Debate on the Civil Service Reform Act.
The Senate, as in Committee of the Whole, resumed the consideration of the bill (S. 133) to regulate and improve the civil service of the United States, the pending question being on the amendment proposed by Mr. ALLISON, to strike out the first section of the bill, and in lieu thereof to insert:
SECTION 1; That the President is authorized, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to appoint three persons, all of whom shall not be adherents of the name political party, as civil-service commissioners, and said three commissioners shall constitute the United States civil-service commission. Said commissioners shall, when appointed, hold respectively for two, four, and six years, to be determined by lot among themselves, and shall be commissioned accordingly; but their successors shall hold for six years from the expiration of said original terms. Vacancies shall be so filled as to conform to the conditions for the original appointments. Said commissioners shall each receive an annual salary of $4,500. And the commission may expend, for necessary contingent expenses, a sum not exceeding $2,500 during the first year.
Mr. HOAR. Mr. President, I had proposed at the last session of Congress, when this bill was expected to be before the Senate, and at the present session, to address the Senate at length, setting forth the great public necessity for an adequate, thorough, radical system of relief from the great evils which were prevalent in the administration of our civil service, and setting forth also the reasons why the measure known as the Pendleton bill, which is now before the Senate, seemed on the whole to me to answer the necessities of the occasion better than any other scheme which had been or was likely to be proposed. But it was proper that the vindication of that measure should be left chiefly in the hands of the Senator from Ohio [Mr. PENDLETON], who originally introduced it, and to the Senator from Connecticut [Mr. HAWLEY], the chairman of the committee which have matured and reported it. The speeches of those Senators, especially that of my friend from Connecticut, yesterday, have made further argument in favor of the bill at this stage of the debate seem to me unnecessary. I think I should favor the impure which I have at heart better by refraining from an extruded speech at the present period of the discussion than by undertaking to go over the whole ground.
Unless I much mistake the signs of the time, the country and Congress are now agreed in support of this measure. We are to be congratulated even upon some of the events which have taken place recently, much as we may have originally disapproved them, in so far as they have tended to bring about so much unanimity between the different political parties upon this question. From the necessity of the case, no reform in the civil-service administration of the country which takes it out from the domain of politics can ever be permanently accomplished to which both of the great parties in the country are not committed. From the necessity of the case, the party which has been in the minority, and whose opponents have possessed the administration, must, when these measures are accomplished, entitle itself to the respect and confidence of the country by a considerable act of immediate self-denial.
Under the present system the civil service of the country is made up, and always will be made up, largely of the adherents of a single political party, and if the opponents of that party are so short sighted as to admit that the principal object of their existence is to displace their political opponents and to gain those offices for themselves by resistance to any well-considered scheme of reform in this particular the evil will never be overcome. One-half, or nearly one-half, the American people are asked to indicate and emphasize their patriotism and their fitness for the administration of the country by denying and disdaining the use of a weapon of which they have felt the edge and the weight for many years. There is no doubt of it. It has got to be met; and unless there be statesmanship enough, and confidence in the capacity of the American people to recognize and to reward statesmanship enough, to waive that objection, the evils which now exist and prevail must be taken to be incurable.
I think we are to be congratulated upon the indication of so far substantial unanimity in the passage of this measure, that the gentleman whose name is connected with it is an honored and distinguished leader of one side, that the chairman of the committee which reports it is an honored and distinguished leader on the other side, and that a President of the United States not identified heretofore specially in the public mind with this reform promises in advance to give his signature and his support to the measure if Congress shall agree upon it.
When the Senator from Ohio [Mr. PENDLETON] addressed the Senate the other day he directed some very eloquent and very severe reproaches against the Republican party. The reproaches were by no means wholly undeserved. They ought to be met not by counter-reproaches, not by undertaking to show by way of set-off similar conduct or similar misconduct on the part of his party, but by admitting and conceding the fact that this system which has come down to us from the very origin of party government in this country has gone on, sometimes operating better and sometimes operating worse, until it has reached a point where some of the abuses to which it is liable have excited the attention of the American people and caused a demand for their reform.
When Mr. Jefferson came into power in 1801, as I said the other day, he encountered the same condition of things that the Democratic party encounters to-day. He declared that he found the civil offices of the country filled without an exception by the opponents of his administration, and he was obliged to hold back a wave and torrent of indignation from his own associates, demanding the use of the civil service of the country to establish its party in power. I have upon my desk here the correspondence between Mr. Jefferson's Attorney-General and himself with regard to the appointments in the State of Connecticut, in which a large committee of leading Connecticut Republicans set forth the political proscription under which they have labored for the past twelve years, during Adams's and Washington's administrations, at the hands of the Connecticut Federalists, and recommending the exercise of the President's power of removal to cure that condition.
Mr. Jefferson replies in one letter he thinks the Connecticut Federalists will find that he can be as intolerant as they can; in another he proposes to exercise the power of removal in regard to all United States district attorneys and marshals and to stand at the porch of the courts; in a third, that he proposes to turn out all the men who sympathize with Hamilton and the Essex junta, whom he regards as incurable, fit only for a mad-house; and in another that he shall regard activity in the late revolution (that is, the revolution which had placed him in power) as a good reason for a political appointment, and activity on the other side as a good reason for a political removal. He says that he advises his correspondent to give him a list of the obnoxious Federalists in his State, and "leave the rest to me." When these things are done, and the Republican party, as it was then called, the Jefferson party, has attained its fair and just proportion of the civil offices in the country he hopes then, and it is in that connection he uttered his famous sentence — to be able to inquire, as to the person to be appointed to office, " is he honest, is he capable, is he faithful to the Constitution?"
I will have the letter of Mr. Lincoln, Attorney-General of the United States under Mr. Jefferson, placed in the RECORD, so that it may be read by the Senate and by the public without my reading it. The Attorney General recommends to Mr. Jefferson that he shall not make all his removals at once, because, he says, that will make all the officers removed and all their friends unite in opposition to his administration; that he had better remove by degrees and let the process extend over a year or two, because then the first batch will be the only ones that will, complain; and those who are left, with their friends, will stand by the Administration, thinking they are to escape.
So that it is an entire injustice to say that when Mr. Marcy, under Jackson, made his coarse and well-known statement, that "to the victors belong the spoils," he was introducing for the first time this vicious system. He was avowing not a new system, but was frankly stating a system which had so far preceded the accession of Mr. Jefferson to power in 1801 that when he came in he did not find, he said, a single one of his political associates in office.
As I said, the thing which the Democratic party is asked to do in giving its assistance to this measure is on immediate and present sacrifice for the permanent and enduring welfare of this country, and the question of its fitness ever to be trusted with administration will in my judgment be very largely determined by the American people at some time in the future as it shall itself decide this question.
It is, I think, fairly to be said in extenuation (if it were desirable to enter into an extenuation of the conduct of those who have been charged with administration in this country) that it is only within a very recent period that there has been any substantial and adequate support in public opinion of this reform. President Grant entered upon the administration of the Government on the 4th of March, 1869, in my opinion penetrated with an earnest desire to elevate the civil service of the country not only above corruption but above party. The first important political event of his administration was the warfare of the leaders of this body when he attempted to construct the circuit court of the United States in favor of their claim to exercise their patronage and to control the Executive in that particular.
Again and again down to 1871 President Grant urged upon Congress the necessary appropriation and the necessary legislation to enable him to elevate the civil service of the country above party. The result is shown in President Grant's message of 1874, an extract from which, I think, was read by the honorable Senator from Connecticut. If so, I shall not read it again. In it President Grant declares that he shall regard the refusal by the legislative power of the continuance of the small appropriation of $25,000 in aid of his measure as a final judgment by Congress against its expediency, and gives notice that he should thereafter abandon the attempt.
Now, the time has come when these two belligerents are asked to agree to disuse in our political conflicts hereafter an instrument of warfare which has been so injurious to the public interest hitherto. We wish if we can now, taking advantage of the present earnest condition of public sentiment, excited on this subject, to stereotype these expressions of public opinion into a statute which may be permanent.
Mr. President, I expect to support the bill of the committee, and without entering upon the details which have been so much discussed, and which will be discussed further I dare say, I expect to support it for these reasons: First, that it is the measure agreed upon by the large majority of persons who have made special study of this cause. I do not propose to surrender to any man or to any body of men the prerogative or the duties of the members of this body; but I think in discharging our duties, taking upon ourselves as we must the ultimate responsibility of every measure, it is proper that a large respect should be had for the opinion of those persons who have specially studied for years the evil which we are seeking to remove, who have specially studied the proper remedy, and to whose efforts the existing public sentiment on the subject is largely due.
Next, the bill commends itself to my judgment because it proceeds with a statesmanlike caution in making the necessary experiment and proceeding from step to step. It is applicable to only a few of the great public offices in the country besides the seven Departments existing in the city of Washington. It applies I think to about thirty offices only out of Washington and to the Departments, here, and it permits the President, if he see fit, to extend gradually, as experience shall warrant, there being full opportunity for the legislative power to amend or supply any defects in this bill hereafter, until finally, if it is found expedient, it shall embrace the entire civil service of the country so far as it can be properly applied.
Again, it is a measure justified by experience in the great offices at New York and to some extent in Boston and in the Department of the Interior here. It is difficult to raise a practical objection to any detail of the bill to which an answer is not found in the reports of the experience of Mr. James and Mr. Pearson in the post-office in the city of New York. Every public officer to whom there comes any responsibility in putting on trial this scheme becomes a convert to its practicability and its wisdom. Every public officer under whose administration this scheme is permanently enforced becomes, as the months and years go by, a more enthusiastic and emphatic adherent of this plan.
The measure commends itself to me also because it carefully and wisely avoids all the disputed constitutional questions which have been raised in the discussion of this subject. It nowhere trenches upon the constitutional power of the President under any definition or limitation, even the largest and broadest, of the executive powers which is to be found in our constitutional discussions. The President's right to make rules, to apply rules, to change rules, the President's responsibility growing out of his constitutional duty to see that the laws are faithfully executed, are not impaired, and in my judgment can not be impaired by legislation. I do not understand that it has been the purpose of the honorable Senator from Ohio in reporting this bill in any degree to infringe upon the constitutional prerogative of the Executive.
It does not assert any disputed legislative control over the tenure of office. The great debate as to the President's power of removal, the legislative power to establish a tenure of office with which the President could not interfere, which began in the first Congress, which continued during the contests of the Senate with Andrew Jackson, revived again at the time of the impeachment of Johnson, and again in the more recent discussion over the tenure-of-office bill in the beginning of the administration of President Grant, does not in the least become important under the skillful and admirable provisions of this bill.
It does not even (and that is a criticism made upon it, but in my judgment it is one of its conspicuous merits) deal directly with the question of removals, but it takes away every possible temptation to improper removals. What Executive, what head of a Department, what influential public man anywhere can seek in the least to force a worthy and deserving public officer from his office merely that there may be a competitive examination to fill his place — to fill a place at the bottom of the list, not to fill his place, as is well suggested.
Now, Mr. President, while this avoids the use of any doubtful constitutional power or mechanism to create a removal, it, as I have said, cures the great abuse which has existed recently by removing the temptation to an improper removal. In my own judgment the abuse of improper, cruel, and unjust removals of worthy and deserving public officers is an abuse almost or quite equal to the other against which this bill directly aims, the use of the civil service of the country as a political instrumentality.
I have had very little experience for the last six years, and in any community which I have represented very little experience in my entire public life, of any complaint in regard to appointments. So far as I know, the civil officers appointed from the District which I represented for eight years in the other House, and since I have represented the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the Senate the appointments to the civil service in the whole State have been made, I might say with truth almost exclusively, certainly with scarcely an exception, of men and women whose claim grew solely out of the military service of themselves or their husband or father or brother in the late war. The men who fill the civil service belonging to my State are, as an almost universal rule, certainly a very large majority of them, men whose appointment, had no political influence or importance whatever. They are quiet, honorable, excellent soldiers, who perform the duties of their offices, and who are of no more use or service to the political ambition of any individual or the political interests of any party than the same number of persons picked out from any other business or avocation in
275life. I have never recommended a man, I am scarcely ever asked to recommend a man whose claim to the office is not based upon the consideration to which I have adverted, of military service, and whose claim has not been so conspicuous and meritorious that it would command, I think, almost the aid of a political opponent as soon as it commanded mine.
But the evil which in my experience we have encountered most frequently has been the cruel, hasty, unjust, sudden removal of men or women in office to make way for some person who has been pressed on the attention of the Department from elsewhere. I have known even under the administration of President Hayes, undoubtedly without the knowledge of the President or the heads of his Departments, abuses in removals of old, faithful, and meritorious public servants which if committed by any head of a manufacturing establishment or any manager of a railroad would compel him to hide his head from the scorn and indignation of his neighbors, undoubtedly the head of the Department being unaware of the circumstances under which these removals were made. And I hold it among the chief merits of this bill that while wisely refraining from dealing directly with the matter and encountering the constitutional difficulty which would be necessary if there were any direct provision on this subject, yet it will not only remove the civil service from politics, but without fixing any tenure of office by law, without impairing or infringing upon the authority of the appointing power, which will make it necessary sometimes to make removals for the discipline of the service, it substantially cures this other evil of unjust and improper removals.
But, Mr. President, it does not seem to me important to vindicate every detail of this existing scheme. It accomplishes one decisive result; it cuts up by the roots the existing system of political appointments to office and the use of the office-holders of this country, so far as they have been used, as a disciplined army to be led into service or as a body of subordinates to be taxed for service by either political party in the country. Whatever error, whatever inconvenience, whatever imperfection; may be found in the civil service, in its administration, or in the method of appointment hereafter, will admit of an easy and prompt remedy which there will be no temptation to any political party to withhold. But this thing will be true, that the office-holders of the country will be removed as a body from its political forces, each individual left to belong to such political organism as he chooses, as he is now left to belong to such church or such temperance society as he chooses.
Mr. President, this scheme has one special merit which it seems to me on reflection is necessary for its successful inauguration; that is that it provides for one central supervision, in securing uniformity throughout all the offices of the country to which it is applied in the rule, practice, and method of its administrations. It also secures what none of the other schemes that have been suggested secures; a system of reporting what is accomplished under it, which will secure public supervision, will bring every detail of its administration to public attention, and will give to them not merely the supervision of the able commission for which it provides but also the more important and effectual supervision of an aroused and interested public opinion.
Without this feature in the scheme I should be afraid that public satisfaction with its results could not be secured. Of course there will be a thousand rumors, a thousand criticisms, a thousand complaints, a thousand honest suspicions, which in the absence of this central supervising and reporting power there will be no way of answering or dispelling to the public satisfaction. But I have no fear that this central board nominated by the President, and, if the amendment proposed shall be adopted, to be confirmed by the Senate, will be a body of men to whom these delicate and responsible duties can not safely be intrusted. An administration must stand or fall by the character of this commission. No man of national reputation can accept this service unless he accepts it with the intention and with the capacity to carry out the provisions of the bill honestly and in good faith and without partisanship. No President can live before public opinion if he should fail to appoint to these places men of national character, having the confidence of both the great political parties of the country.
For these reasons, Mr. President, which I have stated briefly, I shall give my hearty support to the bill as it comes from the committee, without any amendment which shall change substantially or to any great extent the character of their scheme.
I congratulate the Senator from Ohio, I congratulate the Senator from Connecticut, I congratulate the country, on the auspicious circumstances under which this bill has been presented; and, whatever else may happen, I believe if this system shall be inaugurated now, the session of this winter will be one of the marked and conspicuous eras in the political history of the country, as the time when the two great political parties were willing, under the spur and excitement of an aroused public opinion, to unite in laying down for the permanent welfare of the country a weapon of offence and of defense which had come down to them from the past, and whose present use in the immediate future might seem to be so convenient. I believe the adoption and inauguration of this scheme, if it shall prove successful, as I confidently expect, will be regarded in the future by the American people almost as the adoption of a new and a better constitution.
The documents mentioned by Mr. HOAR were ordered to be printed in the RECORD, and are as follows:
WORCESTER, JUNE 15, 1801.
President of the United States:
SIR: It is from duty and inclination that I now write. After some accidental and unexpected delays on the road I reached this place in health. Through the upper parts of Maryland and Pennsylvania it is obvious that the Federal cause is considered by its leaders as ruined, the sentiments of the people as changed and fast changing in favor of the new order of things; and that these leaders, from despair of regaining their former consequence, are vexed and mortified beyond measure. Their object is to embarrass, and in case of the Republicans being divided in their elections or other measures to throw their weight into the lightest scale, and thereby to produce a partial disappointment.
The subject of removals I find everywhere the most common political topic of conversation, connected with that of appointments; vague reports and individual clamor had clothed the subject with many false circumstances, and ascribed to it principles and motives which never existed. It is for time to relate effectually the suggestions of prejudice and party, and it certainly will do it. At New York I was mortified at finding that the appointment of Barnes had been assigned as improper in point of policy and unsuitable in respect to the person. It was said it would have been as well to have continued Green, and much better to have commissioned Howell. Such representations had also been made to the Vice-President. An explanation, I believe, gave perfect satisfaction, and Mr. Green, who had lived in the State of Rhode Island and was well acquainted with the professional characters in that place, and who at first was the most dissatisfied, acknowledged under all circumstances a better appointment could not be made. I hope and I think I may venture to pledge myself that you will have no reason to regret the advancement of Barnes.
I have seen Mr. Russell, a warm Republican, and as a representative of that party from the town of Providence, as also Mr. Barnes himself. Mr. Russell's wishes were — which he also states to be the wishes of his Republican friends to have had Barnes continued the attorney and Howell made the judge. It is agreed that they have both been Federalists, and that the latter wrote zealously in favor of Mr. Adams's selection. If the appointments were both open and to be made, the warm Republicans — and, I presume, merely from feeling would not be satisfied but in the appointment or Howell as judge. They both, in future, will attach themselves to the Government, and be steady and warm supporters of your administration. It is impossible that Barnes should fail, after what has passed and been said on the subject. Some warm Republicans are desirous that Howell should now be appointed district attorney, and at the next session of the Senate exchange offices with the district judge. Probably you may have received letters from Providence to this purport.
It is happy, in my opinion, that the appointment of judge made, as thereby the embarrassment from conflicting recommendations may be avoided and the feelings of friends saved. At a court of common pleas the last week I had an opportunity of consulting with several gentlemen of the bar who are well acquainted with both Barnes and Howell. The result has removed all doubts from my mind on the subject. I am satisfied to make Howell district attorney and to continue all the old officers will give the most satisfaction, be most useful to the General and State Governments, and have the best tendency to reconcile parties and to win over the opposition. I inclose a letter from Mr. Brown on the above subject merely for inspection.
I wish it was as easy to make the arrangements in Connecticut. Colonel Burr is decided on the necessity and utility of the proposed removals. I missed all of the Connecticut gentlemen on my way home, when I passed through New Haven. Edwards and Bishop were at Hartford. Before I had reached that place they had left it, as had Kirby, Granger, and Wolcott. In conversation with some Republicans at Hartford, where I spent a day, they stated it as their decided opinion that the violent Federal leaders would continue inflexible in their opposition to the principles and measures of the new Administration, that nothing would force or allure them to a cordial support of it; that they would keep united with the clergy, in the hope of electing a return to the old system at the next election, and that it was necessary to break down their influence by informing and separating the people from them.
A few days after my arrival in Worcester Mr. Bishop came on with a letter of introduction from Mr. Edwards. His business was to converse on the peculiar situation of parties in his State, and on the expediency and necessity of some official arrangements there, he made very strong statements and assigned many reasons of weight in favor of immediate removals. I endeavored to convince him of the safety and utility of a postponement, especially in reference to its effects on other States. He appeared to be candid, not violent, but decided; and returned to some degree reconciled to the idea of a postponement. Since my interview I have received a letter from Mr. Edwards and others, a copy of which I forward, and which states in substance the facts and reasonings or Mr. Bishop on the same subject. Mr. Wolcott had previously called on me in his way from Boston, who repeated and confirmed the statements and observations of Mr. Bishop, but with more zeal and determinedness. He appears to be a person of learning, discretion, and of a strong mind, but very warm in politics.
I have been convinced from conversation with these gentlemen and others that it will be necessary to make the proposed removals in Connecticut at some future time; in accommodation to the particular circumstances of that State and the great merits of the Republicans there and their strong feelings and sentiments on the subject. But when and in what manner, whether gradually or at once, are questions likewise of some importance. I have delayed writing from a desire of seeing Mr. Granger first, who, as I had been informed, was making a journey through Vermont and New Hampshire, and meant to call on me in his way home. I spent yesterday with him. His health is much improved and his confidence strengthened in the prevalence of Republicanism from his journey. I showed him the letter from Edwards and his other friends. He says all the principal Republicans in the State have signed it excepting two or three, who are also in the same sentiments, and he agrees fully with those gentlemen except on the necessity and expediency of immediate removals. I have been thus particular, and I fear tedious, from a desire of possessing you, as fully as was in my power, of the circumstances which attached themselves to a very difficult business and which I know hung with weight on your mind. From all I have observed and learnt, and from the most mature consideration of the subject, I am inclined to think it will be best that the proponed removals should take place, but not at present; not all at once, but gradual; perhaps in the course of a year. If they should take place all at once and immediately they would appear more like the effect of resentment and a persecution for a past political difference of opinion than a provision for the benefit of Government from an attention to the merits and circumstances of a particular case. The friends and connections of the several officers if united and stimulated to action at once by a common cause would make a much greater impression on the public mind than if acting under partial and separate excitements in point of time. Whatever may be the effects of general and speedy removals in the State of Connecticut, I am sure they would not be salutary in the other Eastern States.
I think, sir, time will be constantly relieving and ailing you in this delicate and difficult business. It is happy, in my opinion, that as yet your removals have been so few and on reasons so fully justifying the measure. Opportunity has been given to individuals to evince, their disposition to afford to the administration of Government their practical support; a total deficiency of this disposition or of the appearance of it is satisfactory proof under existing circumstances of a state of hostility. It is not in the nature of things that a good citizen or a good
276officer under the Government should hear it railed at and outrageously abused without endeavoring to vindicate it and to silence the abuse. The most that the Connecticut incumbents can say, or their friends for them, in that they have done nothing. This in their fault; their nonfeasance is a misfeasance. Their friends clamor against the Administration; they acquiesce; clamor against removals; they join in the noise. This proves they have a common cause. The President can not administer the Government alone; the subordinate officers do but half their duty, if they withdraw their influence and assistance. It is impious to make use of the influence derived from office to oppose and endanger the Administration under which the office is held. The Constitution has placed certain offices at the will of the Executive that it might remove them when necessary for the public good; and it certainly is necessary when Government suffers or is in danger from the opposition of a large proportion of its own officers.
The political state of this part of the country is much as I expected to find it: the violent of the Federal party malicious, clamorous, false; the moderate thoughtful, inquisitive, prudent; the whole opposition corroded, depressed, wasting, and the body of the people rising to light, information, independence, and exertion. They have begun to scold at their priests, and the priests to pray for the officers of the Government. I have not as yet been at Boston; shall be there in a few days. I am told in a large collection of gentlemen at Boston, Judge Ellsworth being present, Mr. H. observed it was time to begin their arrangements for the next election, and to take measures to secure Pinkney and King against President and Vice-President, and that on this Mr. Ellsworth checked him suddenly, and observed that every good citizen would endeavor to promote the re-election of the existing President; that a Government of the people, not of a party, was necessary to the prosperity and happiness of the country.
I believe it would be useful to send on Mr. Lee's commission, and as attorney for the district of Maine, and at the same time Mr. Blake's. Our legislature rises this week. The Federalists have numbers in both houses, and nothing else. They are spiritless, have failed of getting Ames and Sedgwick into the council; and have been obliged to yield to the choice of Skinner as major-general. They have made the most of their implicating speech, exhort song, and toast herewith, standing. Will close this session with less Federalism than they commenced it.
I inclose also a letter I have received from Mr. Randolph, though the matter referred to has probably been adjusted before this time. I have some doubts of the propriety of forwarding a copy of the letter from Connecticut, but from an idea that it might be useful I have been induced to do it. You will be pleased after having perused it to burn it.
I have the honor to be, sir, with the sincerest friendship,
Most respectfully, your humble servant,
HARTFORD, June 4, 1801.
DEAR SIR: We are much obliged by the candor and intelligence of your communications to Mr. Bishop, and will not hesitate to say that the peculiar state of politics in Connecticut has prevented our perception of the policy of Mr. Jefferson in delaying the removals from office, a measure which appears to us absolutely necessary to the progress of Republicanism here. We are aware that his position commands "a view of the whole ground," and that your situation has enabled you to regard the subject without prejudice, and under advantages which we have not enjoyed, and that in the General Government general rules must be adopted.
The reasons suggested by you for the present unfinished state of things are of unquestionable weight; the subject involves much interest and passion. Republicans are not unanimous as to the extent and proper season of removals, and some whom we ought highly to respect are for a general system of conciliation without removals. But, sir, even if it should be judged good policy in all other States to retain the Federalists in office, yet in this State we could contemplate in such policy only the certain ruin of Republicanism, and even by delays we apprehend a relapse, from which it will be difficult, perhaps impossible, to recover.
Having known the Vice-President's ideas, and having letters from the President on this subject, we consulted, harmonized in opinion, and the result was forwarded in letters from Mr. Edwards and Mr. Granger to the President. The letter from Mr. E. contained explicitly the points on which we had agreed, and the letter from Mr. G. contained them perhaps as perfectly, except in the article of delaying the measure, which we understand was in a postscript, and probably resulted from reasons which suggested themselves to Mr. G.'s mind after our meeting. His object doubtless was to prevent a reaction of our Legislature on the Republicans who held State offices, but, as the event has proved, such reaction would have been an inconsiderable sacrifice compared with the advantages of earlier removals.
The season has now arrived when it is necessary for us to organize and to adopt measures for conveying to our people just sentiments respecting the motives, measures, and objects of the present Administration, and to obviate the false impressions which the Federalists and Federal papers have made and are making upon their minds. This organization will consist of a general committee, of county committees, and of sub-committees in the towns of the State, and must be conducted with great fortitude and perseverance, through much labor and expense to an end difficult to be attained, but highly important to a Republican Administration. We expected that at this time Federalism would have been humbled, and that our cause would advance under the most favorable auspices; but present session of Assembly has shown us that a change in the Presidency is not a change in their system of persecution and abuse, of which you have often heard, but which no man can fully realize, unless he has seen and felt its effects. Valuable Republicans, as Mr. B. has informed you, have been superseded. The resignation of General Wilson is inclosed.
It has been to no purpose to offer Republicans as candidates for any new appointments, civil or military. In both departments there are Republicans, but they are obliged to act with caution, and can be of little service to us while the General Assembly exhibit such a temper; and to this Federal confidence in action the Assembly is emboldened by a persuasion, which some of them avow, that Mr. J. is timid, that he was willing to use the Republicans for his promotion, that he really despises them, and that Federalists alone are to have his preference. Instead of pending before the general will, they set themselves up to be courted by the Administration, and feel at liberty to practice on it every kind of caprice. We have the fullest confidence in the President. We accredit his zeal for our cause, his approbation of our exertions, and we know that could he realize the embarrassments of Republicanism in this State he would renounce the idea of conciliation in respect to our Federal leaders.
This being done our organization might proceed cheerfully and with fair prospects of success.
We have apprehended that the Federalists would move and carry an address to the President in order to secure the places of their friends. We readily saw that a single removal after such a measure would be more unpopular than a removal of the whole list without such a measure, and we were sure that in case our Federal officers, who with their connections had been uniformly Mr. Jefferson's enemies and our persecutors, were retained in office, Republicans would respond and our plans of concert would be frustrated. But fortunately no address has been proposed and we hope that the Federal leaders will continue where they now are, without the least claim to Mr. Jefferson's preference or to the confidence of the people which generally follows the preference of Administration.
Considering the facts in our own State as a basis, and perhaps somewhat under the influence of irritation, we have judged that a very extended system of removals would aid our cause, that Republicanism was established at the south-ward, and had so far advanced in New England that nothing was wanting but Presidential patronage to complete it; that it was more important to retain the confidence or the majority than to conciliate apparently men who can never be Republicans. We have known that our Legislature could not be committed by any official expressions of political opinions, and have, therefore, judged that other Legislatures could not be pledged, and that Republicanism must triumph by its own energies than by any balancing of contending parties, and that all the power of the Government thrown into the Republican scale at this time would give it a decided and durable preponderance. In fact we have been and continue to be opposed to any conciliatory system from a persuasion that it can not succeed and that a continuance of attempts to compass this object will throw us into imminent hazard. But we are aware that all these conceptions may arrive from the narrowness of our views and our local situation that we may have erred in respect to the general policy. Those who have viewed this subject on a more extensive scale can judge better than we can, yet we are persuaded that this State forms an exception to any conciliatory system.
The operating Republicans here are few; they need every aid in advancing the cause. The Federal leaders are numerous; they have the influence of the clergy, of Federal papers, State, officers, and Federal officers. Without the aid of these last the Republicans can not encounter the others. The men whom we have to address must be persuaded not only that what we have before told them is true but that our future communications to them may be relied on. Their men do not discriminate accurately; they believe that merit and power are united, and they will listen, especially on political subjects, to men who enjoy the official confidence of Administration.
The Republicans here expect that the President will remove the Federalists from office, nor is the expectation confined to candidates for office; it is general, as far as we can judge. They are all mortified to see their enemies triumphing in a day when they expected triumph, and to be daily insulted and abused as not having merited the confidence of the Administration, whose advocates they have been. They are naturally ambitious that the confidence of the President should be openly extended to their friends, and that he should repel from himself the unmerited reproach of indecision and timidity. But Republicans are not the only subjects of impression; there is a great number of men here who always were and will be on the strongest side.
They have been Federal, they are ready to be Republicans. These we should gain, if the removals were made. If the decided language of Administration is to be that Republicanism will prevail and that it is out of danger, these men will yield their confidence and aid to it; but if after all it should be decided to secure a semblance of affection from real enemies and to gain this point by leaving in their hands the weight of government, the cause of Mr. Jefferson and Republicanism here is completely lost.
The proposed removals would bring the Federalists into action, we will not conceal it, that would denounce the measure as the result of a vindictive spirit, as the act of the President of a party, but this they have already said in respect to the removals made in other States.
We conceive it better to meet them with all their force now than three years hence, and we know that they who seek occasion will always find occasion for blame against any administration, and that their leaders will be opposed to Mr. Jefferson's re-election at any rate. We prefer meeting them openly, for we suffer most from their secret modes of operating. We can vindicate our cause if the people will give us a hearing, and can show them that the President in the act of removals would be executing the high office of a Republican President, in opposition to the only party in the United States, and that the system of removal did not result from a spirit of revenge against opposition of sentiment, but from a zeal to support the Constitution by a truly Republican administration. We can not conceive, sir, that our cause is to yield any sacrifices to any false constructions of Mr. Jefferson's speech, nor can we place a moment's confidence in our cause if it depends in the least on the conversion or acquiescence of a single Federal leader. We are sure of a wise and faithful administration, and that a knowledge of its measure faithfully conveyed to our people will gain their confidence: but in Connecticut we must maintain a constant warfare with those men who have pledged themselves on a perpetual hostility to our cause.
These remarks we make in the name of the general committee of Republicans here, as a confirmation of our opinions formally expressed by letter to the President and of such communications as Mr. Bishop has made to you on the subject. We do not wish the removals here to be made to an extent or at a season which will be prejudicial to the arrangements of any other State, and we believe that removals to the extent first proposed by us made at the present time would not be to their prejudice; but of this, as of every other part of this letter, you will maturely judge, and we confidently trust that the result will be for the good of the cause even though it may not accord with our feelings and these expressions of our opinions.
We are, respectfully, sir, your friends and very humble servants,
JOSEPH WILLCOX, 2D.
WM. M. BETTS.
MOSES WARREN, JR.
JACOB D. WITT.
Hon. L. LINCOLN.
M. BROWN. Mr. President, I admit it is very important that there be a better system of administration inaugurated than we have had for many years past. I do not think, however, that the bill now before the Senate, if passed, will inaugurate any such system. I think it will prove a mere delusion. If we pass it we excite popular expectation, and popular expectation will be greatly disappointed to the workings of the system. I have heard the British system spoken very highly of; many eulogies passed upon it. It has been said by advocates of this bill — probably not on the floor, but again and again outside of the Chamber — that we should adopt something similar to that system, if not the exact system itself.
Now, Mr. President, the forms of the two governments are entirely different, the circumstances are different, and the surroundings are different, the system that may work well there in a limited monarchy, the policy of which is to maintain an aristocracy, even a landed aristocracy, is not appropriate to a republican form of government like ours.
In Great Britain the executive is hereditary. The incumbent derives his right, not by election of the subjects or citizens of that country, but by birthright. The upper house of the British Parliament is not elected, but those who occupy seats there, unlike this body, are dependent upon
277the accidents of birth for them, not upon any special merits or personal qualifications that they may have, but the duke takes his seat because he is the son of the former duke.
That is not our American system. It is very consonant, however, with that system to adopt a civil-service rule that, while the executive is for life and hereditary and the higher branch of the legislative department holds for life and is hereditary, will make the subordinate officers hold for life. I say it is consistent and compatible with that system. It is not so here. Under our republican system no man takes anything by hereditary right, but the way is open to the son of the humblest peasant within the broad limits of our domain, if he has merit and energy and ability, to occupy the highest position in the Government. Our theory is that men are to be promoted on account of merit and qualifications. It may not always be carried out — of course it can not always be — but that is the nature of the system and that is the general practice. It is compatible, therefore, with that system to leave the changes in the legislative department, in the executive department, and in every department except the judicial to the frequent, mutations of parties and to the supposed merits of the competitors who compete for the prizes. In all the departments, legislative and executive, qualification is supposed to be looked to. Election of Representatives and the higher officers is the general idea. Why in the face of that should we establish for the subordinate officers in the different Executive Departments and in all the larger offices within the limit of the United States a system of lifetime tenure for the very large class of persons who fill those places? I say it is not compatible, with our very form of Government. It is one step in the direction of the establishment of an aristocracy in this country, the establishment of another privileged class.
It may be said, however, and I believe that sentiment was uttered only a few days ago, though not in the language I use, probably, that it takes away from persons who hold these positions the inducement to be active politicians. In some cases that might be the working of it; but bear in mind, Mr. President, it leaves it in the power of every one of them to become an active politician, and if the spirit of the system is carried out as claimed by the Senator from Massachusetts [Mr. HOAR] the officers can be as active as they choose on one side, and one side alone, and run no risk of losing their positions. It builds up a powerful class supported out of the Treasury of the United States, out of the taxes of the people, and places in their hands the power, if they choose to exercise it — and there is a great deal of human nature in man, so that they probably would exercise it — the power to do much to control the future rulers and destinies of this Government.
I am not very fresh from my reading of Roman history; but as I recollect it there was a period in the history of that government when it became necessary to establish the Praetorian guard to protect the ruler against the populace. It would naturally enough have been claimed that that guard would take no part in the politics of Rome, and yet in the workings of time that Praetorian guard became the master of Rome and assumed control of the government. As they protected the sovereign, they dictated who should be the sovereign, and for a large enough amount of money they would displace one sovereign to make room for another. How do we know that we may not build up a similar class here when we build up a life-time aristocracy in office, or when we establish a life-time tenure of office? It is contrary to the very genius and spirit of our Government.
My honorable friend from Ohio [Mr. PENDLETON], who has this bill in charge, stated yesterday that the bill did not make any provision preventing removals from office. I do not find that it does in language, but the honorable Senator from Massachusetts [Mr. HOAR] tells us today that that is the spirit of it; that that is what is contemplated, and that it is not likely that an executive officer would venture to make removals, acting under this bill, unless for cause, as misconduct in office and the like.
That is what the movers of this bill look to. I do not say that it is what the Senator from Ohio looks to, or that such is his purpose; but as I understand it, it is the purpose of those who lead on the other side of this Chamber and bring to this bill its most efficient support. But that is not all —
Mr. HAWLEY. I do not like to interrupt; I refrain from it as much as I can; but I desire to call the Senator's attention to the fact that those who have spoken for the bill affirm in the most vigorous and unlimited manner the right and duty of the Executive to remove at pleasure. I will not take it away from the Executive. I do not see how the Pretorian guard can hurt him much if he can take the Pretorian guard by the car and lead them out any morning he pleases.
Mr. BROWN. Then I ask what is the value of this bill? It is the sheerest humbug and the sheerest deception and nonsense. If we are to go through all this great ado before the country of passing a civil-service bill, which it is said is so much demanded by popular sentiment at this time, if we have to satisfy popular clamor by the enactment of a civil-service bill, what a deception, what a fraud upon the people to tender them this bill! If there be really in the popular mind a demand for any such bill as is usually termed civil-service reform, it is a bill to make permanent the positions of those who hold offices, to confine removals to cause alone. The class who ask for it, I think, are a very small minority of the American people. At the same time they ask for it in that spirit and with that purpose, and they would consider themselves mocked if this bill is passed containing no protection for the incumbents against removal without cause. What good does it do as a measure of reform if the power of removal is unlimited and without cause at the mere will or whim of the appointing power? The civil service reformers who are most clamorous for action, and who are in earnest about the matter, would consider such a measure, if that is all it means, as a trick, a sham, a delusion.
But it requires a competitive examination, say the Senators on the other side, before you put a man into office. Then again the bill is a cheat and a mockery. It does no such thing in spirit and substance. For fear there might come a day when a Democratic Executive would administer the affairs of this Government, and that day might not be very distant, there is a careful provision in this bill that it shall apply only to the lowest class who are to hold office. There shall be a competitive examination for the lowest grade only; that is free to all: and the Senator from Massachusetts who took his seat a few minutes ago very earnestly stated that that was one of the strong features in it.
Now, I believe that there is a very large number of employés in the Departments at present, occupying different positions in them, some of them high positions, who are not fit for those places, morally, intellectually, or in any other manner; but the charmed circle is not to be disturbed. If there chances to be one of the lower clerkships vacant, then the doors are thrown wide open by this bill and every American citizen may come up and compete for it. It will not do to go higher than that, for too many Democrats might get in. You Democrats can come up and compete for the lowest clerkships that are to be filled; but if a vacancy occurs above that, then the Republican employés and officers already in office, and they alone, can apply for the advancement or promotion. That is the civil-service reform that this bill gives to the country; that is the share that the Democratic party gets in it. I repeat it, under the provisions of this bill the competition is only general for the lowest office that can become vacant. There a Democrat stands a chance to get in this lowest position, but if fifty vacancies occur above it only the present incumbents, the Republican office-holders, can compete for the promotion. That is what it holds out to the Democratic, party. That is our share in its benefits.
Now, I am going talk plainly to Democrats. It is not required for us to mince words here, for the country very well understands this whole question. The Republican party have had the offices of this Government for the last twenty-two years consecutively. The Executive has been Republican, and they have had the distribution of the offices and places. They still have it. True an avalanche has swept over the country, and with it the strongest condemnation of the practices of that party. It is true this was in the off year, and not the Presidential year, but prudent, sagacious men on the other side of the Chamber understand this as well as we do on this side. If we make no great blunders — and I know I have heard it said on the other side that they rely a great deal on Democratic blunders, for we, sometimes make them — unless the Democracy is guilty of great folly on some important questions there can be, to my mind, and I think to the minds of Senators generally, but little doubt that the next President of this Republic will be a Democrat.
I am speaking now to Democrats. How do you go into that campaign? Suppose you put my honorable and worthy friend from Ohio [Mr. PENDLETON] or my honorable friend from. Delaware [Mr. BAYARD], or any other one of the prominent and able gentlemen mentioned for the place, in nomination for the Presidency, and you go before the Democratic masses of the United States and tell them that you are handicapped; that all the offices that amount to anything, the higher and more important places, are already disposed of. "Disposed of how?" they will inquire. "Why, the Republican party has had them for twenty-two years, and seeing that there was a probability of a change of administration" — to put it in no stronger light — "they have hedged, and they have taken good care of themselves; they have passed a civil-service bill and Democrats have helped them to enact it; and we have it on the statute-book now that there is no Democrat to be put into office in any of the Executive Departments except in the lowest positions. Above them the Republicans alone may compete with each other for the places; but there is no chance for a Democrat."
In a free republican government like this those who belong to both parties fight for office as well as principle. Do you believe that the Democratic leaders in all the different States would work with the same energy, and zeal, and ability as they would if you held out to them a chance of a change of the offices, with the change of the Executive? It would be contrary to all the history of the past to expect any such work.
I know it has been replied to this that the Democratic candidate would not likely have so strong opposition from the Republican office-holders in office. I have no faith in that. The Republican office-holders are usually ardent, true Republicans; they believe in the principles and practices of their party, and they want to promote and perpetuate them, and they believe that that party has a sort of divine right to the offices of this Government, and they will be as true to their party in the campaign as the needle is to the pole, while you deaden the energies of the Democratic leaders from the lowest to the highest by taking away any inducements you would otherwise hold out to them to fight
278with the view of reaping any of the rewards of success. They would vote the ticket patriotically as true Democrats, but they would not exert themselves as they would do if they believed there would be a general change or even a change of one-half the persons holding the offices.
I say, then, take it any way you will, I do not see, with great deference to my friend from Ohio, why at this time a Democrat should vote for this bill; certainly not without important amendments, that destroy the aristocracy of Republican office-holding that this bill provides for. Will Democrats vote for it when it closes the doors of the competitive examination against Democrats for every position except the very lowest? I do not wonder that our Republican friends are very unanimous, and very anxious at this time for the passage of this bill. The only wonder I have is that it has taken them so long to reach this point. The first four years when they were in power were years of war. It was then no time to discuss civil service.
Perhaps the next two or three years ought not to be counted, during the stormier period of reconstruction; but take off six years from twenty-two and it leaves about sixteen years of peace, when Senators and Representatives were in condition here to consider the best interests of the whole country. It has taken them sixteen years to reach the point of, as they consider, a real civil-service reform.
Well, now, to show the humbuggery in this whole affair, there was a very good civil-service statute put upon the book some years ago when General Grant was President, and the law was not only enacted but the machinery was provided. The three commissioners — I believe three was the number — were appointed. As is contemplated by the act, they went to work; civil-service reform, it was said, was going to be given to the country then. Broad plenary powers were given to the President.
There were some very patriotic and able gentlemen, too, on the commission. One of them was from my own State, Judge D. A. Walker, an honored name, a worthy gentleman, a true Republican. They worked and did, no doubt, the best they knew how; and what real substantial reform did the country see? It became so much of a mockery that Congress in a few years afterward refused to appropriate the salaries of the commissioners. It was seen to be a deception and a fraud in practice, whatever might have been intended and however sincere President Grant might have been in his purpose to carry it out in good faith. It failed. It was an inglorious failure; and matters went on as matters will go on in this Government.
This is a republican government; it is democratic in form, and you have to change the nature of the Government and change human nature also before you will be able to adopt in practice here any utopian theories about civil service.
I do not laud the sentiment mentioned by the honorable Senator from Massachusetts, which he attributes to Mr. Marcy, that "to the victors belong the spoils." He said it was rather coarse. Probably it was; but yet to a very great extent it has been the system practiced from the first day of the inauguration of this Government; and whatever you may put upon the statute-book it will be the system practiced until its funeral knell is sounded. And no party in this government ever practiced the spoils system, with more zeal and energy than the Republican party has. "To the victors belong the spoils," has been its constant motto in practice; and still would be, if impending defeat did not stare it in the face. There may be some reforms, some of the worst features may be cut off; but in the main the Executive who comes into power when his party has long been deprived of power will find a way, and the heads of Departments under him will find away to give to his followers the benefit of the offices or a large proportion of them.
While General Grant had the power with a commission to inaugurate civil-service reform — and I suppose he doubtless did all he could in good faith to do it, for he seemed intent on it — yet the heads of Departments and the subordinate heads found ready ways of evading it, and you may put this on the statute-book —
Mr. GEORGE. May I interrupt the Senator from Georgia to ask a question?
Mr. BROWN. Certainly.
Mr. GEORGE. If it be true, as the Senator from Georgia suggests, that a new President and now heads of Deportments can find a way, not-withstanding the statutes that we may put on our statute-books, to reward their followers, their supporters, then I ask, in anticipation (as the Senator seems to think we are about to have one) of a Democratic success in 1884, how can this measure prevent a Democratic President and Democratic heads of Departments from rewarding their followers?
Mr. BROWN. I answer the Senator from Mississippi, as I answered the Senator from Connecticut a while ago. He will not be restrained from doing it, and that shows the miserable fraud and humbuggery of this measure. In effect it will amount to nothing, and can not amount to anything.
Mr. GEORGE. Then will the Senator from Georgia allow me to say that it is not a fair argument to excite the prejudice of the Democratic party of this country against this measure on the ground that its effect will be to prevent a Democratic President from appointing Democrats to office?
Mr. BROWN. I argued that proposition on the theory of the advocates of the bill, that if you can carry out your policy, that will be the effect; but I say you can not do it; and then you are engaged in that which is worse than idle when you are here enacting this law.
Mr. GEORGE. Will the Senator allow me to say that it is the statute and not the theory of its advocates that is to have force in this country.
Mr. BROWN. In fact it is the practice of those who execute the statute that has force in this country. That is what it is. You may put on the statute-book laws as stringent as you please to make them, and if popular sentiment and the sentiment of those, in power do not approve those laws, they will be evaded in the execution and will be a mockery; and so this will be.
I say the argument is legitimate, that, give the measure all you claim for it, then as Democrats you should not vote to handicap your candidate, and you should not vote to retain in office for life those who have held the positions for so long a time, and who are your political enemies. But if it is not true, that it will be executed or that it amounts to anything, then this is a vain business in which we are engaged and we had better spend our time in something that is of some practical utility.
The preamble, of this bill promises very finely. I desire to read it:
Whereas common justice requires that, so far as practicable, all citizens duly qualified shall be allowed equal opportunities, on grounds of personal fitness for securing appointments, employment, and promotion in the subordinate civil service of the United States.
That is very broad. It would seem to be a very good doctrine. But I confess I was struck when I looked further over and saw that in the very teeth of that recital of the proper principle the competitive examinations are limited to the lowest grade of offices. That means, I suppose, that it is justice in case of the lowest grade to give everybody a chance; but above that the benefit must be confined to the inner circle, those who have held office a long time and want to continue to hold it; in other words, to Republicans.
Again, the preamble says
Whereas justice to the public likewise requires that the Government shall have the largest choice among those likely to answer the requirements of the public service.
That is good doctrine, but the body of the act is in the teeth of it. The Government should have the largest choice among those likely to answer the requirements as to qualifications for office, and yet you limit the choice of the Government in the body of the bill to the lowest grade.
Whereas justice, as well as economy, efficiency, and integrity in the public service, will be promoted by substituting open and uniform competitive examinations for the examinations heretofore held in pursuance of the statutes of 1853 and 1855.
Economy, efficiency, and the integrity of the service will be promoted, says the preamble, by substituting competitive examinations, and yet the body of the bill denies the competitive examination, so, far as the public generally are concerned, to all persons except for the lowest grade of offices.
But reference has been made here to the letter and doctrines of Mr. Jefferson on this question. He has been cited as authority, and he is very high authority on any subject that he ever handled. There are certain expressions in his letter to Mr. Lincoln that are warped to mean that removals should take place for cause only, and that qualifications and fitness alone should be looked to. Mr. Jefferson made very important qualifications of that doctrine in that letter. I propose to read a portion of it. He speaks of the action of the leaders of the Federal party at the time, and says: (See his letter to Levi Lincoln, dated 25th of October, 1802, vol. 4 Jefferson's works, page 450.)
They are trying slanders now which nothing could prompt but a gall which blinds their judgments as well as their consciences. I shall take no other revenge than by a steady pursuit of economy and peace, and by the establishment of Republican principles in substance and in form, to sink Federalism into an abyss from which there shall be no resurrection for it. I still think our original idea as to office is best: that is, depend for the obtaining a just participation on deaths, resignations, and delinquencies.
But Mr. Jefferson pays more than that:
This will least affect the tranquility of the people and prevent their giving in to the suggestion of our enemies, that ours has been a contest for office, not for principle. This is rather a slow operation —
And if he had been confined to the lowest grade of office alone he would have thought it a great deal slower —
but it is sure, if we pursue it steadily, which, however, has not been done with the undeviating resolution I could have wished.
Mr. Jefferson only waited for deaths, resignations, and delinquencies. When these came a Republican, as the Democrats were then called, was to be put into office. He declares that was very slow. And what does this bill-do? It waits in the same manner for deaths, resignations, or delinquencies, but only in the lower grades. It does not give us the chance of putting in a Democrat in every grade that becomes vacant, because the competitive examination must be from those in office at the time; for all above the lowest grade. It confines us to the lowest grade. What I would Mr. Jefferson have said if there had been an attempt to confine him to the lowest grade in filling offices where vacancies occurred in the manner already designated? He would have thought it was a great deal slower than the slowness of which he complained.
Again, he said:
To these means of obtaining a just share in the transaction of the public business shall be added one other, to wit, removal for electioneering activity.
What would he have said to the hundreds of clerks who are given time when elections come on to go to Ohio, and the extreme limits, wherever there is a Republican State, to take an active part in controlling the State elections? Would he not have swept the last one of them from office? He adds:
Or open and industrious opposition to the principles of the present Government, legislative and executive.
If they took an active part in politics against him, or if they were open in opposition to the principles of the party in power administering the Government they were to go by the board. Hear him again:
Every officer of the Government may vote at elections according to his conscience; but we should betray the cause committed to our care were we to permit the influence of official patronage, to be used to overthrow that cause. Your present situation will enable you to judge of prominent offenders in your State, in the case of the present election.
"Prominent offenders in your State." That is, those who had taken a prominent part against his party in Connecticut. That was what he meant, and it would be left to Mr. Lincoln to judge of those who had been prominent in that way. Then he adds:
I pray you to seek them, to mark them, to be quite sure of your ground, that we may commit no error or wrong, and leave the rest to me.
He was President and said, "Seek them; mark them; be quite sure of your ground, and then leave the rest to him; he would take care of it.
Again he says:
I have been urged to remove Mr. Whittemore, the surveyor of Gloucester, on grounds of neglect of duty and industrious opposition. Yet no facts are so distinctly charged as to make the step sure which we should take in this. Will you take the trouble to satisfy yourself on this point? I think it not amiss that it should be known that we are determined to remove officers who are active or open-mouthed against the Government, by which I mean the Legislature as well as the Executive.
Mark his language. He thought it not amiss that it should be known that they were determined to remove from office those who had been active and open-mouthed against the Government, whether in the legislative or the executive department. That was the sort of civil service that Mr. Jefferson advocated; that was the advice he gave to his friend Lincoln of Connecticut; and mind you, he says, "Mark them, and leave the rest to me." And so it will be, no matter what civil-service bill you may pass; whenever the President and the heads of Departments desire to do so they will mark them, and they will find a way of getting rid of them.
Now, Mr. President, one word as to the natural inherent justice of this case aside from all political views of it, or any partisan view; what is right, what is just. According to this preamble it is right and just that men should take their chances in procuring office, and have a fair chance in accordance with their ability, their intelligence, and their fitness for the place; all tax-payers and all citizens should stand upon grounds of equality, taking chances alike, with no favored class and no proscribed class.
What is the state of things in this republican Government of ours? There are now, it is said, about 55,000,000 people; there are about 110,000 officers and persons holding employment under the Government, and those places are held by Republicans almost invariably.
It is true the Senator from Massachusetts told us a while ago that the President of the United States now stands pledged to sign and support a measure for civil-service reform. Why does he stand so? What new-born idea has put him on that platform? I speak kindly of him personally, for I have great regard for him; but his political course we have a right to discuss. What administration, at any time since the foundation of this Government, has ever been more proscriptive, so far as appointments to office are concerned? How many Democrats has he left in, holding offices of any importance? Some of his predecessors were more liberal on that subject. But when he came in I presume those having influence required of him that he should make a clean sweep, and he has made it as near as any administration ever can.
What, then, is the modest proposition here? It is to give to the Republican party, according to the theory of the advocates of the bill, especially the theory of the Senator from Massachusetts, a permanency in these offices. What is the Republican party of this country? It is a minority of the people of this country. In 1876 Samuel J. Tilden was elected President of these United States, and he got a popular majority of about 250,000. In 1880 James A. Garfield was legally and constitutionally elected President of these United States, but he was elected by a plurality only; adding the Democratic vote and the Greenback vote together, he was beaten on the popular vote by over 300,000 majority.
The Republican party, then, are a minority of the people of the United states, and yet they hold to-day almost all the offices connected with the Government of the United States. Is it right, Mr. President, as a naked question of justice, equity, and fair play, that this state of things should continue? They have had this advantage for twenty-two years. How long has this minority a divine right to govern this country?
No, if we are to have a just and equitable civil-service reform let it be a reform of the abuses of the party that has so long wielded the power of the Government, and let that reform be put upon the basis that in future competitive examinations when you ascertain the two highest the Democrat shall be preferred until one-half the office-holders are Democrats. I can see an equity in that; not if you confine it, however, as this bill does, to the lowest grade of officers; but if you will throw all the offices in these Departments open to competition when vacancies occur, and then take the two highest and give the preference to the Democrat until the Democrats have half the offices, there is something like a just and equitable civil service. You would have to give the Greenback party some portion, but I am willing to meet this question anywhere upon the equity and justice of the case. I do not fear to go before the populace upon it and say that I do not favor this policy of civil service, because of its injustice, its inequality, and its want of equity. The Democrats perform their part of the duties and bear their part of the burdens of this Government; they pay their portion of the taxes; they do their part of the military service; in a word, they do faithfully the duties incumbent upon citizens.
Why is it, then, that they should be proscribed not only for the long period, when it has already been so, but for all future time? Why are they not worthy of their part in the patronage and offices of the Government if they bear their part in the burdens of the Government? Will some Senator who is so anxious for this civil-service reform please tell me why it is that the Democrats have no equity, no rights as a class? I know it had become popular to prate about civil-service reform. We have had it in President's messages and in reports of heads of the Departments until it is in everybody's mouth, and yet how delusive. In practice it amounted to nothing from the very commencement, and now this bill proposes to make it an engine of inequality, injustice, and wrong to the larger half of the tax-payers and voters and people of the United States.
I will give my sanction to no such measure, and if no other man in this Chamber votes against it I will pride myself in recording my vote against a measure that proscribes a majority of the people of the United States, with which majority I act, and drives them from public positions for almost a generation to come, opens the way to the lowest grades that we may come into the lowest positions only, and leaves the balance to those already in, who are all Republicans. I treat it on its equities, I treat it on its justice, and denounce it as unfair, as fraught with wrong, injustice, and inequality, and I ask any one who can to defend it as a principle of equity. If the Democracy had been twenty-two years in power, and had the control of the offices and patronage of this Government, I say to my colleagues on this side you would hear a different voice from the other side, in my opinion; I think they would see, and have no difficulty in reaching the conclusion, that the bill was unjust, unequal, and ought not to pass.
I have noticed ever since I have had the honor to occupy a seat on this floor that the Republicans have touched this question a little tenderly, and it has been kept before the popular mind in a very gentle manner all the while, by messages and reports and so on; but when it came right down to action they were a little dilatory about it. But since the elections of November last their energies have been quickened, their convictions have been strengthened, and to-day they are not only almost persuaded, but they are full converts to the doctrine that civil-service reform is imperatively necessary, and necessary just at this particular time.
I do not blame them. I do not see that their course is what it ought to be, if we go on the principles of justice and equality; but as a party measure, if we will sit here and permit them to enact, such a law, I cannot blame them for doing it. The Democrats will not hold them responsible, they will hold us responsible for it; and the Republicans, looking to the action of their Senators, no doubt will applaud their, energy and their skill in providing for, their office-holders for a lifetime in the future, just as the period has come when there is danger that they may have to leave.
But there is another provision in connection with this bill which may require some attention. The country has been greatly shocked by the practices of the Republican party, by their levying assessments upon subordinates in the various offices of the Government to be used for political purposes, and both sides seem now to agree on the propriety of enacting stringent laws against such a practice in future. In other words, we propose in future to make it highly penal, if not a penitentiary crime, for any officer or committee to do what the Republican committee did in the last campaign. And while I deny that the great majority of the people of the United States have either clamored or called for a civil-service measure of the character contemplated by this act, I admit that there is a general demand for the enactment of a law to punish, and punish severely, the, practice of soliciting and virtually compelling donations of part of their salaries from subordinates in the different Departments. But why pass a civil- service bill of the character of this to get that provision into it? Why not meet the question fairly and squarely, like bold, sensible men, and amend the penal code of the United States by the enactment of a law providing ample punishment for those who practice this system in future? No civil-service bill is necessary. It wants a penal statute to make, the infamous practice high misdemeanor, if not a felony. Those who claim that the people at the last election not only condemned the corrupt methods and practices of the Republican party, but, that they demand the so-called civil service reform contemplated by this bill as a remedy, make a great mistake. The corrupt practices have been condemned. The people have
280spoken in thunder tones of condemnation and denunciation, which can neither be ignored nor misunderstood. They denounce the admitted malpractice of Republican officials, and demand a remedy. But what remedy? Not that we pass a law to continue the perpetrators of these great wrongs in office for life or a term of years. The party to which they belong has held power twenty-two years. It is time there was a change. And the people demand, as a remedy for existing abuses, a change of officials. They demand that the unfaithful public servant, whoso maladministration can not be denied, be hurled from power, and that their places be filled by honest, capable men, who will reform the public service by a return to the purer and better methods practiced by the fathers of the republic; who will cut off all surplus and unnecessary officials, clerks, and employés; and all extravagant waste of the public treasure, which is wrung by taxation from the labor of the people.
But, Mr. President, I am aware that I have already occupied the floor too long. Before taking my seat, however, I desire to announce certain amendments that at the proper time, whenever I can get an opportunity, I propose to offer to this bill. On line 22, section 2, page 3, I find this language:
Third, that original entrance to the public service aforesaid shall be at the lowest grade, and appointments thereto in the Departments at Washington shall be apportioned, as nearly as practicable, among the several States and Territories and the District of Columbia, upon the basis of population as ascertained at the last preceding census.
There I shall move to strike out the words "shall be at the lowest grade," so as to read:
That original entrance to the public service aforesaid and appointments thereto in the Departments at Washington shall be apportioned, &c.
Then I find, on page 4, section 2, line 30, this language:
Fifth, that promotion shall be from the lower grades to the higher on the basis of merit and competition.
I shall move to strike that out entirely.
Then on page 10, in section 7, I find this language:
That after the expiration of six months from the passage of this act no officer or clerk shall be appointed, and no person shall be employed to enter or be promoted in either of the said classes now existing, or that may be arranged hereunder pursuant to said rules, until he has passed an examination, or is shown to be specially exempted from such examination in conformity herewith.
There I shall move to add:
Whenever a vacancy occurs in either of said classes it shall be filled with one of the two persons who stood highest on the competitive examination, and the selection for appointment shall not be confined to the persons in the office, or who at the time hold positions under the Department in which the vacancy occurs, but other persons, citizens, desiring the position shall, on application, be permitted to participate in the competitive examination, and shall receive the appointment if the examination shows that they possess qualifications superior to the competitors who may be in position at the time of the examination.
In other words my object is to get rid of that feature which confines the competitive examinations to the applicants for the lowest class. Why should not a person occupying no position under the Government, who is eminently qualified, have a right to apply for a vacancy in a higher class? I know no reason except that he is a Democrat, and he must not interfere with the inner circle or with the political power of it. I want to open the door wide, if we have competitive examinations, and let every citizen who feels that he has claims superior to an inferior man now in position go and compete for the prize, and if he wins it, though he be a Democrat, let him have it. I think this is right. I do not feel that I should do my duty if I were to sit here and see this bill pass without doing all in my power to see that justice is done to the larger half of the people of this country in giving them an actual chance to compete for those positions. The bill, as it now stands, does not give it. I seek to amend it so that all who feel that they are really qualified shall have a chance for the offices.
I know there are stringent provisions in the bill about any one doing anything to promote the claim of one applicant or injure the claim of another. There is simply nothing in that. The head of a Department may give stringent orders to have everything go right, but he has men under him who have been there probably for twenty years, shrewd, sharp managing fellows, and they will find a why to got the preference given by examiners to a favorite who is wanted by them and against those they do not want. You will never purify this service until you drive these old rats from the malt. You will never purify it as long as those who have had control of things for a long time wield the power. They have had it long enough. If the Democrats come into power let all the worst of them retire. We have plenty of men every way their equals, socially, morally, intellectually, educationally, in any way you may put it. Why, then, should Democrats take a position in favor of proscribing men of that class of our own party, and keep in power those of the other party who have for so long a time been in office?
I do not know, Mr. President, whether there is any other amendment pending at the present time that has preference over those I have mentioned or not. If there is not —
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. MORGAN in the chair). The amendment of the Senator from Iowa [Mr. ALLISON] is pending.
Mr. BROWN. Then I give notice that I shall propose these amendments when they are in order.
Mr. HAWLEY. Before the Senator passes from the point he has been just discussing, I should like to make a suggestion to him in the form of a question. There are in the Department quite a considerable number of Democratic employés and clerks, and some of them have been there ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five years. Now, I wish to know whether their continuance in the service with the testimonial in their favor that it has been under an adverse Administration because of their admirable record, whether the fact that they have been a long time in the service is so much against them that the Senator would turn them out also?
Mr. BROWN. I would put them on their merits, Mr. President. If their practices were clean and their conduct right, if they had behaved themselves well, I would not turn them out simply because they held office under Republicans, and I would not probably turn out every Republican there who held an office and showed a fair and clean record; but I would do this: I would so amend this bill that any one outside who was the superior of either of them might come in and compete for the place, and if he took it by virtue of his merits and his qualifications over either a Democrat or a Republican I would let him do so. This would be true civil-service reform. Both parties must be fairly represented in the offices before any such enactment will meet with public favor or produce any beneficial results.
If my amendments are not acted on this afternoon, I shall ask that they be printed and laid on the table by the morning session.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Chair will inquire which of the amendments does the Senator from Georgia first propose to have acted on?
Mr. BROWN. I move to strike out the words, "shall be at the lowest grade," in line 23, of section 2, on page 3.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. If that amendment amends the text proposed to be stricken out by the Senator from Iowa it is first in order.
Mr. BROWN. Then I move that amendment.
Mr. GEORGE. Mr. President, I rise to make one or two observations in reply to what has been said by the Senator from Georgia [Mr. BROWN]; and in the first place it, struck me as a little remarkable that the Senator should have used so much of his valuable time and so much of the valuable time of the Senator proving or in trying to prove that this civil-service bill was an injustice to the Democratic party, and would prevent them when that far-off, I fear, and long-wished-for time shall have come when we shall have possession of the executive department of this Government — prevent them, I say, at that time from enjoying the rewards of their success; and at the same time —
Mr. BROWN. The Senator will excuse me one moment. As it is not possible my amendments should be acted on this evening, I ask that they be received and printed.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. They will be received and ordered to be printed, unless there be objection.
Mr. GEORGE. And then, sir, after having proved to his satisfaction that this bill operates unjustly and unfairly to the Democratic party in ease they should have the good fortune to come into power, in the very next breath he says that it is it mere nothing; it will keep out no Democrat; it will prevent no President, no head of a Department, from making any removal or any appointment that suits his taste or interest. Now, sir, put that and that together, and what would the argument of the Senator from Georgia amount to, except to prejudice, as far as his high character and standing may enable him to do so, the Democrats of this country against this measure? I admit that some of the criticisms which the Senator from Georgia made upon this bill are founded on justice. Yesterday I prepared an amendment and submitted it to the Senator from Ohio which would have the effect, if adopted, of removing some of the objections of the Senator from Georgia. I object, and that amendment which I prepared was intended to meet that objection, to the provision which prevents all entries into the public service except at the lowest grade.
But, sir, it did not occur to me in the reflections which I had upon that subject that that provision was so much an injustice to the Democratic party as it was wrong in principle. I think, sir, that applications made for appointments in the public service might be made to any grade, and that if the applicant was competent he might be appointed to any grade. I am sorry that the force of that objection, just and fair as it may be, has been broken to some extent by the criticism made by the Senator from Georgia in connecting it with the party consideration that it is unjust to the Democratic party.
The difference between the Senator from Georgia and myself will be found to be in this, that while I find objections and some of the same objections to this bill that he does, yet I believe it to do my duty not to bring the whole system of civil-service reform into disrepute, but to go fairly to work in co-operation with the friends of his measure to remove the objections. That is the difference between the Senator and myself.
There is another difference, Mr. President. I am not so impressed as the honorable Senator from Georgia seems to be with the idea that in 1884 the reverses which have befallen the Republican party this year will befall them again. As I read the signs of the times, as I read the history of the last political campaign, I think those reverses are attributable in a very large degree to their occupying the very position on civil-service reform which the Senator from Georgia wishes the Democrats to occupy. That is my idea.
281And now, sir, as his speech seemed to be devoted almost entirely to the interest the Democratic party of this country had in this measure, I hope I may be allowed the suggestion that in our eagerness to enjoy the fruits of an anticipated but not gained victory we may do the very thing which shall prevent that victory from coming; and I am sure that if the Democratic party in this body and in Congress can not rise to a higher plane in the discussion and consideration of this question than what may be a mere party advantage, all the fears of the Senator from Georgia about our not being able to enjoy the fruits of the victory of 1884 are wholly unless; there will be no victory to enjoy.
Mr. BROWN. If the Senator from Mississippi will excuse me a moment, I ask him if he thinks that the fact that Democratic Senators claim justice and fair play to the Democratic party in the distribution of the offices is likely to defeat the election of our candidate in 1884?
Mr. GEORGE. The honorable Senator went a great deal further than that, as I understood him. I want fair play. I do not believe that it is just that one-half the people of this country, to say no more, should have been excluded for the last generation, and are excluded now, from all participation in the affairs of this country.
Mr. BROWN. Then do you believe this bill does them justice?
Mr. GEORGE. I do not believe that this bill will prevent a Democratic President from doing what Jefferson did, giving his friends a fair and equal participation in the affairs of the Government.
Mr. BROWN. Then what are the merits of the bill? If it does not prevent discharges from office, what merits has it?
Mr. GEORGE. The merits of the bill I shall not go into now. I will mention, however, to the honorable Senator that it does incarnate and embody in the form of a statute the best conscience and judgment of this country against political proscription, and as such it receives my hearty approbation. I denounce this system as it now exists. I denounce it because it excludes my friends and the men with whom I cooperate from all participation in the affairs of the Government. But will it be any better, will it be fairer, will political proscription be less hideous, if when we attain power we shall turn around and practice the same methods which we denounce now? No, sir; if political proscription be wrong in the Republican party it will be wrong in the Democratic party. If it be unjust, as I say it is unjust, that the Democrats of this country should have no chance to participate in the administration of the Government, it will be equally unjust, should our good fortune lead us to victory, to exclude to the same extent the Republicans from political employment in this country.
Mr. BROWN. Will the Senator from Mississippi excuse me a moment again? If we should elect a Democratic President, does the Senator from Mississippi think it would be wrong to turn out a very large proportion of the Republican office-holders and put Democrats in their places?
Mr. GEORGE. I suppose there will be a good many of them who ought to be turned out, and I can state some who ought to be. If it was left to me I would turn out every single man who ever responded to a political assessment.
Mr. BROWN. That would be quite as broad as I would want it, I think that would include all of them. I think that would be a little broader than I might make it.
Mr. GEORGE. If we should dispose of those who have contributed, of their overgrown salaries, the means by which to corrupt the elections, there would be enough vacancies to satisfy any moderate Democrat.
Mr. President, I think it was remarked by the Senator from Massachusetts [Mr. HOAR] that this is an auspicious time in which reform should commence. Suppose we postpone it until 1884, when there may be a Democratic President elected, as I hope there will be, and as I believe there will be, unless we commit such political blunders as are indicated for us by the speech made by the Senator from Georgia.
Mr. BROWN. Does the Senator think the passage of an act by Congress to keep the Republican office-holders in office will prevent a Democratic triumph?
Mr. GEORGE. No, sir, I do not; and this is not an act to keep Republican office-holders in office. It is an act to commence a new era in this country upon the subject of filling the offices. It is an act to purify, to elevate, and to keep above the dirty pool of partisan politics the civil service of the country.
Mr. BROWN. Then why does it permit entrance by competitive examination to only the lowest class of offices?
Mr. GEORGE. I told the Senator that I had yesterday prepared an amendment to strike that out, and I do not think it is fair for him to require mo to vindicate a part of the bill which I had indicated to him I objected to, and had prepared an amendment yesterday to remedy.
Mr. BROWN. I beg the Senator's pardon; I am glad he is against it.
Mr. GEORGE. Yes, sir, I am against that. But the difference, as I remarked just now, between the Senator and myself upon that subject is that he seizes upon that in order to denounce the whole scheme. I am sorry it is so, because it hurts me.
Mr. BROWN. I denounce the whole scheme because of the inequality and injustice there is in inaugurating it without giving the Democrats a chance; and I shall continue to do so.
Mr. GEORGE. The Senator objects to having civil-service reform inaugurated until the Democratic party comes into power, I suppose?
Mr. BROWN. Or until there is provision made previously that they shall have a fair share of the offices.
Mr. GEORGE. The answer to that I will take from the Senator's own mouth. There is nothing in the bill which prevents the President and his Secretaries from giving the Democrats a fair share of the offices. The Senator ought to occupy some consistent position upon this subject. He ought either to stand by the position that the bill does keep Democrats out of office, or stand by the position that it does not keep anybody out of office. He takes both, and I should like to know by what kind of political legerdemain it can be that a bill so trifling, so inefficient that it cannot keep anybody out of office, which does not tie the hands of the President or his Secretaries for a singles moment, shall yet have the effect attributed to it by the Senator from Georgia, that it keeps the Democrats out. Are Democrats so low, so mean, so trifling, that they are kept out by a bar which keeps nobody else out in the world? Is that the Senator's position?
Mr. BROWN. If the Senator will excuse me one moment, I argued both propositions, because the advocates of the bill differ among themselves. Some of them say it does not prevent removal from office, and some say it does.
Mr. GEORGE. Will the Senator from Georgia tell me now which is right? Does the bill keep anybody out or not?
Mr. BROWN. It is not for me to decide. I leave that to those who favor the bill, and whenever they agree upon the subject I will then give you my opinion.
Mr. GEORGE. The Senator did give his opinion in his first speech, and now he amends his speech, and it goes out to the Democrats of the country amended by the insertion in it of his disclaimer that he has no opinion on the subject; that he does not know whether it excludes Democrats or not. That is his position. There are three positions which he has taken on the subject: first, that the bill would not exclude anybody; second, that it excluded Democrats; third, that he does not know whether it excludes anybody or not.
Mr. BROWN. I have taken no such position. I say I have a very decided opinion upon that subject, which I will express whenever the advocates of the bill agree on the line that they claim for the bill. Until then I have a right to argue both propositions, to show whether the one or the other be right, or both defective.
Mr. GEORGE. The Senator is an able lawyer, he is a Senator of experience and ability, and he very well knows that the meaning of a statute, its force and effect, is not to be decided by what its friends or its enemies say about it, but by the language used in it.
Mr. BROWN. I ask the Senator from Mississippi, then, if he will agree to vote for an amendment which will make it definite, so that there may be no longer any dispute among the friends of the bill?
Mr. GEORGE. I will vote for your amendment.
Mr. BROWN. So as to make the bill definite, that it will not prevent removals from office?
Mr. GEORGE. I will vote for your amendment about the lowest grade.
Mr. BROWN. Will you vote for another amendment, that it shall not prohibit the President from making removals from office outside of cause?
Mr. GEORGE. It is unnecessary to amend it in that way. If there is any doubt about it, however, I would vote for the amendment. There is not a word said in the bill about the President's right to make a removal. That is left exactly where the Constitution leaves it; and to put in such a proviso would be an unnecessary caution. But if the Senator from Georgia will, in good faith, and not with a view of crippling the measure — but with a view of perfecting it and of bringing the Democratic party of this country to its hearty support — offer an amendment of that sort, I shall vote for it. But if it is offered for the purpose of clogging the bill, merely for the purpose of injuring it in its passage, I shall vote against it, because, it is unnecessary.
Mr. BROWN. I am much obliged to the Senator. I shall introduce such an amendment when I have an opportunity, and shall be glad to have the support of the Senator from Mississippi.
Mr. GEORGE. Mr. President, I have been interrupted and have been compelled to occupy the floor longer than I intended. I merely intended to reply to some observations made by the Senator from Georgia, wherein I thought he intended to prejudice this measure in the minds of the Democratic party of this country. I will say a word or two more and then I shall take my seat.
I agree with the Senator from Georgia that the effect of this measure depends in a large degree, if not entirely, upon the good faith of the President and his Cabinet, who will be called upon to execute it. I admit that. I admit that you can not pass laws which they can not evade; it is impossible from the nature of things; hut because we can not, trammeled as we are by the Constitution, make a law which they can not evade, is it any reason why we should not make an honest effort to enact a law which an honest administration may observe? Suppose the present Administration or any succeeding administration should evade this law, then there is one remedy left, and that is a remedy which I believe the people of this country will apply, namely, to turn out such unfaithful officials and replace them by others who will act more in accordance with the sentiments of the people as expressed in this statute. At last we must go back to that.
Right here, Mr. President, I might say, and I believe I will say, that all this noise about civil-service reform is — I do not know how to express it, but rather extraordinary, coming from the Administration. There is nothing this bill requires which the President may not do without the bill. He is not obliged to resort to political proscription if he is opposed to it. He is not obliged to allow political assessments to be levied upon the subordinates in the Departments here if he is opposed to them. If he desires civil-service reform he can do as the post-masters in Boston and New York have done; he can institute it everywhere. He may appoint no man to office unless he is fit for it; he may turn out no man from office on account of political opinion. But notwithstanding the singularity of the position, I am willing to respond favorably to his recommendation in his message and to give him civil-service reform. If he can not reform without a statute I am willing to give him a statute by which to reform. If he can not restrain his men without the sanction of law, I am willing to give him the law.
Now, Mr. President, apologizing for consuming the time of the Senate, and saying that on some future occasion I may express more fully my views upon this matter, I will close.
Mr. BROWN. I ask leave to offer an amendment, in order that it may be printed. I propose to amend the bill by adding the following proviso:
Provided That nothing in this act shall prevent the removal by the President, or any head of a Department, of any officer or employé under him when he thinks the interest of the public service requires it, without being obliged to assign any cause for such action.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The amendment will be printed as the Senator from Georgia desires.
Mr. JONES, of Florida. I do not think we can take away the powers of the President under the Constitution by any bill we may pass.
Mr. MILLER, of New York. Mr. President, after the able arguments which have been made by many Senators on this question, I should deem it neither wise nor expedient that I should detain the Senate by expressing my views upon this measure were it not that no inconsiderable portion of my constituents are deeply interested in the success of the measure and they demand of their representatives in both Houses of Congress that they shall see to it that by no act of theirs shall this bill be defeated or left unacted upon.
It may not be inappropriate that one representing in part the State of New York should be heard in advocacy of a measure which has for its object the abatement of the evils of what is known as the "patronage or spoils system in government," for the State of New York, more than any other of the thirteen original States, must bear the blame of having first introduced the spoils system into American politics.
The system of spoils was not born with Jefferson, as the Senator from Massachusetts has seemed to indicate, nor with Andrew Jackson when he was President. The first constitution of the State of New York when it was organized in 1777 put this system into full operation, and from that day to this, with few exceptions, it has been the controlling element in the politics of the State of New York. That constitution of Now York provided that a council of appointment consisting of four senators and the governor should have the power of appointing nearly all the civil officers throughout the State. Nearly the only officers who were elected by the people under that constitution were the governor and the members of the assembly and of the senate. All justices of the peace, all sheriffs, all county clerks, and many municipal and other officers were appointed by the governor and the council of appointment.
It did not take the men who ruled in those days (for they were wise and astute statesmen) long to discover that any party which controlled the council of appointments, which by its power reached into every little hamlet and village and appointed the justices of the peace and the sheriff of the county, would absolutely control the politics of the State; and the men of those days used it with all the rigor of which they were capable. If led to factional fights in the State, and I may say that the history of New York politics is simply the history of factions from that day to this. No great party which has ever ruled in the State has been free from faction — faction caused solely by patronage which was to be distributed by the party, and no great party has ever held sway in the State of New York in which the evil of patronage and spoils has not finally worked its overthrow.
The people saw this evil, and were determined to destroy the power of patronage and spoils. The constitutional convention which met in 1821, and which was the first one after the organization of the State, dispensed with the council of appointment, and it made elective the offices of justice of the peace and sheriff of the county, and the county clerks and nearly all the other officers who had hitherto been appointed by the governor and council.
They intended by that constitutional amendment to forever destroy the evil of patronage in the Government. To a certain extent it succeeded, but as the State of New York grew, with its great metropolis and finally with its canals and its public works, there came to be still great patronage in the Government. After the council of appointment had been abolished there soon arose in Albany what every student of American history knows to have been the Albany regency. It was a body of able and astute politicians of the Democratic party who attempted to do privately and without warrant of law what the old council of appointment had substantially done. It undertook to control all the patronage of the party, and for many years it held sway and its power was recognized throughout the length and breadth of the State.
Finally that secret agency was overthrown, and in every amendment to the constitution which has been had from that day to this the people have been attempting to take into their hands more power and to take out of the hands of officials the patronage and the spoils which they have heretofore exercised. In the late amendments to our constitution we attempted to take our great canals out of politics, and to a certain extent we have succeeded. We also attempted to take out of politics our State prisons, our great penal institutions, and we have partially succeeded. But still there remains in the State of New York, with its over 5,000,000 of people, a vast amount of State patronage, and the official patronage which comes from the Federal Government is greater there than in any other State.
It is not strange, then, that the people of the State of New York should be deeply interested in this proposed bill, which has for its object the lessening of the evils which have come home to every party and to every faction and to every man in public life in that State.
I say New York must hold itself responsible for the introduction of the spoils system into the Federal Government; and New York today, as much or more than any other State in the Union, stands by the measure which we are now considering, for it knows the evils which it is intended to remedy.
The system of patronage as it had been developed and worked out in the State of New York, was finally transferred to the Federal capital, first by Aaron Burr and then by Martin Van Buren, two astute and at times most unscrupulous politicians. They brought it here in all its perfection, and put it in full operation. From that day it has held absolute control of our Federal Government. It has taken hold of every Department, and we all know that to-day the only way of entrance into any of the minor offices of this Government is by influence or patronage.
Not only has this evil taken hold of the Federal Government, but it has been transferred from here to nearly every other State government and to the government of nearly all large cities. I may say it has gone into almost every town and hamlet; and to-day, go where you will, in the smallest villages of our country you will find a class of men, principally young men, growing up, who have no occupation save that of politics. They stand ready to do the bidding of the local magnate or boss because they expect to receive favors at his hand.
I believe that the larger part of all the corruption that has come into our municipal governments has come in through the door of patronage and spoils. I believe that if a proper system of civil service were established, or had been established, in the city of New York by the means of which the clerk in its financial department and in the comptroller's office had held their places not through the influence of the great bosses of the city, but had held their places because they were justly entitled to them by competitive examination, the robberies and frauds of Tweed could never have been perpetrated, for these frauds were well known to the clerks in the comptroller's office, and the investigation showed that they did not dare to expose them, or in any way to bring them to light, because they owed their positions to the men who were committing the frauds.
I say, then, this evil has gone throughout the length and breadth of the land, and it has done much to bring public life and public men into disrepute. The common sentiment of the people is that worth can no longer gain an entrance to public office; but that it can only come through the favor of some man who has climbed up by this system until he is in a position to reward his followers.
I shall not detain the Senate by dilating upon what I believe to be the great evils of this system. They are admitted to-day by all.
The bill before us is the joint work of a number of patriotic gentlemen who are organized for the purpose of promoting a reform in the civil service of the Government. These gentlemen have given much time to the consideration of this matter, and have not only studied the civil service of our own country but the civil service of the principal European nations. The bill under consideration is the joint product of their labors, together with the labors of one of the committees of this body. I do not believe that we are likely to improve it by amendments which may be made during its passage through this body, and we may jeopardize and destroy many of its wise provisions. In obedience, then, sir, to the wishes of many of my constituents, expressed to me in letters which I have received from several prominent citizens of New York who have carefully investigated and studied this question, I am frank to say that I prefer to take the bill substantially as it came to us from the committee rather than to submit it to piecemeal amendment.
Mr. President, what are the principal objections which are brought against this measure? I had hoped that the voice of no Senator would be raised against it, and I regret that to-day the Senator from Georgia has found it necessary to argue against the bill. First, it is denounced as impracticable, and that it will fill the offices with incompetent persons, with mere scholars.
Sir, we are not without experience in this matter. This reform has
283been in operation in the city of New York in the two chief Federal offices, the custom-house and the post-office, for a number of years. I will not detain the Senate to read from the reports which have been made upon its operations in those offices. Suffice it to say that the chiefs of both those offices, and in fact all who have been in charge of those offices since this system was tried, have spoken of it in the highest terms, and it is capable of proof here that the service has been vastly improved since competitive examinations went into operation in the city of New York.
Not only has it been tried there, but also in England, where formerly the same system of patronage prevailed which we now have. The reports from there are alike favorable; and wherever this system has been tried there has been but one decision in the matter, and that is that it is wise and politic.
The Senator from Georgia told us that it was undemocratic, that it would create an office-holding class which he termed an aristocracy. He warned us against adopting the system because it was English, because it had been tried in England, and he dilated upon the differences of the two governments. He warned us that if this bill should go into effect its results would be to build up here an office-holding aristocracy. It seems to me that such an argument scarcely needs to be answered. The English system which he has denounced was originally precisely the same as that under which we are now operating. It was the rule of patronage and spoils. The king held that all civil appointments should come from him, and for centuries the Crown of Great Britain exercised absolutely all power of appointment both in the civil offices and in the army, and also in the Church. The king frequently did not hesitate to use the power of patronage and spoils to carry his measures through Parliament, and we do not have to read very far in the history of the United States during the past fifty years to find that more than one President has used the power of patronage and spoils to carry his measures through Congress.
Why should we object to this measure because it has been tried in England and found successful there? What great civil rights do we as free American citizens enjoy which we have not taken directly from the English constitution and English law? Save the right of universal suffrage and the right of electing our Chief Magistrate, we have few, if any, civil rights which are worth mentioning which we have not taken absolutely from the English constitution. Where did we get the right of trial by jury? Where did we find the habeas corpus act; where all our civil rights, I ask? Our Government was based upon English law, and to-day English common law rules in most of the States of this Union. The fact, then, that the system is English should not be any bar to our adopting it.
But what is the present condition of the service in England? Instead of the Crown exercising this power and giving out the civil appointments of the Government for the benefit of the aristocracy or of any privileged class, they are to-day free and open to competition to every person within the realm.
Is this undemocratic? Does this tend to aristocracy? No, I think not; and it is precisely the same in this country. If there can be an aristocracy in office-holding, if there can be an office-holding class in a republic, we have it to-day, and we have had it for fifty years. How are the offices obtained to-day? Are the offices in our Departments here open alike to the sons of the farmer and the mechanic everywhere without exception? Not at all. No man can have his case heard, as we know full well, save he comes backed by the political influence of his district. By this measure we propose to make it possible for the son of the poorest man in America to present himself here in the capital of the nation or elsewhere and be examined for a civil office, and it will not be necessary that he shall procure any local influence, political or otherwise. He will simply have to come here with a good character, possessed of intelligence and ability, and then his chances will be equal to those of the rich or more favored.
The Senator from Georgia warned us against building up this office-holding class, and referred us to Roman history, to the pretorian guards which surrounded the emperor, and who were there for the purpose of preserving the government, but which finally took the government and sold it to the highest bidder. If this office-holding class could ever have any control in politics it can have it only when it belongs absolutely and completely to one party. Then it can be wielded as an army; then it can be thrown wherever the leaders of the party see fit to throw it.
It has been charged frequently upon this floor that the hundred thousand civil officers of this country, being all in the hands of one party, were able, aye, that they did control close Presidential elections. If it is possible under the present system that the civil office-holders of this Government should control any closely contested election in this country, what will they be able to do when we shall have doubled in population, when the civil office-holders in this country, instead of numbering 100,000, shall number two or three hundred thousand? If they are all to be of one political faith, with their positions and their salaries depending absolutely upon the success of the party in power, can any man say that then there will be a free and a fair election, when every civil officer in this Government can thus be brought into one solid party and used for the purpose of carrying elections? I think not.
If there is any danger, then, from an office-holding class it can only be when all the offices belong to one party. But by this bill it is proposed to open the doors to the members of all political parties. If the bill go into operation one generation will not have passed before the minor civil offices of the Government will be filled by members from all parties, from persons holding all shades of political opinion. Then when we come up to a Presidential election, instead of this army of office-holders being used to secure the election of the party in power, it will be divided against itself. Then the evil which the Senator from Georgia fears will have disappeared. But by the system which he proposes to keep in operation, which is that all this vast army of office-holders are to be removed at every election, or at least at every election where it is carried by the opposing party, we shall always have the danger he so much fears. We have it now; and as I said a moment ago many Democratic Senators on this floor have used that as one of the strongest arguments against the Republican party, and charged that it was unjustly and unfairly using the civil offices of this Government to keep itself in power.
When the offices shall have been fairly divided, as they will be by this system, then the danger arising from assessments for political purposes will also disappear, for neither party would gain any advantage over the other by making such assessments upon the office-holders with their ranks.
We are told frequently that parties can not go on and achieve victories unless all the offices shall be held up as proper spoils to be divided among the victors when the battle is over; in other words, that parties can not exist without this patronage. As the Senator from Georgia told us, the Republican party has been in power for twenty-one years. During all that time it has held the gift of, all these offices within its hands, but the Democratic party has not disappeared from the country; it has come up at every election, hotly contested it, and when the Republican party has won and we have said, reasoning upon the patronage system, that the Democratic party must die, it has always turned up as a very lively corpse at the next elect ion. Meanwhile it has had none of the patronage of the Federal Government.
Instead of patronage being necessary for the existence of a party, I do not hesitate to say that patronage will sooner or later destroy any and every party which may have control of patronage. Go over the political history of the State of New York; note how parties have come and gone, and note the cause of their defeats. You need to go back no further than the contest between Tilden and Kelly upon one side to see how it is that great parties numbering millions, of voters go down simply through a petty quarrel over petty offices. Last winter the Democratic party spent six weeks in Albany in attempting to settle the simple question of who should be clerk of the assembly and who should be clerk of the senate, quarreling for six weeks over patronage.
I will not now attempt to go into many of the reasons which led to the late overwhelming defeat of the Republican party in the State of New York or elsewhere, but I do not hesitate to say that chief among all the causes which contributed to it was the trouble over patronage and the spoils — one faction of the party controlling it all; the other faction, dissatisfied and disgusted with the methods of party management, refused to be led or controlled longer by party machinery. Patronage, then, I say, will sooner or later destroy any party which has it to give.
Before this system was the rule in the Federal Government — before the days of Jackson — was there any difficulty in carrying on a political campaign? Were not the political contests of those early days as sharply drawn and defined as they are to-day? Mr. President, they were much more sharply drawn and defined, because those contests went made solely upon principle; but now when we go into a contest principles are frequently lost sight of, and the only question is which party shall win, in order that it may distribute the spoils and the patronage of office.
Look at the political contests in England since the reform system has gone into operation. Was any political contest there ever more sharply defined than the last one, in which Mr. Gladstone came into power after having made a canvass only of a few weeks, in which he discussed the great measures of government? The people were called upon to decide between the Conservatives and Liberals, and they gave their decision uninfluenced by patronage, being moved only by the principles which were involved in the contest. The result was the overwhelming defeat of the party in power and the restoration of Mr. Gladstone and the Liberals to power, and that great change in the policy of the Government of Great Britain was made without changing more than fifty offices in the entire civil service of Great Britain.
I believe there is no Senator here who hears me who would not rejoice to see the day when we could have that kind of political contest, in this country; when the lines should be sharply drawn, and when the whole people should see that the questions were simply questions of principles and not questions of spoils; because, sir, under any condition of affairs but a small proportion of the voters of this country can ever hold any civil office or desire to hold any civil office. They care little for those positions; and when they see the two great parties contending day after day and week after week upon the mere question of who shall fill petty offices is it any wonder that they become disgusted, and that they leave politics entirely alone and decline to vote, as they did at the late election?
But, sir, this reform if carried out will in no way affect legitimate party management. This bill touches no Presidential appointment; it touches none of the great executive officers which every President must call
284about him, and must call from his own party. Certainly in the vast number of Federal officers which are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate there is enough of patronage to whet the appetite of any party which may desire patronage and spoils. The principles of those who hold that "to the victors belong the spoils," and that all the offices, no matter how small or how meager the compensation, should be distributed through the party that wins, may be put in a few words. One of the leaders of that theory of politics, a leading politician in the State of New York, gave me his theory of politics; it was: "To the party which carries the election belong all the offices, and to that faction of the party which carries the primaries and the conventions belong all the offices." I said to him: "You may operate upon that principle for a few years, but when it becomes to be understood by the mass of the party who do the voting that such is your theory of politics you will not be troubled with further distribution of patronage, for you will not have votes enough to carry an election." The Republican party seems to have, very nearly approached that condition in the late elections. It has been defeated chiefly because of the vast patronage which it has in its hands and which it could not so manage and so distribute us to give satisfaction to the entire party; and I warn my Democratic friends who are opposing this bill to desist, for it is not within the power of any party, it will not be within the power of any set of men, if you should be so fortunate as to come into power in 1884, to take the 140,000 offices of this great Government and to distribute them among your own party in such a manner as to give satisfaction; and if you did you would so disorganize the business of this Government in its great Departments, particularly in that of the Post-Office Department, that your lease of power would not extend beyond four years.
No party can hope to manage the patronage of this Government in its present magnitude and maintain itself before the people. The people demand efficiency in the officers. They only ask of the Post-Office Department that it shall take their mails and that it shall deliver them in the least possible time with the fewest possible mistakes; and if it should so happen that every four years there should be a change of administration from one party to another, and then there should be an entire change of all the civil officers of the Post-Office Department, business in this country could not go on with any certainty, and large business concerns would be compelled to use private messengers rather than the Post-Office Department; for the various duties coming upon many of these postal officials, particularly upon the postal clerks who travel on our railways and distribute the mails, are such that they can not be learned fully in one year.
The system of Appointment of postal clerks is worthy of consideration by the Senate in connection with this bill. I know they are appointed through patronage, that is to say, they are recommended by the members of the party in power, but they go into the service upon a probation of six months, and I have the figures, though I have them not here now, by which I could show that at one time nearly one-half of all those who were thus recommended and went into the service were dropped at the end of the first six months because they were found to be incompetent. Now the number, I think, is nearly one-third, or was during the last two years. After the Government has gone to the expense of educating them for six months and paying them their salaries then if upon on examination they are found deficient they are dropped. If we had this proposed reform system in force a large part of this loss would be saved to the Government. Men would be examined when they were presented. They would be examined as to their physical condition and as to their probable ability to perform the duties of the office. Sir, the officer who is now in charge of the railway mail service, beginning in the service nearly twenty years ago as a messenger upon a train, has been gradually promoted from one position to another until to-day he stands at the head of it. So with the postmaster at New York city. He began as a messenger upon a railway train and gradually worked his way up from one position to another till he today holds the greatest post-office in this country, and an office which is managed, as the reports show, as well us any other office of its size in the world. This shows you, sir, what our system carried out will do. We have a good civil service to-day; it comes from the fact that the Republican party has been in power twenty-one years, and that it has made few removals except for cause. When it has found a man who made a good postal clerk or a competent accountant in the Treasury Department it has retained him and allowed him to work his way up by promotion; but if all these officers were to be changed every four years there would be no such thing as efficiency in the public service, and I know that in the last Presidential election there were not a few Democratic business men in this country who voted the Republican ticket simply because they did not dare to have all these officers changed at once, as they know they would be if their party came into power.
Mr. SHERMAN. It is now nearly 5 o'clock, and if the Senator from New York will give way I will submit a motion to adjourn.
Mr. MILLER, of New York. I am entirely willing to consult the sentiment of the Senate, either to go on now or to finish to-morrow.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. It is moved that the Senate do now adjourn.
The motion was agreed to; and, (at 4 o'clock and 56 minutes p. m.) the Senate adjourned.