the qualifications of those who seek to enter the service.

Five sections of the civil service act are directed against the evils of political assessments. Congressmen as well as executive officers and employees are prohibited from soliciting or receiving them. No person is allowed to solicit or receive them in the public offices or in the navy yards or arsenals. No officer or employee mentioned in the act shall discharge or promote or in any manner change the official rank or compensation of any other officer or employee, for giving or with holding a contribution for a political purpose. The violation of any of these provisions is made a misdemeanor, punishable by fine or imprisonment or both, and the offence, if the offender be in the service, is good cause for his rernoval. Averaged at the sum of one thousand dollars, the salaries of the 14,000 to whom the act applies, would amount to fourteen millions of dollars. An assessment or tax of two per cent. on this sum would yield a fund for electioneering purposes of two hundred and eighty thousand dollars. Hereafter, no part of this fund can be collected by intimidation and extortion as heretofore. Still, the provisions against assessments are not so searching and comprehensive, as the bill that was framed in New York and intro duced into the Senate as already stated, in January, 1881, which bill however did not pass the House of Representatives. Mention is made in the Report of the Commission, of violations of the act by citizens 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 the political funds of those States." As the act now reads, it will be difficult to procure or sustain a conviction for sending such circulars by mail. That point was covered in the bill referred to, in terms so explicit as to leave no room for construction.

Unfortunately, the civil service act provides that appointments shall be apportioned among the several States, according to population. This provision was inserted in the Senate, as an amendment to the Pendleton bill. It interpolates an inconsistency into a system based solely on merit. It is an extension to the States of the old doctrine of the spoils system in respect to individuals, that every one has a right to an office. It is a penalty upon superior intelligence, and a premium on comparative ignorance.

One other amendment deserves notice. The original Pendleton bill adopted the existing statutory classification of the clerks in the executive departments at Washington, and provided for a similar arrangement into classes of the clerks and other employ. ees in the customs offices and postoffices to wbich it should apply. It then provided that original entrance into the service so classified should be at the lowest grade, and that promotions should be made from the lower grades to the higher on the basis of merit and competition. This was all plain and simple. It was just and proper that new comers should begin at the bottom, and work their way up. The Senate struck out the provision in reference to promotion and entrance at the lowest grade. This amendment was inade on the motion of Senator Brown of Georgia, with the avowed purpose of giving Democrats from outside an equal chance for entrance to the higher grades with those Republicans who should be promoted from lower grades, it being assumed that the lower grades were filled with Republicans. The amendment was a concession to the spoils system. It materially impaired the significance and value of the classification. It gave rise to many apprehensions on the part of the friends of reform, which bowever have hardly been realized. It seems that in actual practice, ninety

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »