The Civil Service Law.
Managing the details of government is like managing the details of business. Conditions change from time to time, as the country develops, and new methods have to be adopted to meet new conditions. Merchants and manufacturers are compelled to employ different methods now from those they employed forty and fifty years ago, and the same is true of government. Experience has shown that when the old methods are no longer adequate, or when great abuses have grown up under them, considerable experiment is necessary in order to find the best remedy.
Early in the history of our government there were comparatively few employes needed in the public service. The conditions then were very much as they are to-day out in the country and in the smaller cities. The head of a department or the executive of a city knew nearly all of the inhabitants, knew their character and their capacity, and when a clerk or an assistant was needed, he simply appointed him, and that was the end of it. That was the best method for those times.
As the population increased, the public business increased, and that method no longer met the requirements of the public service. Instead of there being two or three dozen employes, there were, in many cases, several thousand. Neither an executive or the head of a department could or did know all of the applicants, and therefore could not act upon personal knowledge in making appointments. Again, it was found that the labor in the public service was light, as compared with labor in private employment, also that the salaries
723paid in many cases, were almost double what the recipients could earn in private employment. Consequently these positions began to be sought after. In time, there were from ten to twenty applicants for every position, so that for every thousand positions to be filled there were over ten thousand applicants. All of these naturally tried to see the executive, or head of a department, to urge their claims, not only once, but a number of times.
But this was not all. Every applicant, again, got as many of his friends as possible to go and urge his appointment. These friends generally were politicians who were under some obligation to the applicant, or who expected to derive benefit from his appointment, and who were therefore very persistent in their efforts in his behalf. So that we finally reached a condition where it took almost the entire time of the executive to hear applications for office, so that he had scarcely any time left to attend to public business, and even when not thus occupied he was worn out, for nothing so quickly draws the marrow out of a man's bones as the persistent and continuous importuning for office.
The trouble did not cease when the appointments had once been made. After every place was filled the applications for positions still continued. The pressure in one form or another continued, and there was a constant tendency toward stuffing pay-rolls, a constant tendency toward appointing many more than the service required.
A number of years ago our public service became almost a standing scandal, not only to the great detriment of the service, but to the injury of the country. Certain politicians were enabled to form political machines by getting their friends appointed to place, and by means of these machines were able to dictate nominations, dictate party policies, and thus to prostitute political parties to the low and corrupt plane of the spoilsmonger, so that instead of standing for great principles of government and public policy, the political parties were like a hen in the barn-yard, simply scratching for worms.
To remedy these evils, various measures were discussed for years. Finally the matter took form, and a national civil service law was passed, which embodied four cardinal principles:
First, that every applicant for position should be examined by an examiner or board in order to ascertain his qualifications.
Second, that the appointing power should be taken away entirely from the executive or head of department, in all cases except in those important positions in which the appointee must be vested with great discretion and responsibility.
Third, that whenever there was a vacancy the place should be filled
724by taking the man standing at the head of the list of those who had been examined, and giving him a trial.
Fourth, that when once appointed the appointee should not be removed, except for cause, and the question as to whether good cause for removal existed should be passed on by the civil service commission.
This law grew out of the necessities of the case. It was absolutely necessary that something should be done, and it was not reasonable to expect that the remedy should be perfect at the beginning. No remedy ever is. But in so far as relates to great cities, the provisions of this law requiring an examination of the applicants, depriving the executive or head of department of the power of appointment, and requiring vacancies to be filled by taking the men at the head of the list and giving them a trial, are fundamental and must be maintained. Personally I believe that the principle of making appointees of the public service life officers is not in harmony with republican institutions, and I also believe that in time that feature will develop a weak and unsatisfactory service, and produce, in the end, a class of public barnacles who are kept on the pay-rolls simply because it would require something like a lawsuit to oust them. But this provision can be changed when the necessity for it appears. That is a question of legislation, and need not be considered at present.
Here in Chicago the public service has become so great that I understand there are altogether in the neighborhood of 14,764 names upon the pay-rolls in the various departments of the city, and the number of applicants for office is perhaps greater in Chicago, in proportion to the number of places to be filled, than anywhere else in the world. In proportion to the number of inhabitants, we have more people who want to serve their country by drawing a salary from it than are found anywhere else. The work is light and easy, and the pay is usually about twice what the same amount of work would command outside. When, therefore, all these applicants for place seek to reach the Mayor, and get all their friends, political or otherwise, to go and see him in their behalf, it makes an innumerable multitude, and if the Mayor gives a minute's audience to each, it takes so much of his time that he cannot attend to public business, and it makes such a drain upon his vitality that he will not be in a condition to attend to public business.
And here, as it formerly was in the federal service, the fact that there may be no vacancy does not stop the importuning for place. Every alderman, every man who thinks he has influence, has some friend, or some relative, or some political hustler, for whom he must
725get a job. Some years ago I went to the City Hall, and I found the corridor packed with men from one end to the other, and the stairways were filled with men, all waiting to get in to see the Mayor. I was told that this had been the condition for weeks. The people of this city began to realize that something must be done to meet this situation and to correct this abuse, and various remedies were suggested.
In my first message to the Legislature, four years ago, I suggested that some reasonable steps should be taken in this matter. Two years ago I again urged it. Finally some bills were presented, one of which I was told had been drawn under the direction of the Civic Federation. It was a long bill, and provided for the creation of a great machine. It created a Civil Service Commission of three members, beside a secretary, each of whom was to get three thousand dollars a year, and it provided for the appointment of a limitless number of examiners, clerks, etc., all to be paid. I objected to the creation of so many new salaried offices, and I suggested to the gentlemen who favored that particular bill that there are thousands of public-spirited, able men in Chicago who would serve as members of that board and perform all of its duties as a matter of patriotism, and without any compensation; that inasmuch as the law contemplated that the board should hire men to act as examiners and do all that line of work, there was no necessity for paying such high salaries to the commissioners; and that in fact, if men were appointed who acted solely for the honor of holding such a position and from a sense of duty to their country, we would get the very highest grade of service possible. But the gentlemen who represented the bill objected. They wanted it passed just as it was. They wanted a salaried board.
Again, the bill provided that it should be submitted to the voters of Chicago at the ensuing spring election, when a Mayor was to be elected, and that if adopted by the people of Chicago, then the newly elected Mayor should, inside of ninety days, issue a proclamation, declaring the law to be in force, and it further provided that he should not issue this proclamation until forty days after he had been elected. I objected strenuously to that provision, and said: "Gentlemen, if the people of Chicago adopt the civil service law at the same time that they elect a Mayor, there is no need of having him issue a proclamation. Let the law take effect immediately, so that the new administration will be obliged to carry the law out." But the gentlemen representing this bill were opposed to this. They claimed that the politicians did not favor any bill, and that if the bill were to go into effect
726immediately there might be such a combination of politicians as would defeat its adoption by the people; that therefore it was necessary to let it be understood that the newly elected Mayor could, if he wanted to, make appointments. But they said they believed Mr. Swift was going to be elected Mayor, and that they knew he would enforce the law at once, and would make all of the offices at once subject to the civil service law. They represented that Mr. Swift was strongly in favor of this law. Practically they vouched for him, and that if he were elected Mayor no appointments would be made, except through the civil service commissioners. So strongly were they opposed to having any changes made in the bill in these particulars, that it became a question of allowing that bill to become a law or having no legislation upon the subject, and feeling that some steps should be taken toward correcting the abuses that existed, I yielded the point, and allowed the bill to become a law.
Subsequently another bill was introduced, creating a civil service commission for the county. It also provided for salaries and for a complete establishment. That bill also passed and became a law. At the city election which ensued the civil service law was adopted by the people, by an overwhelming majority. Mr. Swift was elected Mayor by over forty thousand majority. It was therefore to be expected that the merit system would at once be established and all vacancies filled after examination of the applicants. But instead of this being done, the proclamation necessary to make the law in force was not issued until it had to be done, under the law, and every position in the city service, big or little, that had a salary attached to it, was filled before the proclamation was issued and the law went into effect.
I am not criticizing Mr. Swift, for he had made me no promises, but, gentlemen, I ask you, are the men who insisted that they knew that Mayor Swift would enforce this law at once, are they denouncing him to-day for not having enforced it? Have they risen up and condemned him for his course? Not at all. On the contrary, these men are to-day telling us that unless the Republican party is kept in power, the civil service law will be overthrown!
Let us go a step further. After the law had gone into effect, after the places had been filled, the Mayor was asked to have the new appointees submit to an examination by the Civil Service Board. Now, mind you, he was not asked to discharge them. They were to be permitted to hold their positions. They were not asked to retire and come in on the same level with others. He was asked simply to require them to go and submit to an examination, but he refused. No doubt
727he fell that a great many of the fellows who had been appointed to place could not pass the examination, for many of the Republicans who had crept into position were not of a class that could stand an examination. But no matter what his reason was, did the men who have been talking civil service, who claim that they are the friends of civil service, did they rise up and condemn the Mayor to this community for his action? Did they condemn him for the fact that he not only ignored the law, but kicked it out of his way? Not at all. We hear some of these men now actually telling the people of Chicago that the Republicans established civil service here, and that unless a Republican Mayor is elected, the civil service law is in danger.
The newspapers of the city, controlled by the Republican party, have been telling the people that the present city administration has established the merit system in this city. Now, gentlemen, why this hypocrisy? Why this false pretense? They know that this administration has made a farce of civil service. They know that if this present city administration had been a Democratic administration, and had done exactly what has been done, the very air would ring with the condemnation of an indignant people.
Let us go a step further, and see what the two Civil Service Boards of the city have accomplished, and what they have cost the public. The law went into force the first day of July, 1895, and up to the first day of January, 1897, had been in force a year and six months. During that time the City Civil Service Board had expended $13,709.00 in 1895, and $30,970.00 in 1896. The County Board has published no report, but it has cost the people of Cook County over forty thousand dollars a year to maintain these two machines. For this year the City Board asked $55,000.00 and has been granted $35,000,000. I have here copies of the reports of the City Civil Service Board which show that this board held 37 meetings during the year 1896. The minutes are published complete, and show that the sessions as a rule must have been very short. Generally the board met at 11 o'clock, and after transacting a very little business, adjourned. Sometimes it met at three or four o'clock, and the record shows that in most instances after a motion or two, on some minor matter, was passed, the board adjourned. Judging from the work done, as shown by these minutes, I should say that the board did not spend one hundred hours during that year, on the civil service, but each member received $3,000.00, or at the rate of $30.00 per hour, for the time he gave the public. Or, if you take it per meeting, dividing $3,000.00 by 37, you find that each of the Civil Service Commissioners got about $81.00 per meeting, that is, each meeting cost about $324.00. So you
728see that civil service has been a very profitable business for a number of gentlemen. To be sure it will be claimed that they laid awake nights and thought about the civil service — but mind, they hire all the work done, and each of these gentlemen carries on a private business. The great institutions of the State are in charge, as a rule, of boards that serve solely for the honor, and any one of them calls for more work and time at the hands of the board than this civil service requires at the hands of the commissioners. And I now repeat that these high salaries to the commissioners and to the secretary, are utterly unnecessary, and illustrate the general tendency of the Republican party to treat the public like a mule to be ridden or a sheep to be shorn.
During the year 1896 the County Commissioners of Civil Service each drew $1,500.00 salary, and they seem to have had so little to do, aside from going once a month to get their checks, that they have not even deemed it worth while to publish a report of their proceedings.
Now let us see what are the results achieved. While the law was clearly intended to apply only to cases of clerkships and other offices where the employment is permanent, yet in describing its scope the word "labor" was used in one or two places, and it has been construed so as to embrace all labor, skilled and unskilled, and the board has divided the applicants for examination into two classes. One it styles "Official Service," and the other it calls "Labor Service." The first embraces all cases that I think the Legislature intended to covers as I do not believe it was the intention of the Legislature, or even of the framers of the bill, that laborers, whether skilled or unskilled who are not permanently employed, who are called in only as necessity requires, should be governed by the civil service law. However, the commission has acted upon the theory that they are to be examined.
I hold here a report of the commission. This report shows that during the year 1896 the board passed 712 applicants in the official service; that during that time it examined and passed 1,717 persons in the labor service, skilled and unskilled; that 667 were certified for the purpose of filling positions in the official service and 729 laborers were certified. Taking $31,000.00 which the board expended last year, and dividing it by the number that were certified, it gives $22.25 as the cost to the public for every person, skilled and unskilled, certified by the commission for appointment in that year. Or if you say that is not fair, that it ought to get credit for all that it examines and passes, then divide the $31,000.00 by 712, the total number of those examined and passed for positions other than labor, and it gives
729$43.50 as the cost to the public for every person that is examined and passed in the clerical or official service. If you add laborers, it makes $12.75 per head.
It is alleged by the friends of some of these gentlemen who follow civil service as a lucrative business, that the present board should be continued by the new Mayor, whoever he may be. Well, that is none of my business, and I certainly shall not mix in that matter, but let us see where the new Mayor will come out. If the work done by the commissioners last year is a fair specimen of their ability and industry, then in order to fill all of the places that are subject to the civil service, it would take over six years to supply enough men, both in the official and in the labor service. In other words, the new Mayor would serve his term out, two of his successors would serve their terms, and there would still be a host of the politicians whom Kent and Perry Hull succeeded in placing in positions without examinations holding office in the City Hall.
This is the scheme of the Republicans; the scheme of the men who make a loud pretense of being civil service reformers, who complain of the "action of the machine," and yet uniformly give the machine their support and want a course pursued which will keep the machine still in possession in the City Hall, no matter who is elected Mayor.
Look around and see from whence the opposition to civil service law comes. Only a few weeks ago, Mr. Grosvenor of Ohio, who seems to be the leader of the Republicans in Congress, arose in his place on the floor of the House of Representatives and fiercely assailed the whole civil service system. Another prominent Republican of the House expressed similar views, and only a few days ago, two of the most distinguished Republican senators arose in their places in the United States Senate and denounced the whole civil service system. That is the way they regard it at Washington. Cast your eye toward Springfield, and you will find that the Republicans in the Legislature of Illinois are endeavoring to defeat the operation of the law by the passage of a bill that shall keep all of the appointees that are now in the City Hall in their places for all time, although none of them were examined or hold places on their merits.
The cold truth is that the leaders of the Republican party are opposed to the civil service system. They have defeated its operation here in Chicago by simply ignoring and disregarding it. They attack it in Washington. They are seeking to prostitute it at Springfield. Whenever the Democrats are in power, then you hear Republicans talk civil service, but the very moment that they get into power, just
730that moment they spit upon it. The action of a number of Republicans in this city, posing as friends of civil service, and pretending that it will be in danger if Mr. Harrison were elected, is an insult to the intelligence of our people.
We seem to have hit upon an era of corruption, hypocrisy, and false pretense. In the early history of the Republican party it stood for principle. There was no false pretense about Lincoln and his supporters, but to-day it stands for everything that is destructive of manhood and destructive of republican institutions. Nothing is sacred in its eyes. It stands for personal advantage and for public plunder. All of its policies and all of its actions are shaped solely with reference to enabling a few to eat the substance of the many, and there is not a pore in the entire body politic but what has a dozen Republicans standing around it and seeking to draw blood from it.
Last fall this nation witnessed the spectacle of seeing the press bribed, the religious journals degraded, the pulpit prostituted, and the American flag debauched, all in the name of an honest dollar. That grand old American flag that has commanded the respect of nations and has been looked to by the oppressed of all lands, was dragged in the mud and reduced to a mere advertising sheet. All classes of people were sought to be deluded and deceived. Every form of deception every form of coercion, moral, financial and otherwise, was practiced all for the sake of turning the government over to a class of men who wanted to use it for their private ends at the expense of the people, and who wanted to perpetuate a financial policy that is ruining our country; who wanted to perpetuate a theory of government that exalts the dollar and destroys the man. It was the most gigantic confidence game ever practiced upon the American people, and all this was done in the name of patriotism. When, early in the century, that Englishman declared that "patriotism was the last resource of scoundrels," he little thought that he was giving an accurate description of the conduct of the leaders of the Republican party in the year 1896. One of the most noticeable things in our country for some time has been the fact that those men who deliberately plan to plunder the people always shield themselves behind the American flag.
We are confronted with a new issue. The time is come for the American people to assert their manhood and to put an end to this detestable hypocrisy. The time is at hand for the people of Chicago to go to the polls and record their condemnation of these efforts to practice a great confidence game upon them a second time. In about two weeks Carter H. Harrison will be sworn in as Mayor of Chicago, and I believe that the reins of government in this city have
731never been held by a firmer hand than will control them for the next two years.
I believe that Mr. Harrison has more manhood and honesty of purpose in his little finger than you will find in a regiment of those pharisees who fill the air with a pretense of righteousness and then help to foster iniquity. A class of men who tolerate every form of abuse provided they or their friends are getting the benefit of it.
The German people have the reputation of being a candid people and upon the whole an honest people, who detest hypocrisy and pharisaism. There is, therefore, a peculiar fitness in supporting Mr. Harrison, for in so doing you have the satisfaction of knowing that you are not joining in a movement to deceive and gull the people of Chicago, and let me say to those gentlemen who supported Mr. Bryan in the last campaign, that Mr. Harrison is the only man whom you can consistently support at the coming election. By your course in the last campaign, you demonstrated to the world that you are not hypocrits; that you are not pharisees; that you are not pretenders; that you are not mere birds of prey seeking carrion, for that class of men did not rally to the support of Mr. Bryan, they supported the Republican party and its one-eyed servant girl, known as the Palmer movement. The denunciation and vulgar abuse heaped upon the supporters of Mr. Bryan and the friends of genuine reform, by the forces of corruption and polished rottenness was so great that it required strength of character to stand by him. The weaklings, the hirelings, the hangers-on, the lobbyists and the vultures remained in that camp, which furnished the most fleshpots, and it is gratifying to know that the forces that rallied around the Democratic standard last fall in support of the rights of the great people of this country are standing as firm as the heroes of Thermopylae. I do not wish to say anything unkind of any of the candidates. I do not care to notice their personalities, but I ask you to look at the men who are back of them. It is true they are divided. It is true they are calling each other names. But, gentlemen, they are the same men who have helped to bring about the conditions we see in this city to-day. Let any of the supporters of either of the other three candidates shape the policies and control the administration and what may you reasonably expect in the future? It is claimed that Mr. Harlan is saying some splendid things on the stump. Very well! Whose candidate is Mr. Harlan? The candidate of the newspaper. There is to-day no agency in American politics that is so fiercely hungry, so thoroughly unscrupulous, so absolutely destitute of every principle of honor as the great newspapers of this country, and God has not yet made the
732man who can do anything great or good for this city or this republic while guided by their influence.
Again, in recent years there has developed a spirit of political independence among some of our people. This in itself is highly commendable, but the Republicans who have shown themselves able to prostitute and pollute everything in this country, from the courts to the pulpit, from the flag down to the school-house, for partisan purposes have found a method of harnessing these independent people and in the end tying them to the Republican gate post. They organize associations known first by one name and then by another which pretend to be non-partisan and independent and in which they put about half a dozen men who have called themselves Democrats. This keeps up the appearance of things, but the Republicans always see to it that the management and direction is kept absolutely in their hands, and whenever a campaign is on, this organization moves along the line of independence just far enough to get control of as many independent men as possible and then, by gradual steps and under the claim of emergency, they manage to land nearly the whole net-full of fish into the Republican boat.
You have in this city now what is called "The Voters League," which assumes to tell the people who are the right men to elect aldermen, and an examination of its list shows that just about four out of every five of the men whom it recommends are Republicans. It is only here and there that a Democrat is found who is sufficiently mild and harmless to secure the support of this so-called "Non-partisan League." You need not go into an analysis of the work done by these people. A mere glance at its recommendations discloses the false pretense of it all. If the managers of such movements were candid and were to openly declare that they were Republicans and were working in the interests of the party, one could respect them; yea, more, one could admire them for the shrewdness and tact with which they succeed in catching votes that could not otherwise be had. Gentlemen, do not be deceived by that kind of tactics. You are as capable of judging whom you want to represent you as is a man who is placed at the head of a non-partisan league by Republican manipulation. If a Democrat were to set himself upon a pedestal and attempt to tell the voters of Chicago just exactly whom they should support and whom they should avoid, he would be covered with ridicule.
Now, my fellow citizens, this election is one of the greatest importance to all, because it determines what kind of conditions shall surround us here during the next two years. It determines whether we shall have a pharisaical and hypocritical rule, thoroughly rotten,