extent employ women, whilst in the home office there are an increasing number of women inspectors of workshops and factories.
In 1881 the postmaster-general took a decided step in favour of female employment, and with the consent of the treasury instituted female clerkships. Female clerks do not come in contact with the public. Their duties are purely clerical, and entirely in the accountant-general’s department at the savings bank. Their leave is one month per annum; their pension is on the ordinary civil service scale. The examination is competitive; the subjects are handwriting and spelling, arithmetic, English composition, geography, English history, French or German. Candidates must be between the ages of 18 and 20. Whether unmarried or widows they must resign on marriage. The class of girl clerks take the same subjects in a competitive examination. They must be between the ages of 16 and 18; they serve only in the Savings Bank department. If competent they can pass on later to female clerkships. The salaries of the female clerkships range from £200 to £500 in the higher grade, £55 to £190 in the 2nd class, whilst girl clerks are paid from £35 to £40, with the chance of advancement to higher posts.
United States.—Civil service reform, like other great administrative reforms, began in America in the latter half of the 19th century. Personal and partisan government, with all the entailed evils of the patronage system, culminated in Great Britain during the reign of George III., and was one of the efficient causes of the American revolution. Trevelyan characterizes the use of patronage to influence legislation, and the giving of colonial positions as sinecures to the privileged classes and personal favourites of the administration, by saying, “It was a system which, as its one achievement of the first order, brought about the American War, and made England sick, once and for all, of the very name of personal government.” It was natural that the founders of the new government in America, after breaking away from the mother-country, should strive to avoid the evils which had in a measure brought about the revolution. Their intention that the administrative officers of the government should hold office during good behaviour is manifest, and was given thorough and practical effect by every administration during the first forty years of the life of the government. The constitution fixed no term of office in the executive branch of the government except those of president and vice-president; and Madison, the expounder of the constitution, held that the wanton removal of a meritorious officer was an impeachable offence. Not until nine years after the passage of the Four Years’ Tenure of Office Act in 1820 was there any material departure from this traditional policy of the government. This act (suggested by an appointing officer who wished to use the power it gave in order to secure his own nomination for the presidency, and passed without debate and apparently without any adequate conception of its full effect) opened the doors of the service to all the evils of the “spoils system.” The foremost statesmen of the time were not slow to perceive the baleful possibilities of this legislation, Jefferson, Webster, Clay, Calhoun, Benton and many others being recorded as condemning and deploring it in the strongest terms. The transition to the “spoils system” was not, however, immediate, and for the next nine years the practice of reappointing all meritorious officers was practically universal; but in 1829 this practice ceased, and the act of 1820 lent the sanction of law to the system of The “spoils system.” proscriptions which followed, which was a practical application of the theory that “to the victor belong the spoils of the enemy.” In 1836 the provisions of this law, which had at first been confined mainly to officers connected with the collection of revenue, were extended to include also all postmasters receiving a compensation of $1000 per annum or more. It rapidly became the practice to regard all these four years’ tenure offices as agencies not so much for the transaction of the public business as for the advancement of political ends. The revenue service from being used for political purposes merely came to be used for corrupt purposes as well, with the result that in one administration frauds were practised upon the government to the extent of $75,000,000. The corrupting influences permeated the whole body politic. Political retainers were selected for appointment not on account of their ability to do certain work but because they were followers of certain politicians; these “public servants” acknowledged no obligation except to those politicians, and their public duties, if not entirely disregarded, were negligently and inefficiently performed. Thus grew a saturnalia of spoils and corruption which culminated in the assassination of a president.
Acute conditions, not theories, give rise to reforms. In
the congressional election of November 1882, following the
assassination of President Garfield as an incident in the operation
of the spoils system, the voice of the people commanding
reform was unmistakable. Congress assembled in December 1882,
and during the same month a bill looking to the improvement
of the civil service, which had been pending in the Senate for
nearly two years, was finally taken up and considered by that
body. In the debate upon this bill its advocates declared that
it would “vastly improve the whole civil service of the country,”
which they characterized as being at that time “inefficient,
expensive and extravagant, and in many instances corrupt.”Law of
1883. This bill passed the Senate on the 27th of December 1882, and the House on the 4th of January 1883, and was signed by the president on the 16th of January 1883, coming into full operation on the 16th of July 1883. It is now the national civil service law. The fundamental principles of this law are:—(1) selection by competitive examination for all appointments to the “classified service,” with a period of probationary service before absolute appointment; (2) apportionment among the states and territories, according to population, of all appointments in the departmental service at Washington; (3) freedom of all the employees of the government from any necessity to contribute to political campaign funds or to render political services. For putting these principles into effect the Civil Service Commission was created, and penalties were imposed for the solicitation or collection from government employees of contributions for political purposes, and for the use of official positions in coercing political action. The commission, in addition to its regular duties of aiding in the preparation of civil service rules, of regulating and holding examinations, and certifying the results thereof for use in making appointments, and of keeping records of all changes in the service, was given authority to investigate and report upon any violations of the act or rules. The “classified” service to which the act applies has grown, by the action of successive presidents in progressively including various branches of tne service within it, from 13,924 positions in 1883 to some 80,000 (in round numbers) in 1900, constituting about 40% of the entire civil service of the government and including practically all positions above the grade of mere labourer or workman to which appointment is not made directly by the president with the consent of the Senate. A very large class to which the act is expressly applicable, and which has been partly brought within its provisions by executive action, is that of fourth-class postmasters, of whom there are between 70,000 and 80,000 (about 15,000 classified in 1909).
In order to provide registers of eligibles for the various grades of positions in the classified service, the United States Civil Service Commission holds annually throughout the country about 300 different kinds of examinations. In the work of preparing these examinations and of marking the papers of competitors in them the commission is authorized by law to avail itself, in addition to its own corps of trained men, of the services of the scientific and other experts in the various executive departments. In the work of holding the examinations it is aided by about 1300 local boards of examiners, which are its local representatives throughout the country and are
- See letter to Monroe, November 29th, 1820, Jefferson’s Writings, vii. 190. A quotation from this letter is given at p. 454 of the Fifteenth Report of the U.S. Civil Service Commission.
- See Senate Report No. 576, 47th Congress, 1st session; also U.S. Civil Service Commission’s Third Report, p. 16 et seq., Tenth Report, pp. 136, 137, and Fifteenth Report, pp. 483, 484.
- The progressive classification of the executive civil service, showing the growth of the merit system, is discussed, with statistics, in the U.S. Civil Service Commission’s Sixteenth Report, pp. 129-137. A revision of this discussion, with important additions, appears in the Seventeenth Report.