The Writings of Carl Schurz/Civil Service Reform


Mr. President:—I sympathize most heartily with the Senator from Illinois [Mr. Trumbull] as to the object he means to accomplish by this bill. At the same time I must confess that there was one objection brought forward against it which struck me as forcible. It was this: that if we absolutely prohibit members of Congress from giving advice to the President with regard to appointments to office, then the President will be deprived of that source of information which, as long as the present loose system of filling offices continues, can be better depended on than any other; while, on the other hand, if an amendment be adopted like that offered by the Senator from Vermont [Mr. Morrill], which makes it possible for the President to put himself, at his option, in communication with Congressmen, asking for their advice, then it would be considered a rule of courtesy that he should do so in all cases where a member of Congress agrees politically with the Administration; an omission would be considered an unfriendly act, and the present practice would not be materially changed.

It is evident, therefore, that if we desire to effect a change in the direction pointed out by the Senator from Illinois, we must put another source of information from which the appointing power can obtain the necessary advice, in the place of that which we take away; and this circumstance, it seems to me, opens the whole question of civil service reform.

We have been listening to some very interesting speeches on that subject, some expatiating upon the excellence of the method in which at present the Departments at Washington are conducted, some arguing that a great many of the evils existing cannot be cured by reform. Sir, in my opinion, the question whether the Departments at Washington are managed well or badly, is, in proportion to the whole problem, an insignificant question after all. Neither does the question whether our civil service is as efficient as it ought to be, cover the whole ground. The most important point to my mind is, how we can remove that element of demoralization which the now prevailing mode of distributing office has introduced into the body-politic. A long familiarity with existing abuses is apt to blunt the keenness of our perception and the nicety of our moral appreciation. We are looking with exceeding leniency at abuses which, from our early days, we have been accustomed to see every day and in which the force of circumstances made us participate; and in order to judge of their true bearing it is sometimes necessary that, so to say, we should transport ourselves out of ourselves, so as to obtain a perfectly independent, impartial and objective view of things.

Let me suppose that you, Mr. President, although being born in this country, had left it when still young. You had studied the theory of our government; you had become imbued with its principles, your mind had become saturated with the teachings of the Fathers of this Republic, but you had not become familiar with the workings of our political machinery in detail. Then you had gone to study the theories and observed the practice of other governments in different parts of the world. Imagine then you had come back to this country about the 4th of March of the year after a Presidential election which had resulted in a change of party control. You would at once hasten to the capital of your country. You would bring with you an exalted idea of the greatness of this Republic, of its tremendous extent, of its gigantic resources, of the multifarious interests which are involved in its political life, of the great history and noble qualities of its people, of its great mission in the history of the world. You come here to Washington to witness the spectacle of the inauguration. You see the President standing in front of the Capitol, and before him an immense multitude, and you behold that grand and simple scene in which the President lays before the people of the United States those principles and views of policy which are to guide him in the administration of public affairs—a scene grand, simple and in imposing harmony with the nature of our institutions.

So far your mind receives impressions corresponding to the convictions you had previously formed. But you spend some time at Washington, after having viewed this interesting and grand spectacle. Presently it strikes you that upon the avenues, and in the hotels, and at all public places you meet a motley throng with anxious eyes, nervous movements, a curious expression of countenance. Gradually you learn to understand what it means. After a few days you desire to pay your respects to the President. With something akin to awe you enter the White House to visit the Chief Magistrate of this grand Republic. Of course you expect to find him surrounded by his council of State, and, being new to the duties of his great office, diligently and earnestly studying those great problems which it will be his mission to solve. But how do you find him? In the midst of the same anxious faces, the same eager eyes, the same nervous countenances which have already attracted your attention before, and man after man pressing upon him, pouring hurried tales into his ear, or thrusting papers at him with the vehemence of extreme urgency. What do they ask for? They all want office, and want it quickly. You see the President bewildered, confused; and after a little while you come to the unwelcome conclusion that the great chief of the American Republic, in his present situation at least, is an object of pity. From him you go to visit the ministers of State, the heads of the Departments, and what do you find there? You expect, of course, to see them at least, if the President is otherwise occupied, engaged in an arduous study of their great duties, for to them also these duties are new. But you find the same spectacle there; a pressing multitude asking for office. You visit Senators and Representatives, and how do you find them? Engaged in the consideration of the great political questions whose solution the situation of things demands of them? No; you find them surrounded by the same crowd, dogged from place to place, marching along the avenues at a hurried step, followed by a long train of anxious pursuers, running to the President, running to the Departments—nay, you may follow them even to another place in some of these splendid public buildings of ours—a side office, where they pay their respects to a young gentleman who at first must appear to you one of the high dignitaries; and you are somewhat astonished when you hear that he is the appointment clerk, who very graciously receives the representatives of the people, with their hats in their hands, and condescendingly dispenses his favors upon them, or with polite regret assures them that he cannot accommodate them all. Sir, it is by no means with a feeling of pride that I make the confession, but I must say that, carried away by the system which prevails, I have been there myself and I have witnessed the scene.

And now, sir, what are all these men engaged in? What does this spectacle of frantic hurry and pressure mean? It means nothing more nor less than that the President, the members of the Cabinet, Senators and Representatives and the whole multitude which fills the capital are busy in taking to pieces the whole machinery of the government immediately after the accession to power of the new Administration, then to recompose it again out of new materials. From the collector of customs in New York down to the meanest postmaster in the country, from the Minister Plenipotentiary down to the tide-waiter, all must be removed to make room for new men. Nobody is to be spared but some old experts here and there in Government offices, without whose experienced aid the machinery would come to an absolute standstill. Such, you are told, has become the established custom in this great Republic of ours; and the same spectacle repeats itself every four years.

You ask yourself, is this necessary, is it desirable? And if it were necessary or desirable would this be an opportune moment for doing it? Why, sir, the President and heads of the Departments, just having been put in their places, are new to the duties they have to perform, new to the requirements of the service which they have to carry on, unacquainted with the personnel they have to deal with. It would seem extremely difficult for them even to form an intelligent judgment at first of the propriety of any change to be made, however limited. Nothing, therefore, would be more urgently required than calm reflection, a quiet survey of the whole field, so as to ascertain what there is calling for transformation, and what the means are, and where and how proper material can be found, to execute it. And yet, just at that moment, when, to use a popular phrase, hardly anybody is knowing what he is about—just at that very moment the tremendous operation is to be performed of taking to pieces the whole machinery of the government and recomposing it again out of new material.

Now, sir, what is to guide the appointing power in this fearful and perplexing task? Is it personal knowledge? Impossible. They do not know the men who are applying for office; in nine hundred and ninety-nine of a thousand cases they never saw them, never heard of them. What is it then? They are required to act on recommendations, and those recommendations are put on paper. You are curious to see such a paper, and one of the aspirants, perhaps considering you an important man, will be very glad to hand it to you, maybe to obtain your signature, too, in his favor. And what do you read? The applicant for office is represented to be the model man of the age in point of character, of intelligence, of capacity and of political merit; he is just the man for such a place, and it would inflict serious damage on the country not to appoint him. You ask his neighbor, who, perhaps, is his competitor, and he will inform you that the same man who in that paper is described as the model man of the Republic is a very shabby character, and that no more improper person could be selected; but that he himself (the competitor) is just the man whose services the Republic needs.

Now, sir, how are these recommendations made and how are they obtained? Look at the Congressman who is to distribute the offices in his district. Laboring under the pressure coming from those who exercise political influence among his constituents, he is not permitted to follow his own judgment. He is bound to a great many of his “political friends” by what he considers honorable political obligations, and he is forced to take their judgment in a great many cases for his own. Sometimes, indeed, he has a personal knowledge of the individuals he is to recommend; but in a great many cases not. So you see that by no means in all cases the recommendations of the Congressman for office in his district are his own, but forced upon him by other people, to be taken upon trust.

But as to offices not local, you witness the interesting spectacle of Senators and Representatives coöperating. It is the organization of a mutual insurance society; “You sign this recommendation of my friend, I sign that recommendation of yours.” It is a matter of mutual accommodation. And here the element of personal knowledge enters but rarely. What must the consequences be? Consider our senatorial duty to act in a judicial capacity on the confirmation or rejection of nominations which we ourselves, without personal knowledge of the individual, have aided in procuring, and then look at a case which happened to myself. At the solicitation of a friend on this floor I put my name to a recommendation, in good faith; and on the strength of that paper, bearing many signatures, the President nominated the applicant; and when his name came before the Senate, and we had to pass sentence upon him, I learned things which, had I known then, would never have permitted me to join in the recommendation. But there he was; and possibly my own signature, together with those of other Senators, had induced the President to nominate him. What should we do when called upon to confirm or reject the nomination? Reject a nomination we ourselves had induced the President to make? Or confirm it against the dictates of our own consciences? Do you perceive the conflict between duty and fairness which the present way of doing things is so apt to bring upon us? And I venture to say that no session passes by without the occurrence of many similar cases.

There, then, are recommendations with and without personal knowledge, extorted and freely given, honest and dishonest; and these are the things which are to guide the appointing power in that most important and difficult operation, the sudden and hurried disorganization and reorganization of the whole administrative machinery.

And, sir, this is not the worst feature of the business. I have known instances where a regular office brokerage was established, and where a member of this Senate, not now here, a gentleman of the most honorable character, was induced by a so-called friend to sign a recommendation for a third individual, by which that third individual was to obtain an appointment in one of the Departments, the “friend” having exacted and obtained a fee of one hundred dollars to procure the signature of the Senator. The Senator would have kicked that friend from his presence had he had any suspicion of the dishonorable traffic. But I ask you, can you tell, or can I tell, if we are facile enough to sign papers at the request of outside friends, that we have not fallen into the same snare, and that your and my signature have not been sold by an office-broker for money?

Now, sir, a glance at the absurdities that are occurring under this system. There is that most formidable of men, “the man to be provided for”; a man who must necessarily have an office; a man who has “claims” that cannot be disregarded and who cannot be neglected with impunity; a man to be put in position at all hazards. I will ask the Secretary to read from the testimony taken by the Retrenchment Committee, published last year, the passage I have marked.

The Chief Clerk read as follows:

There was a gentleman named Livingston, who belonged to one of the old families of New York. He lost his property in the crisis of 1837. There was a vacancy in the appraisers department at New York, by removal or death. He was a Catholic. Mrs. Alexander Hamilton, taking a letter from Bishop Hughes, went to Mr. Tyler, and had Mr. Livingston appointed appraiser. Nobody in the customhouse had any respect for his report; nobody had any respect for his signature. The custom was to inclose his return to another appraiser in an envelope, and it would be investigated before the goods were passed. When Mr. Polk came in everybody thought Mr. Livingston would be removed; but Mr. Livingston remained. Mrs. Hamilton was living, and Bishop Hughes was there and in addition to that there was a petition got up in his favor, headed by Martin Van Buren, and signed by all the leading influential Democrats in the State of New York. That document would be worth $500 for the autographs alone. I knew he could not be removed; but when the tariff of 1846 was made I was one of Walker's Congress, as it was called. Mr. Walker sent for me to go to Washington to help him frame a circular, to arrange the bill. I went there, and worked for some time with him. One night, when we had got through, he ordered up some toddy, and was gossiping. I said to Mr. Walker, “Why don't you send Mr. Livingston as Minister to England?” “Why so?” said he. “Why,” said I, “there are very few questions pending between the two countries now—nothing but what the Secretary of State can attend to. The salary is $9000 and the outfit is $9000, making $18,000. Mr. Livingston is losing you more than two million dollars every month. You cannot remove Livingston. I know you cannot remove him; but I will tell you what you can do. There is a vacancy soon to take place at Chili; let him be sent as chargé d'affaires to Chili.” I went further, and said to him, “You had better send for Bishop Hughes, and send for Mrs. Hamilton, and tell her that the post of appraiser is not the post for Mr. Livingston; that he wants a better place; that you want a Catholic to represent us at the Court of Chili; that the pay is $4500, and the outfit $4500.” Mr. Walker said nothing; but I saw that it made an impression on him; and in about three months I saw in the papers that Mr. Livingston had gone to Chili.

Mr. Schurz. Now, Mr. President, you may think that this is an old story and that such things do not happen to-day. I will tell you of the case of a man to be provided for that came under my own personal observation, and with which I was myself somewhat connected, a circumstance which I by no means mention with pride—it was one of those early errors which, under the present system, a Senator at the commencement of his career is apt to fall into. After the incoming of this Administration, a gentleman of my acquaintance who had strong “claims” desired to be appointed postmaster in a Western city, but the President happened to put one of his own friends into that office; and so the man to be provided for could not be postmaster. Then the delegation of his State agreed to make him pension agent at the same place; but then an influential member of that delegation opposed him, and so he could not be pension agent. Then he took his case into his own hands, for he knew that he was a man to be provided for, and the President nominated him as Minister Resident to a South American republic. Having obtained that, he thought he could obtain more. He saw a chance to be appointed Minister Plenipotentiary to another government, and, sure enough, he received the nomination for that also. Then his nomination came into the Senate and was rejected. There was a terrible disappointment! And yet the man to be provided for was provided for. He was finally sent as governor to a territory. Thus, sir, under the present intelligent system of making appointments, the same man aspired to a post-office, a pension agency, a Minister residentship, a full mission, and finally landed in the governorship of a territory; and the appointing power, yielding to the peculiar pressure characteristic of the existing system, declared him fit for all these places consecutively. And all this in seven days, save the territorial governorship, which was discovered for him afterward.

And with him there were a multitude of men to be provided for at the same time; there always are a good many more than places to put them in. Do you complain of the unnecessary multiplication of offices? That evil is unavoidable as long as we suffer under the system which recognizes men to be provided for. Must it not be clear to every observing mind that our present mode of making appointments is a blindfold game, a mere haphazard proceeding? Was Mr. Lincoln very wrong when once, in a moment of despair, he said with grim humor, “I have discovered a good way of providing officers for this Government: put all the names of the applicants into one pepper-box and all the offices into another, and then shake the two, and make appointments just as the names and the offices happen to drop out together”?

Now, sir, you, as enlightened citizen of the world, observing these things, find this rather a wild way in which the affairs of this great Republic are carried on at Washington. You are somewhat bewildered, and you extend your inquiries further, to ascertain whether the same wild way prevails everywhere else. You go to New York. You visit the customhouse; you know of the magnitude of the interests administered there; you know that the revenues of that customhouse are now far larger than were the revenues of the whole Government not a great many years ago; you notice how complicated that tremendous machinery is, teeming with weighers and gaugers and inspectors and appraisers and examiners, and clerks of all descriptions. A new collector has just been appointed to direct and control that mighty engine. He is a sort of a president on a small scale. Being a new man you find him perplexed with the greatness, variety, delicacy and responsibility of his duties; duties new to him, duties which, in their complexity, he will not be able clearly to understand, much less successfully to perform, without careful study and close application. And yet, what is he doing? The same thing which you found the President to be doing, and the members of the Cabinet; he is distributing offices. He is overwhelmed with applications. He has received in a few days about fifteen thousand of them, and the pressure of applicants and their friends bids fair to drive him crazy. He, too, is obliged to take to pieces the whole machinery of the customhouse and to reconstruct it again in a hurry. You ask him, why all this? He will tell you it is a political necessity. A political necessity, sir! Is not the first political necessity the conscientious and efficient collection of the revenue? No, sir. He will tell you that there is a political necessity far above that, of a much higher order; and you discover that the great customhouse at New York is essentially a political machine. It is to control, as much as possible, the politics of the city and State of New York in the interest of the ruling party.

Now, sir, what are the influences pressing upon that unfortunate potentate, the collector? We heard the Senator from New York [Mr. Conkling] say the other day that he had carefully abstained from making any recommendations for office in the customhouse. I certainly believe his assertion; and all honor to him for it. But I am sure that here we behold not the rule, but an exception. To show you what Congressional influences are sometimes active, I will again refer to the report of the Retrenchment Committee, from which I desire the Secretary to read what I have marked.

The Chief Clerk read as follows:

Question. Can you state how or through what influence Deputy Collector Grigsby obtained his appointment?

Answer. In the first place Senator Edmunds, of Vermont, and Mr. Griswold, of New York, made strong efforts to get me the appointment of Collector of Customs at Brownsville or Corpus Christi, Texas. They did not succeed. I was too black a Republican. Judge Olin also went to the Secretary and told him how long he had known me and what my character was. One day I met Mr. Creecy on the street, and he told me I had the best influence in the country for any position in the Treasury Department, and he asked me if I did not know any Democratic Members or Senators. I told him no. He named over different ones, and I said, “I do not know them.” At last I said, laughingly, “I know John Morrissey. I was born and bred in Troy, near him.” I said, “I know John, but of course he is no good.” Creecy said, “He is just the man you want; he has never asked anything yet. Get Morrissey to ask for a place for you and you will be taken care of.” Going down the street I met Mr. Stevens, a lawyer on Seventh Street, a friend of mine, and I told him of my conversation with Creecy. Said he, “The idea of you being recommended by John Morrissey! I would starve first.” Said I, “I will not starve, and if John Morrissey can get me a place he will do it. He has always known me, and if I can get a place I am going to have it.” I went and saw Morrissey, and Morrissey wrote a letter to Colonel Cooper, stating that he had known me from boyhood and requesting that I be provided for. I took that up and gave it to Colonel Cooper, who had always received me very pleasantly, and he told me to come next day and he would see. Then he said, “Go up-stairs and tell Mr. Creecy that I sent you up to look over the books and select the place you want.”

Mr. Schurz. Let me interrupt the Secretary there. I will state, in order to shorten the story, that the gentleman was appointed, and that this case happened under the Administration of Andrew Johnson, when Mr. Smythe was collector of New York. There is a sample of Congressional appointment in the customhouse at New York, and what has happened is not unlikely to happen again. It is the natural outgrowth of the system.

But Congressional influences are by no means the worst in filling places in the customhouse. They may, and undoubtedly do, sometimes lead to the appointment of good men. But now the ward politician of the great Babel steps upon the scene with his followers, the mighty man who packs caucuses and controls nominations, who does the heavy work at the ballot-box, and attends to the political work done in the grog-shops. His voice is heard in the distribution of office, and the voice of such men of influence cannot be disregarded with impunity.

The other day the Senator from New Hampshire [Mr. Patterson] showed you that, as the investigations of the Retrenchment Committee prove, the New York custom house, too, suffers from men to be provided for, for whom offices must be created, even if the service does not need them. He cited the case of an old apple-woman having a stand near the customhouse who had been on the pay-roll of that institution at New York for months. I presume she represents the case of a woman to be provided for. She had, perhaps, some son or cousin keeping a grocery in one of the lower wards, who exercises political influence, and, in order to propitiate that man of power, the “claims” of the old apple-woman had to be recognized by putting her name on the pay-rolls of the customhouse.

You notice officers there called inspectors; officers whose duties are of the very highest consequence. They, in fact, to a very great extent, hold the revenue of the customhouse in their hands; for they have to watch the unloading of ships and see to it that no goods are smuggled into the city from the vessels arriving in that port. What class of people are those inspectors taken from? We heard it said the other day by the Senator from New Hampshire that they, as they themselves confess, are in the habit of accepting bribes of fifteen to fifty dollars for each vessel that is unloaded under their supervision; that they accept those bribes as a rule, not as an exception. And those officers are selected from that class of people of whom the Senator from New York told us, that, yielding to the frailties of human nature, they would naturally drift into the habit of taking presents or bribes, and you would not expect anything else. If you cannot expect anything else, what becomes of the revenue? But, I will admit, under the present system of distributing offices, you have, indeed, no right to expect anything better.

I will not go into any further particulars. You may think that in New York things were in a bad condition, but that at other places they would present themselves differently. Go across the continent to San Francisco, and you will find exactly the same system working there, leading to similar results. You will be told there that under the prevailing system five collectors went out of office as defaulters to the Government. You will be told that, under the law, officers are to be examined before they are appointed, and yet the very heads of those establishments will, at the same time, inform you that the examination is a mere farce; that as soon as the examining board knows whom the collector wants appointed the favored candidates will pass the examination without the least difficulty. And so you go from place to place, you examine office after office, and you will find the same system at work, and you will find that it tends to produce similar results, only different in degree.

Mr. Cole. If the Senator will allow me, he is evidently alluding to a condition of affairs in California at a former period, under another Administration.

Mr. Schurz. As to the default, I do.

Mr. Cole. But as the Senator was using the present tense, saying “you will find the same condition of things there,” I was apprehensive that a mistake might arise. I will say to the Senator that the offices in California were never better filled, nor could they be, than they are now.

Mr. Schurz. I shall certainly not charge upon the customhouse in San Francisco anything that is not in accordance with the truth. What I referred to was simply the results of investigations which the Committee on Retrenchment made in California when we were there. And I refer to the report of the committee all who want to inform themselves. I will not say that we discovered great frauds being now perpetrated; but we did discover the same looseness in making appointments which prevails elsewhere; and in some statements which were made to us by the higher officials, who themselves complained of bad results, we found evidence that the looseness in the manner of making appointments was at the bottom of the abuses.

Mr. Cole. That examination took place two years ago and referred to what had preceded that time.

Mr. Schurz. Yes, sir. The committee visited San Francisco in August, 1869.

Now, Mr. President, let us go on in our inquiries. You might think that after all that frantic bustle and hurry immediate upon the accession of an Administration to power, the tearing down and the reconstruction of the machinery of the government must finally be accomplished; that the engine must at last be in working order and enjoy something like stability. But you find yourself mistaken. The same system continues through all the four years of an Administration to produce the same disorder. We have the authority of ex-Secretary Cox for this. He says in his essay in the North American Review:

If a month or two were all that is wasted in this employment it would be bad enough, but the truth is, that by far the larger part of the time of the President and all the members of his Cabinet is occupied by this worse than useless drudgery during the whole term of his office, and it forms literally and absolutely the staple of their work. It is therefore no figure of speech to say that administering the Government means the distribution and redistribution of its offices, and that its diplomacy, finance, military, naval and internal administration are the minor affairs which the settled policy of the country has relegated to such odds and ends of time as may be snatched from the greater cares of office.

Mr. Casserly. Will the Senator from Missouri allow me to interrupt him?

Mr. Schurz. Certainly.

Mr. Casserly. I understood him to say, after the correction which he made upon the interruption of my colleague—and my understanding of what he said becomes important—that there was some period in the past when three or four consecutive collectors at the port of San Francisco were defaulters. The port of San Francisco is but a little over twenty years old, and I should be glad to have the authority of the Senator for that statement if he can turn to it.

Mr. Schurz. I will give it to the Senator.

Mr. Casserly. I am quite certain there were many collectors of whom that could not be true.

Mr. Schurz. Here is the testimony taken by the Committee on Retrenchment, of Mr. Samuel J. Bridge.

Mr. Casserly. What is the date?

Mr. Schurz. September 1, 1869.

Mr. Casserly. What page in the book?

Mr. Schurz. Page 133. He says:

In San Francisco we have had seven collectors, and five of them have gone out in default. The office now is well conducted. I do not know of any abuses that exist in it. It was shocking at the close of Buchanan's Administration. It be came very corrupt and continued so at the beginning of Lincoln's; the new appointees fell into the old track.

Mr. Casserly. I think there must be some mistake about that. I think I know of at least three collectors of whom that could not be true. And if Mr. Bridge's testimony is correct, it embraces a period of eight or ten years, during which the party of which the Senator is so honored a member had the control there.

Mr. Schurz. I will certainly accept the explanation of the Senator from California, and let it be recorded that three collectors in San Francisco have gone out of office who were not defaulters.

Mr. Casserly. I said, of my personal knowledge, previous to the incoming of the Republican party.

Mr. Schurz. Mr. President, I was saying that, far from having that great work accomplished, after all this frantic bustle immediately consequent upon the accession of a new Administration, it continues through four years. For instance, the political machinery in New York does not work well, and a new collector has to be appointed. Then the whole structure of the civil service in the customhouse is recast again; and similar things occur all over the country. But even without the appointment of a new collector, there is nothing like stability. As an illustration, I will state the significant fact, that under one collector there were, in the two hundred and forty inspectorships, four hundred changes in the course of three years, and we have reason to believe that the last set was as bad as—if not worse than—the first. At any rate, we have now arrived at the point where all the changes that have taken place have furnished us a set of inspectors who, as they themselves confess, have made it a rule to accept bribes.

Mr. President, you pause after having examined all this and take a general survey. I ask you in all candor and soberness, is not this something like Bedlam? Look over all the civilized countries of the world: do you discover anything equal to it? Look at the characteristic features of the prevailing system. You observe that in making appointments the interests of the public service are—I will not say in all cases, but certainly in a very great proportion of cases—a consideration of only secondary importance. Men are appointed for what they have done or are to do for the party, and not for what they have done or are to do for the public service. They are not infrequently appointed to the salary and not to the office. It is political favoritism raised to the dignity of a ruling system.

Now, sir, in the face of these facts you cease to be astonished at the abuses which abound all around us. Under such a system it cannot be otherwise but that inexperience should follow inexperience and rascality should follow rascality in rapid succession. There is nothing unnatural to your mind now in the needless and expensive multiplication of offices. There is nothing surprising to you now in the frequency and magnitude of embezzlements and defalcations. You understand now perfectly well that when the whisky tax was fixed at two dollars, it was absolutely impossible to enforce the law with the machinery of the public service we had. You are no longer surprised at the frequency of mail robberies which are perpetrated in post-offices. You see the smugglers in our ports lying in wait to watch their opportunity when, taking advantage of the inexperience of new officers, or with the aid of dishonest ones, they can rush whole cargoes into the ports of the United States. It is no longer surprising to you henceforth when you read in the reports of the Committee on Retrenchment that from this source losses have occurred for many years amounting to from twelve to twenty-five million dollars annually at the port of New York alone. Nor is it surprising to you to learn, as is calculated by gentlemen of experience in that institution, that each change of a collector in the customhouse at New York costs the country an average of ten million dollars, in consequence of the confusion and disorder which necessarily follow.

Neither will it be surprising to you to learn, as an illustration of the effect of the system on the administration of justice, what I learned from a United States Judge this very morning, that in his district there had been three changes in the district attorney ship within two years, and that three late district attorneys appeared in the courts as attorneys for the same defendants whom they had commenced to prosecute when in office, now defending them with all the secrets of the Government in their possession, and that in all probability from this source there will be a loss arising to the Government of more than four hundred thousand dollars. No, sir; there is nothing astonishing in all this, for you have learned that the offices of the Government are mere “spoils,” “public plunder;” that instead of being regarded as the places of duty, they are regarded as conquests, the conquest of a party; as “berths” into which men are put, not to use the best of their energies, not to look with anxiety after the interests of the Government, but to make it comfortable for themselves and to serve their friends. And you have learned more: how current these words “spoils” and “plunder” have become in the mouths of the people, so that we have lost almost all sense of their fearful meaning.

I repeat, sir, there is nothing astonishing in all these abuses, if you consider the natural effect of such a system upon the frailties of human nature, which we have heard discussed so feelingly in the course of this debate.

Sir, when a man receives an office as a reward for political services rendered, or as an incentive for further political work; when he feels himself sustained, less by his own energy and efficiency than by political influence, is he not naturally led to rely upon that political influence instead of his own fidelity and efficiency to sustain him in office? Is it not a matter of experience, that even well-intentioned men, who go into office honest and industrious, frequently become dishonest and lazy there, feeling that political influence is more potent than the appreciation of dutiful conduct?

Let us look further. Is not the short and uncertain tenure of office a very severe temptation to a man burdened with the ordinary frailties of human nature to make the most of short opportunities, or at least to have the greatest possible benefit from the least possible work? Hence the formation of “rings” in the public service, of which I will give you an instance in my own experience. I was informed by a very reliable and honorable gentleman, a clerk in one of our Departments here, that immediately after his appointment he endeavored to fulfil his duty to the very best of his ability, doing as much work as he could possibly perform; but after a very few days he noticed that his colleagues in his room were looking sourly at him; and finally he learned the reason of it. They told him, “My good man, it will not do for you to work as much as you do now; it is against the rules of this room. You must conform yourself to these rules. We are accustomed to work just so much and no more, and if you will do more you will repent of it.” The poor fellow, anxious to keep his place, conformed himself to the rules of his room, and then worked just so much and no more, like the rest.

Let me call your attention to a statement made by a gentleman who probably has studied the system of our civil service more thoroughly than any other man in this country; I mean Mr. Jenckes of the House of Representatives. The Secretary will oblige me by reading the passage from his speech which I have marked. It embodies part of the report of an investigating committee.

The Clerk read as follows:

We do not seek to disguise the cause of the inefficiency (to use the mildest term) of these officers. They are all appointed upon political or personal grounds, and as their tenure of office is insecure, and they may be removed at any time without previous notice and without cause, they do the least they can to earn their salaries. To use a favorite phrase with them, they “make the most of their time.” Indeed, if anyone should prove faithful and vigilant, and not only see that persons dealing with the Government act fairly, but also report any delinquencies of their fellows, their tenure of office would be more insecure, and any repetition of such fidelity to the Government would be the occasion of their removal.

One of the worst, if not the very worst, feature in the present condition of the service is that good and faithful officers are unwilling to testify as to what they know of the “irregularities” (to use the fashionably mild term) of their associates. For there are many good and faithful servants, who do the work of these unfaithful politicians, men of character, of families, of long service, who have been unwilling to have their names go upon the record as witnesses to the faults of their associates, lest they should be immediately dismissed by their superiors, or lest their places should be made so uncomfortable by their “irregular” associates that they would be compelled to resign. Nothing has impressed me more with the rottenness and corruption of our present want of system than the tears of these old and faithful servants, who begged that they might not be placed upon the record as witnesses to the faithlessness of their associates, and that it might not even be known that they had been called to be witnesses. Nothing but the assurance of secrecy and the protection given by law to persons giving such testimony could procure us evidence of how the people were being plundered instead of being served.

Mr. Boreman. I ask the Senator what is the date of that speech?

Mr. Schurz. May 14, 1868. I desire to say to my friend from West Virginia and to the Senate that the review I give here of the public service does not by any means apply exclusively to the present condition of things. I am endeavoring to present a general view of the workings of the existing system, extending over a series of years. Those workings may appear a little more favorably now, and a little worse then; but the general results, while the system prevails, are essentially the same.

Now, sir, observe the effect which this system is calculated to produce upon the character of those who are under its influence. Officers being party servants, have they not to sacrifice to a very great extent the independence of their own opinions? Is it not true that their very position breeds hypocrisy, sycophancy and venality, and that this is apt to result in a deterioration of manhood?

Is it not also natural that, in consequence of this, the public service should not stand as high in public opinion as it ought to do; that men who aspire to office, do so not infrequently at a sacrifice of self-respect? I have seen men of ability and a fine sense of honor walk the streets of Washington hanging their heads and full of shame for doing what ought to be considered honorable: aspiring to public office; now smarting under the necessity of self-humiliation which the desire to succeed seemed to impose upon them, and giving up the attempt because they could not endure it. The consequence of this is obvious; it is a class of aspirants of lower character. The impaired respectability of the service can hardly fail to have such effects. It weakens the inspirations of an honorable pride, which public servants ought to possess. There is the destruction of that esprit de corps which preserves the morality of the civil service in other countries, and which here distinguishes the Army and Navy in point of personal honor and integrity. Render our public servants proud of the dignity of their position, and most of the immoral practices will disappear from which the public service is now suffering.

I am certainty very far from representing all our public servants as a degraded class of men. There are, I am happy to say, many, very many, who manfully bear up against the influences working upon them. Honor to them! But those influences are as I have described them; they are the natural product of the “spoils” system as it exists; and their effects will grow worse the longer they are suffered to be at work.

But, sir, their effect upon the efficiency of the civil service itself is not the worst evil we have to deplore. Follow a Congressman into his State or district. Look at him as a candidate. Some of them rely for success upon their ability, their character, their merits; others do not. These others speculate upon the frailties of human nature among their constituents. Observe one of the latter; how he attempts to build up the machinery of his influence at home; and for this the patronage offers him the ready means. He makes promises of office for the purpose of obtaining support, sometimes promiscuously, recklessly, in duplicate and in triplicate—promises impossible to be kept. Look at the situation of such a man. He is covered all over with fraudulent mortgages, and he stands before himself as a dishonorable deceiver before he is elected. By his promises he may have endeavored to buy others; he has certainly succeeded in demoralizing himself.

But now he is elected, and he commences to distribute offices. The Senator from Indiana [Mr. Morton], whom I am sorry not to see in his seat, says that the system by which a Congressman is to distribute local offices is a guaranty for conscientious recommendations, for a Congressman would make himself unpopular by recommending unworthy men to public places. In some cases that may be so; but is it not frequently otherwise? Does not a Congressman frequently make recommendations for office merely for the purpose of paying old debts, discharging political obligations, or preparing for a new campaign with a view to his own reëlection?

But, sir, when he commences to distribute the offices, those duplicate and triplicate promises come down upon him; and what then? Then you will find those cases which are referred to in the essay of ex-Secretary Cox where he describes honorable Senators and members of the House of Representatives standing before a member of the Cabinet with recommendations in their hands and with the candidates for office on their arms, abounding in expressions of good will and friendship for their protégés, presenting them as the worthiest of mortals, whose appointment they most ardently, anxiously advocate, while the Cabinet minister has in the drawer of his table confidential notes from the same honorable Congressmen requesting him not to pay any regard to the recommendation which they are just so eloquently and affectionately urging. Why, sir, I know that assertion of Secretary Cox to be true, for I myself have been informed by two heads of Departments that such cases are by no means infrequent.

Well, sir, look at the member of Congress who does this. You may pity the poor constituent who is thus deceived. But is not the honorable gentleman who resorts to such tricks of duplicity, and who stands as a liar before himself, to be more despised than pitied? And yet you may pity him also. For he is a victim of the spoils system as it works upon the frailties of Congressional human nature. But what will the man who does this be capable of doing afterward? And what will you say of a system which brings forth such results among the representatives of the people, who make the laws of the country?

Let us proceed. The machinery of the home influence is now constructed, and the Congressman thinks he has accomplished what he needs for his future prospects. But something new intervenes. It happens that the Executive has a pet scheme of which the Congressman conscientiously disapproves. Here is a complication. Does he insist upon his opposition? Then the Executive may threaten to withdraw his favor from him and to remove his appointees. If, on the other hand, he yields, the Executive may promise not only to keep those in office who were appointed upon his recommendation but to grant new favors to him. There, sir, is that great struggle between conscience and interest which has brought so many a man to his fall. Will such things happen? They may happen; nay, sir, they have happened; and the Spoils system invites them with such power of seduction that they certainly will happen again. Here the system develops its full effects upon the frailties of human nature.

The temptation to the Executive is certainly great. It is that temptation which is always connected with power; a temptation which but few men, if any, have been able to withstand. But the temptation to the Congressman is still greater. His interest is potently working upon his mind. The Congressman, losing favor with the appointing power, loses his power also to keep that machinery of home influence, upon which in a great measure he depends for success, in working operation. His chances at the next election are constantly before his eyes. His own appointees, if he persists in his opposition to the Executive, may turn against him, for the Executive has means to work upon the frail human nature of officeholders. Thus the Congressman may suddenly find himself deserted by the very friends upon whose gratitude he counted. The clamor of new aspirants for office will be still stronger.

Sir, we have all experienced that kind of pressure upon us. Do you remember at the commencement of this Administration, when we were asked to repeal the tenure of office act, how the clamor of officeseekers arose around us to influence our decision; how they denounced those who resisted the repeal of that law as the enemies of the President at the very beginning of the Administration; and how they vociferously demanded that we should fling the laws at the feet of him who sits at the fountainhead of favor?

Thus the spoils system, with the vast ramification of its influences, works upon the independence of the legislator.

But the same temptation presents itself in another shape. A Congressman discovers abuses in a Department. If he attacks them he is in danger of having his clerks removed; he may be informed that he is no longer entitled to the favors of that Department. Shall he give up his appointees, or violate his duty in ignoring the abuses?

The thing has sometimes been turned the other way. I am reliably informed that Congressmen have gone to a head of Department and threatened him that unless he appointed their particular protégés, they would vote against the appropriations for the Department. To appoint supernumeraries would have been a grave violation of duty on the part of the head of the Department. And yet, under the pressure of the spoils system, a Congressman demands it, with the threat that unless it be done he will violate his duty in a manner equally gross, by voting against a necessary appropriation.

But it appears in still another shape. A Congressman has procured an appointment for one of his friends, an appointment of great responsibility. He has, so to say, pledged his honor for the honor of the officer. That man commits gross misconduct; under his management serious abuses develop themselves. Is not the Congressman sorely tempted to cover up or whitewash that delinquency instead of fearlessly exposing it and bringing the guilty man to punishment? Is not there again the interest of the Congressman, under the influence of the Spoils system, working directly against the interest of the public good?

And now, sir, we arrive at a very interesting and some what startling question: can a Congressman, under the present system, be entirely honest? That question has been addressed to me by an intelligent observer, and my first impulse was at once to say, certainly he can. Yes, I believe he can; but I declare, sir, when you survey the whole field, when you study the influences of the present system upon the frailties of human nature, you will admit that it is exceedingly difficult for him to be so. The system is a hotbed of that peculiar kind of corruption which is the more dangerous as it does not appear in the palpable, gross and unequivocal form of money, but appears in the seductive shape sometimes of an apparently honorable political or personal obligation. It insinuates itself like a subtle poison into those crevices of the human conscience which are opened by the expansion of generous feelings. And when that poison finds in an individual already the least corrupt tendency to work upon, it will develop it with wonderful rapidity. All the practices which I have been describing here I call corrupt, as I would call corrupt every act of a public servant intended to promote personal interest at the expense of the public good. If we have ceased to regard those practices in that light, it only shows that under the influence of the “spoils” system our moral sensibility has been dulled, and that a certain indifference as to the corrupt character of our own motives, unless they appear in the most palpable and the grossest form, has gradually and insensibly crept over us all. And this I regard as one of the most dangerous influences of the present way of doing things.

Now look at the effect upon the workings of the government. It is said that, by the patronage as it is now dispensed, a part of the Executive functions is transferred to the Legislature. This is true. But at the same time the independence of the Legislature is seriously endangered by the corrupting power of the Executive. The true statement of the case seems to be this: by the so-called right of recommendation, as it is at present practiced, members of the Legislature encroach beyond the point foreseen in the Constitution upon what the Executive ought to be most independent in and responsible for, namely, the administrative functions; and, on the other hand, by the power of giving and withholding patronage, the Executive exercises power over what the Legislature ought to be most independent in, namely, the legislative functions. Thus the system weakens and demoralizes both ways. It is a disturbance of the Constitutional balances; it is a perversion of the powers of the government.

But, sir, on the whole, it strengthens the Executive in the worst sense, by giving him power over the meaner instincts of human nature. See how it works. The representative of the people stands before the Executive in the attitude apparently of an adviser, but in fact of a petitioner—an attitude always improper, and not seldom degrading. The appointments to office he asks for, even if they are calculated to promote the public good, are granted to him as favors, favors that can be withheld just as well as they can be granted. If such favors are necessary to him to keep up the machinery of his influence at home, then he feels himself, as he really is, in the power of the Executive.

The temptation is terribly strong, therefore, to buy those favors, even at the expense of his convictions and of his manhood. Thus it is that this system weakens the backbone and makes supple the knees of public men before the great dispenser of gifts. Thus it creates and nourishes that fawning servility which stifles the voice of honest criticism; and it requires very great emergencies indeed, like Andrew Johnson's glaring tergiversation, to break that dangerous spell.

But, on the other hand, the system is a source of peculiar dangers to the Executive also. Those who ascend the Presidential chair do not leave all the frailties of human nature behind them. The voice of interested sycophancy is apt to fill their ears and to befog their judgment. Even their errors find some who will applaud them. Even their follies will meet with obsequiousness. The servility which cringes before them is apt to lower their general estimate of manhood. They will form the dangerous conclusion that they can wield the people as readily as they can wield those individuals who live and thrive on the Presidential smile. They are not seldom easily persuaded that, whatever a few factious critics may say, the country is fairly aglow with delight over its ruler. Why, sir, even Andrew Johnson, when he arrived at that point where those of his friends who respected themselves turned their backs upon him, was firmly convinced that his popularity with the people was omnipotent; and Presidents of better sense are not exempt from the danger of falling into errors of similar significance. They are not infrequently led to despise an unpleasant truth because it appears so lonesome and forlorn in the crowd of agreeable fictions gotten up for the purpose of pleasing and propitiating the Presidential fancy. And thus Presidents, seduced by the picture of popular admiration which is constantly held up before them, are apt to drop from mistake to mistake, to dare one blunder after another, until finally the verdict of the people, unmistakably expressed, wakes them up from the dangerous and deceptive dream of invincible popularity.

And why all this? The reason is very simple: because the Spoils system has made the atmosphere of the Executive Mansion so thick with favor-seeking flattery that the sound-waves of an independent public opinion can no longer penetrate it. Thus even Presidents are apt to become the victims of the spoils!

And yet this is not the worst feature of the system. You extend your observations further. A new Presidential election is coming on; a great contest of principles and policies, but at the same time a great contest for “public plunder.” There are the spoils ahead, with the prospect of “a new deal.” Men of patriotic and pure motives enter the arena; but also the speculators rush to the front, with whom all patriotic motives are overshadowed by mercenary impulses. They are ready for what is called “dirty work,” and their presence will create it where they do not find it.

The periodic recurrence of a “new deal” of the spoils has created a greed for office which is raging like an epidemic disease and is continually growing worse. There is a desire, unfortunately spreading among the young men of the country, to live either without work or with as little work as possible, and that desire is stimulated to a morbid degree by the seductive opportunities of political life. Many good men, young and old, are drawn off from honest and remunerative labor, because they are told that it is so easy to get an office and so pleasant to enjoy a living at the public expense. A political proletariat is forming itself in consequence, which is recruited from men who, following that morbid infatuation, are drawn away from productive pursuits. That proletariat is pressing upon candidates, not infrequently forming their bodyguard. The most reckless politicians become very important in the fight, voluntarily undertaking the work which sometimes candidates would shrink from advising. And these men will be the most clamorous for reward; and being the most persistent and the most dangerous, they will not infrequently be also the most likely to receive it. Thus a class of camp-followers, caring for nothing but the spoils, fastens itself upon political parties.

You ask, why cannot political parties preserve their purity? Mainly because the spoils system attracts to them, and makes prominent and important in them, impure elements. On the other hand, men of a higher tone, disgusted with this spectacle, will sometimes fall to the rear; and thus we deplore the loss of some of the most valuable elements of the population from active political life.

Now, sir, the Presidential election being over, the same spectacle, as I have described it, is repeated, whatever party may have carried the day. Another question presents itself: the Spoils system being carried on under the auspices and responsibility of political parties—can a political party be honest? Sir, I look upon it as almost, I might say entirely, impossible. The reason is simple: the party in power being held responsible for the conduct of partisan officers, will always be irresistibly tempted, in order to save itself, to conceal and whitewash the dishonest practices and abuses carried on by such officers, instead of fearlessly exposing, punishing and correcting them. Party interest, as now understood, exercises a terrorism over the members of political organizations which but few are able to resist. He who honestly and fearlessly denounces abuses is considered not only a dangerous character, but he is considered a bad party man; and it may interest the Senate to know that a member of this body, who but a few days ago spoke about the abuses carried on in one of the offices of the country, was approached by anxious political friends and blamed for having made a speech against his party!

Sir, it is in vain while the Spoils system prevails to look to any party for a thorough reform of abuses. It is in vain, because those very abuses have become an integral part of the machinery through which parties obtain and wield power.

But by far the worst and most dangerous effect of the Spoils system is the demoralization of the public sentiment. We know that on certain frontiers smuggling, robbing the revenue, is not considered an entirely dishonorable business. Now, I ask you, sir, is it not true that here it does not render a man generally infamous if he robs the United States provided he does it cleverly? Is it not true that things are considered fair in politics which would be looked upon as positively dishonorable in private life? Has not the taking dishonest advantage of political power and influence for the acquisition of wealth become a thing which is judged by a great many with alarming leniency? When the offices of the Government are looked upon as spoils to be enjoyed, instead of duties to be performed, is it a wonder if in certain quarters the atrocious notion has gained currency, that he is a fool who in a political position is not knave enough to steal? Is it a wonder that under the spoils system the pursuit of politics should be looked upon as a trade of somewhat tainted character; that in explaining the actions even of the most honorable men the suspicion of impure motives should, in preference of all others, be resorted to by the multitude, not with proper indignation indeed, but with stolid levity and with resigned indifference, an indifference still more demoralizing?

Is it a wonder if professional politicians, sensible of the tainted character of their business, sometimes ask themselves, “Why should we be better than the reputation of our trade? Why should we not enjoy the benefits of dishonest dealings if they are imputed to us all the same?” Is it a wonder that even well-meaning men drift into corrupt practices without knowing it, since long habit and the general example have dulled their moral apprehension of the true character of such practices, and since public opinion has become so indifferent to them?

Thus, sir, the demoralization nourished by the system of spoils has filtered through the whole body-politic from top to bottom, even to the lowest strata of the population; and you cannot fail to feel the deep significance of the words once uttered by Mr. Lincoln, to which the Senator from Massachusetts [Mr. Wilson] has already alluded. One day shortly before his death, after the commencement of his second Administration, he pointed out to a friend the crowd of officeseekers besieging his door, and said to him, “Now we have mastered the rebellion; but there you see something that in the course of time may become far more dangerous to this Republic than the rebellion itself.” And indeed, sir, he had a prophetic mind.

I have endeavored to describe the evil; what now is the remedy? Is there any probability that the evil will correct itself? I doubt it. A revolution in public sentiment ever so decided would hardly have lasting effect unless clothed in the form of law. We have to deal with a system of temptations which will work the same results as long as it exists at all. Let us see, then, whether legislative means are available and bid fair to be effective.

The present practice of distributing office in the way of patronage being the root of the evil, the problem consists in reaching that, without running against the spirit of the Constitution. I desire to move the bill to reform the civil service, which I introduced at the commencement of the last session, as a substitute for the bill introduced by the Senator from Illinois. I have changed it in only one essential point.

I do not indulge in the delusion by any means that the substitute I offer has any claim to perfection; on the contrary, I am painfully sensible of its shortcomings; but at any rate it may serve well as a basis for discussion. As I have already stated, the weak point in the bill of the honorable Senator from Illinois is this: that if he renders it impossible for the appointing power to derive information about the appointments to be made from Members of Congress another source of information must be substituted, which his bill fails to do. This source of information is supplied in my bill by the second section, which I ask the Secretary to read.

The Chief Clerk read as follows:

Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That, there shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, a board of nine commissioners, to be called the civil service board among whose duties shall be the following: First. To prescribe the qualifications requisite for an appointment into each branch and grade of the civil service of the United States, having regard to the fitness of each candidate in respect to age, health, character, knowledge and ability for the branch of service and the particular office for which he presents himself or is presented for appointment. Second. To provide for the examinations and investigations to be instituted concerning the character and qualifications of all persons eligible under this act who may present themselves or be presented for admission into the civil service. Third. To establish rules governing the applications of such persons, the times and places of their examinations, the subjects upon which such examinations shall be had and the investigations to be made concerning the character and qualifications of such applicants, the mode of conducting the same and the manner of keeping and preserving the records thereof, and of perpetuating the evidence of such applications, qualifications, examinations and investigations, and their result as they may think expedient. Such rules shall be so framed as to keep the branches of the civil service and the different grades of each branch distinct and separate. The said board shall divide the country into territorial districts for the purpose of holding examinations of, and conducting investigations concerning, candidates resident or sojourning therein, and shall designate one or more convenient and accessible places in each district where examinations shall be held and investigations conducted. Fourth. To hold and conduct such examinations and investigations personally, or by persons by them specially designated for the purpose. Fifth. To make report of all rules and regulations established by them, and of a summary of their proceedings, including an abstract of their examinations of, and investigations concerning, candidates for positions in the civil service, annually, to Congress at the opening of each session.

Mr. Schurz. Before this board all the applications for office are to go. This board is not to be in any sense a partisan engine. The mode of appointment and the tenure which it is to have will give it a certain independence of party government. It is to be renewed one-third by every successive Administration, and will soon have a mixed political character, as one Administration succeeds upon another, probably under the auspices of different parties. The members of the board shall not be removed except for cause, according to the provisions of the tenure of office act before it was amended by this Congress at its first session. But they may be removed for cause deemed sufficient by the Senate. The salary of the commissioners is to be ample enough to command a respectable degree of ability and acquirements, and the value of the salary as enhanced by a long tenure. I will add that the number of commissioners composing the board, as the bill fixes it, is not essential. It ought not to be too small at first, for there will be a great pressure of work. It might be reduced afterward, when the machinery is in successful operation. I ask the Secretary now to read the fifteenth section of the substitute, to show in which way it is designed to secure to the board a mixed political character.

The Chief Clerk read as follows:

Sec. 15. And be it further enacted, That the several members of the civil service board first appointed in pursuance of this act shall by lot be divided into three classes of three persons each, the first class to be appointed for the term of four years, the second class to be appointed for the term of eight years, and the third class to be appointed for the term of twelve years, unless sooner removed in accordance with the provisions of this act; and that after the expiration of their respective terms their successors shall be appointed for the term of twelve years each: Provided, however, That whenever, by reason of the death or resignation or removal of any member, any vacancy occurs in the civil service board before the expiration of the term for which the member so vacating his office was appointed, then the person appointed to fill such vacancy shall be appointed to hold such office only during the balance of the term for which his predecessor was appointed.

Mr. Schurz. The officers of the Government are divided into two classes: first, the subordinate officers, whose appointment is now by law vested in the heads of the different Departments, the routine men, the clerks; and secondly, the executive officers, who are now appointed by the President of the United States by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. The subordinate officers are to be appointed after competitive examination; and I desire the Secretary to read the third section of the substitute.

The Chief Clerk read as follows:

Sec. 3. And be it further enacted, That all appointments of inferior officers whose appointment is or may hereafter be vested by law in the heads of Departments, except postmasters, shall be made from those who shall have passed the required examinations in the following manner: the applicants who stand highest in order of merit on the list of those who have passed the examination for any particular branch and grade of the civil service shall have the preference in appointment to that branch and grade, and no person now in office who shall hereafter be appointed under the provisions of this act shall be promoted or transferred from a lower to a higher grade unless he shall have passed in like manner the examination prescribed by the civil service board for such higher grade. All such examinations shall be open to all persons who shall make application therefor.

Mr. Schurz. The fitness of candidates for Presidential appointments shall also be examined by the board. There are certain offices the discharge of the duties of which requires special knowledge, experience and skill; and candidates for such offices are fit subjects for regular examination. There are other offices, for instance country post-offices, in connection with which the examination of a candidate would hardly be deemed necessary and proper. The distinction is to be fixed by the regulations of the board. Where no examination is considered necessary the board shall institute such inquiries as may be called for to ascertain the character, antecedents, standing in society and general fitness of candidates. The results of such examinations shall be reported by the board to the President and to the Senate, to guide the Executive in making nominations and the Senate in confirming or rejecting them. The interference of Congressmen will then no longer be required. Will the Secretary now read the fourth section?

The Chief Clerk read as follows:

Sec. 4. And be it further enacted, That whenever any vacancy occurs in any office required by law to be filled by appointment by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, except those specially designated as exceptions in section twenty-one of this act, the qualifications of all candidates who present themselves or are presented for appointment to fill such vacancy shall be ascertained either by examinations to be held or investigations to be instituted, or both combined, according to general rules to be established by the civil service board, and that said board shall make a full report of such examinations and investigations, stating what candidates have and what candidates have not, in the opinion of the board, demonstrated their fitness for the performance of the duties of such office, and the reasons for such opinion; and also, as nearly as possible, the order of merit of the different candidates; and that the board shall forward one copy of such report to the President, and one to the Senate.

Mr. Schurz. You will notice, sir, that in the case of Presidential appointments the President is to choose freely from the whole number found fit, and that those only are to be excluded from his choice who are found unfit for the office for which they present themselves. Thus the choice is by no means to be made by the board, but by the President.

One of the most important features of the substitute is the change in the tenure of officers. The section of my bill touching subordinate officers, as it originally stood, provided that those subordinate officers who are appointed by the heads of Departments, except postmasters, should be appointed on good behavior. The current objection to this was that it would create a distinct and aristocratic class among our population. I, for my part, must confess that I never feared any such result. In fact, the idea of a class of aristocrats, consisting of departmental clerks at Washington and of customhouse and post-office clerks at New York and other cities, seems to me somewhat ludicrous.

Mr. Howard. If the Senator from Missouri will allow me, I wish to make an inquiry respecting the substitute which he has offered. It has not yet been fully read; and I wish to ascertain from him whether his substitute does not require that all appointments should be made from the lists of those who have passed an examination in pursuance of the regulations of the board of which he speaks?

Mr. Schurz. Yes, sir.

Mr. Howard. And that all other persons are excluded from that charmed circle; is that it?

Mr. Schurz. The design is that all who apply for office shall be sent before the board for examination.

Mr. Howard. And no person shall be appointed at all unless they belong to that class?

Mr. Schurz. I was just going to state that all applicants for office shall be sent before the board for examination, provided they be applicants for offices for which an examination is found necessary by regulation, and that those who are not found fit shall be excluded from appointment.

Mr. Howard. That is to say, that no person having failed in an examination before the board shall be appointed to office?

Mr. Schurz. Not until he proves able to pass the examination or is found fit upon inquiry.

Mr. Howard. And no person can be appointed to office unless he has been examined. Is that it?

Mr. Schurz. I think if the Senator had listened to me he would have heard me say that in regard to some offices an examination would be necessary, and that in regard to others mere inquiries, to be instituted by the board, would be sufficient, the result to be laid before the President in the shape of reports; but that where examination is considered necessary no man shall be appointed who fails to pass that examination.

Mr. Howard. That is to say, the President of the United States shall not select, in making nominations to the Senate, any person who has not passed an examination, and he shall not especially appoint to office any person who has not passed a certain examination. Is not this an infringement of the power of the President to make nominations and appointments?

Mr. Schurz. That is one of those questions which I have been considering in drawing that section. I do not believe that it is. I believe that it is competent for Congress to exclude certain classes of people, unfit for the performance of public duties, from those public duties. For instance, it would decidedly be competent for Congress to exclude from nomination, say for Lieutenant-General, men who had never served in the Army. I have no doubt Congress has power to attach such conditions of appointment to offices created by law.

Mr. Warner. I should like to ask the Senator from Missouri a question, if he will yield.

Mr. Schurz. Certainly.

Mr. Warner. Would not his system prevent the President from appointing to office any man who did not apply?

Mr. Schurz. No, sir; it would not. The President may select a man whom he wishes to appoint to office, and then send him before the civil service board, to ascertain whether he is fit. If that man does not want to go before the civil service board, the presumption is that he does not want to go into office.

I was just remarking that in my opinion the tenure on good behavior of those subordinate officers would, in my opinion, by no means be productive of the dangers which have been pictured in such glaring colors. I do not believe that these dangers exist in a country which is ruled by public opinion, and where the administration of affairs changes so frequently. And yet it is so obvious that a proposition like this could not carry in either House of Congress, or perhaps even before public opinion, that it has been abandoned. This, however, is not the only reason why it was given up. I believe that free competition and a rigid competitive examination before a board composed of conscientious examiners, as a condition of appointment, will prevent the frequent occurrence of removal without sufficient cause. At any rate, when vacancies in the Departments are to be filled only with men having issued best from a competitive examination, the service will not suffer by the change, removals and appointments on mere partisan grounds will cease and greater stability will be secured without sacrificing the elasticity of the system.

As to the Presidential appointments, I desire the Secretary to read sections eight and nine, defining the tenure of those offices.

The Chief Clerk read as follows:

Sec. 8. And be it further enacted, That all officers in the civil service of the United States at the time when this civil service board shall commence their examinations, except those whose appointment and promotion is regulated in section three of this act, and those specially designated as exceptions in section twenty-one of this act, shall hold their offices for the term of five years from the date of their commissions, respectively, unless sooner removed in accordance with the provisions of this act: Provided, however, That the discontinuance of an office shall in every case discharge the person holding it from the service.

Sec. 9. And be it further enacted, That all appointments in the civil service of the United States made after this act shall have taken effect and in pursuance of its provisions, except those whose appointment and promotion is regulated in section three of this act, and those who are specially designated as exceptions in section twenty-one of this act, shall be made for the term of eight years, unless sooner terminated by the death, disability or resignation of the occupant, or by his removal as hereinafter provided; and that, when before the expiration of such term a vacancy occurs in any such office, the officer selected in pursuance of the provisions of this act to fill such vacancy shall be appointed, not merely for the balance of the unexpired term of his predecessor, but for a new term of eight years from the date of his commission.

Mr. Schurz. The object of these two sections is twofold: in the first place, to relieve the Administration at its commencement of the pressure which we now witness; and secondly, to take the partisan character from the civil service. Section eight throws the expiration of the term of those now in office at least one year beyond the commencement of the next Administration, when the new President, as well as the new members of the Cabinet, will be well versed in the exigencies of the service.

It is provided that the regular term of office shall be eight years, and whenever a vacancy occurs it shall not be filled merely for the balance of the unexpired term, but the officer filling the vacancy shall be appointed for another full term of eight years. The object is this: in the first place, regular rotation with every successive Administration shall cease. Officers being removable only for cause to be tried, and officers appointed by one Administration holding through the term of another, we shall accustom ourselves to the practice of having men in office belonging to another party than that which controls the Administration. And as vacancies gradually occur, by death, resignation or removal for cause, to be filled for full terms of eight years, the expiration of the terms of the different officers will no longer occur at one time, but be scattered over the period of eight years, thus giving the civil service board sufficient time to conduct their examinations and inquiries as they successively become necessary to fill vacancies, and enabling the Executive, as well as the Senate, to act leisurely and intelligently upon all the cases coming before them.

That the regular term should be just eight years I do not deem absolutely essential. It would indeed give the public service the benefit of more experienced officers. But to attain the other objects described it would be sufficient to fix a term of five, six or seven years as well. I admit that the practical capacity of a candidate for office, his executive ability, cannot be with sufficient certainty ascertained by examination. This might lead to embarrassments, as the officer is not to be removed during his term except for cause to be tried. It is therefore provided that the first year of service of an officer belonging to this class shall be his year of probation, during which his practical ability may be well ascertained. And during that year of probation the Executive shall have power to remove the officer at pleasure, without assigning or proving a cause. It will thus be seen that no distinct and privileged class of Government officers, no bureaucracy is to be created, but the elasticity of the present system is to be preserved—improved, however, by a method of selection, which will secure a better class of officers, and by a longer and more secure tenure, which will remove the partisan character and raise the moral standard of the service.

The fifth section of the bill is intended to encourage honesty and efficiency in the service and to give the public servant an honorable record in the form of a testimonial. The Secretary will please read it.

The Chief Clerk read as follows:

Sec. 5. And be it further enacted, That whenever any officer in the civil service of the United States shall vacate his office, either at the expiration of his term, or by resignation, or otherwise, the head of the Department under which such officer served shall issue to him a testimonial stating the manner in which such officer performed the duties of his office; and that copies of such testimonials shall be kept on record in the Departments from which they issued respectively; and that whenever any such person, after having vacated such office, shall make application or be presented as a candidate for the same, or any other office in the civil service, such testimonial shall be produced before the civil service board and shall form part of the report of said board on the case of such person. And whenever any officer in the civil service shall, before the expiration of his term of office, make application for continuance in the same office for another term, or for any other office in the civil service, then the head of the Department under which such officer serves shall likewise issue such testimonial, which shall then be produced before the civil service board and form part of the report of said board as aforesaid: Provided, however, That whenever the President shall see fit to reappoint an officer at the expiration of his term to the same office for another term, then this shall be considered as an equivalent to a certificate of good behavior and efficiency, and no further proceedings by the civil service board shall be required in the case of such officer.

Mr. Schurz. Finally, sir, certain officers are excluded from the operation of this bill. I desire the Secretary to read section twenty-one.

The Chief Clerk read as follows:

Sec. 21. And be it further enacted, That the following officers shall be excepted from the operation of this act: the Judges and clerks of the courts of the United States, the members of the Cabinet, the Ministers Plenipotentiary, and the Ministers Resident of the United States, and the officers of the two houses of Congress.

Mr. Schurz. As far as the Judges of the United States are concerned, it may be presumed that no other than men universally recognized as being eminent in the law would be selected for such places by any Administration; and as to members of the Cabinet and diplomatic officers, representing, as they do, not only a public duty, but in a certain sense also the political views of the Administration, it is proper that the Administration should have the free disposal of those places.

Mr. Howard. I would ask the honorable Senator why he excepts the Judges of the Supreme Court from the category of persons to be examined before their appointment? Is there not greater necessity for the examination of applicants for judicial station than for any other position in the civil service?

Mr. Schurz. As I have already stated, it may fairly be presumed that no Administration would select any other but men very eminent in their profession to fill such positions.

Mr. Howard. Is not the eminence of the station the strongest reason that can be conceived for subjecting the applicant to an examination as to his fitness?

Mr. Schurz. It might there with propriety be asked, who is to examine the candidates for such places as judgeships on the Supreme Bench?

Mr. Howard. I suppose they would be examined by the board of examiners, the nine, would they not?

Mr. Schurz. I supposed in such a case it would be entirely inappropriate.

Mr. Howard. Why not, is the question?

Mr. Schurz. For the simple reason that for the highest judicial offices of the Government, if only obeying the voice of decency, every Administration would select only those standing highest in their profession. There are examinations in the Army for a number of grades. We might just as well ask who is to examine a candidate for the position of General-in-Chief.

Mr. Cole. Would not that reason apply to all offices?

Mr. Schurz. It would not. In the nature of things, it may fairly be presumed that the applicants will exclusively belong to the small class of those who are eminent enough to be mentioned in connection with such places.

Mr. Cragin. The Senator, I presume, has not forgotten that these appointments are for life, and therefore there would be greater necessity of having exactly the right men.

Mr. Schurz. I have certainly not forgotten that. But, on the whole, I think the experience of the people of the United States has been that but very few mistakes in the history of this country have been made in the selection of members of the Supreme Court of the United States. As to the diplomatic officers of the Government, there, I admit, this question might be asked with much greater propriety. But as diplomatic officers of the Government are to represent not only a public duty, but also the political views of the Government, it is proper that the Administration should be left free in their choice; and I believe also that when no longer any danger exists that a man will be appointed Minister Resident or Minister Plenipotentiary because he fails in obtaining a post-office, we shall have a better set of diplomatic officers than now.

Now, sir, I repeat, I do not pretend that this plan is in any way perfect. On the contrary, I feel its shortcomings. Let us regard it as a suggestion that may call out others. I invite the Senate to consider the benefits arising from some such system. It would, of course, not at once remove all the evils complained of; but it would certainly secure greater efficiency in the civil service. It would certainly procure for it men of higher capacity, even by deterring ignorance and men of low reputation. It would certainly raise the respectability of the service; and a certificate of fitness issued by the civil service board would be a mark of distinction and serve as a passport in all the walks of private life everywhere. It would certainly inspire a sentiment of honorable pride among officers. It would secure more efficient control, by putting by the side of an officer one belonging to another party, instead of making the whole one great partisan ring. It would abolish the absurd practice by which an Administration is pressed to take to pieces and rebuild at the start the whole machinery of the government. It would relieve the President, Cabinet and Congressmen from importunity, and give them time to attend to their legitimate duties. It would restore the independence of the different departments of the Government. Offices ceasing to be party machinery, political parties would be relieved of responsibilities and would be encouraged in the freedom of criticism. Then a thorough retrenchment and reform of abuses would finally be attainable.

But more than that, the Spoils system, once destroyed, a healthier moral feeling in political life will be rendered possible; the corrupt temptations working in all spheres of the body-politic will be greatly lessened; the standard of morality in political life will be raised; political contests will once more be contests of principles and policies, instead of being scrambles for spoils; the political proletariat, with its demoralizing practices and influences, will gradually be broken up, and all the best elements of the population will again be attracted to political life. Politics will then become once more what they always ought to have been, a most honorable occupation engaging the noblest aspirations.

I am aware of the objections that are currently brought to a system like this. It is said that the reform proposed would be obnoxious to the theory of our government. I maintain that in its effects it would be in strict accordance with the original intentions as exemplified by the early practices of the Government. The Senator from New Hampshire, a few days ago, quoted a passage from The Federalist in which Alexander Hamilton states most strongly the intention of the makers of the Constitution to prevent the interference of members of Congress in the appointment of officers and to secure stability in the civil service.

Mr. Williams. I should like to ask the Senator one question. Does it not appear from the early history of this Government that it was held that officers were subject to removal at the will of the Executive?

Mr. Schurz. It does; but it appears also that the power of the Executive in that direction was but very rarely exercised. It appears from the teachings of the Fathers, as well as the early practice of the Government, that nothing was further from the minds of the statesmen of those times than that there should be a general breaking up of the administrative machinery every four years, to be accompanied and followed by the scandals which we now witness. Who of them ever thought of it, that a competent and worthy officer should be removed as long as he was competent and worthy? Nay, let me say to the Senator: if the great Fathers of the Republic, if Washington and Jefferson and Madison and Hamilton could rise up from the dead and look at the spectacle which now so frequently presents itself to our eyes, they would stand aghast at the perversion which the beautiful fabric of the government, as they designed it, has suffered at the hands of subsequent generations.

Mr. Williams. I wish to ask the Senator if the system which he is now assailing was not established by the Fathers of this Republic, and if all the evils of which he complains may not be remedied by electing a man President of the United States who will return to the early practices of the Republic?

Mr. Schurz. Have we not elected more than once men to the Presidency of the United States upon whose integrity and sagacity and wisdom we built the highest hopes? Can the Senator point out within the reach of his memory a single President of the United States who ever dared to attempt the sweeping reform of which he speaks? Does he expect, as long as the present system prevails, if a change of party control should occur, that then a President would have the strength to rise up and say, “I will have no longer a partisan organization in the public service?” Does he think that such a President could thus control the greed of his partisan followers? Does he expect any party that may follow ours in the control of affairs, to abstain from grasping the spoils if there is no impediment in the way? To produce such a result would require a tremendous revolution in popular sentiment. I certainly would hail with delight such an event; but have we a right to expect a moral revolution so powerful unless we prepare the way for it by removing the temptations which are now operating on the minds of the politicians and the multitude?

We are told that there is a popular notion prevailing in this country that every American citizen is entitled to public office. Yes, so he is; but would it not be well to create the additional popular notion that then every American citizen shall fit himself for public office in point of intelligence, acquirements and character? Thus office may even become an educational element in society.

“Are we to do nothing for our friends who helped sending us here?” we are sometimes asked. “Shall we say to them when they come to us asking for an office, ‘No, you shall not have it?’ ” Sir, I am willing to do much for my friends; they shall command my best endeavors. And I think we can do something vastly better for them and their children and their children's children than giving them post-offices and places in customhouses; and that is, to pass laws which will secure to them good government.

Again, the objection is made that a reform of this kind would be incompatible with republican institutions. Sir, it seems to have become fashionable with some, whenever a great abuse is attacked that has worked itself into our political habits, to say that this is one of the evils in separably connected with republican government, and that we must not touch it lest we touch republican government itself.

I, sir, have a far higher idea of republican government. I do not believe that true republican government is in any sense necessarily wedded to organic disorder and demoralization. I certainly do not indulge in the delusion that all the frailties and weaknesses of human nature can be abolished by an act of Congress; but I do not think that republican government will suffer if we repress ignorance and mercenary motives, and thus open a wider practical field for the intellectual and moral elevation of man. I am sure that republican government can endure the examination of candidates for public office before they are intrusted with public responsibilities; and that it can endure also the exclusion of those who are intellectually and morally unfit for public station.

Republican government, it seems to me, does not depend upon an official tenure of four years. I think it will not suffer by an extension of that tenure to six or eight. I maintain that republican government will rather gain than lose, and gain immensely, by a reform which takes from the machinery of the public service its partisan character, and which will remove from our political life that most dangerous agency of corruption and demoralization which consists in partisan patronage; which will restore to political activity again all the best elements of our population, and to predominance the loftiest and most patriotic feelings of the human heart. I therefore repel that cry, as a slander upon the beneficent institutions under which we live and as an insult to the good sense of the American people.

It is said also that the country cannot be governed, that parties cannot be sustained under any but the existing system. Why, sir, such assertions are almost as old as history. There never was an absolutist, there never was a devotee of despotism, who did not strenuously affirm that if you limited the power of kings the whole world of morals and civilization would fall into chaos. If you had asked Walpole, he would have told you that it was impossible to govern England without a corruption fund. If you had asked the Duke of Wellington, he would have insisted upon it that the constitution of Great Britain would be ruined beyond redemption if you abolished the rotten boroughs. Why, have we become so imbecile as to declare ourselves incapable to conceive and act upon a new idea, which is to do away with existing abuses? Has republicanism really arrived at its wit's end? Nay, sir, we are not permitted to stand still in this matter; we must go either forward or we shall be driven backward. We must control these evils or these evils will control us.

It has been said that a practice like the one proposed might have been proper when the Republic was young and small, when the interests it had to deal with were limited and when the number of offices was insignificant; but that now since the Republic has grown great, since the functions of the government have become complicated and the number of officers immense, it is entirely out of the question. Is that so? I affirm that just the reverse is the case. When the machinery of the government was simple and when the eyes of the Executive and his chief agents could be everywhere, then rotation in office might have been endurable; it might not have left those dangerous consequences behind it. But now, since the interests we have to deal with have grown so tremendous, since the number of officers has risen to the dimensions of an army and since the machinery of government stretches its arms into every relation of life, now, sir, is it not evident that the evils springing from the demoralizing tendency of the existing system increase a thousandfold as we go on, and that a reform is imperatively commanded by this very circumstance?

On previous occasions I have alluded to the dangers threatening from the growing power of great moneyed corporations; how that power is already felt in State and National politics, and bids fair to exercise a controlling influence, dangerous even to our free institutions. Can we afford to disregard that danger? Is it not time to consider what will become of our political life when such a power takes possession of political parties, whose very discipline is enforced by continual appeals to mercenary motives, and by practices in their very nature corrupting? Is it not time to consider what, under the influence of such a power, a Government will become, which is surrounded by demoralizing temptations on all sides, and which holds in its hands means of corruption penetrating all spheres of society? And considering this, in the face of such dangers, is it not high time that those temptations should be removed, that those means of corruption should be curtailed and that a moral spirit should be infused into our body-politic capable of resisting such sinister influences?

Sir, this is no mere fancy. The demand for civil service reform is not a mere cry of croakers, who are constitutionally dissatisfied, or of restless innovators, who want to achieve a little cheap notoriety. It springs from the patriotic anxieties of serious, thinking men who, with profound solicitude, watch the growth of evils threatening the future of the Republic which they love. That demand cannot be laughed out of the way; it will not be put down by jests and sneers. That demand will become stronger every day; and I predict the time is not far when political party can disregard it with impunity.

It was to me a hopeful sign when the President had a favorable word for civil service reform in his message. Why should we hesitate to act upon that suggestion? Do we not know that the older the evil grows the more difficult will be its eradication? Do we not feel that every session, every day, lost, is an opportunity lost? It is in this spirit that I have submitted to the Senate the plan I have explained. I repeat that I have no pride of opinion about it. On the contrary, no man will be happier than I if the wisdom of the Senate should discover and furnish one which is better. But let us at last approach this important problem with that fearlessness of thought which will enable us to be candid with ourselves, and with that determination of purpose which is necessary to arm us for the struggle with inveterate habit, prejudice and the corrupt influences developed to such alarming power in our political life.

  1. Speech in the U. S. Senate, Jan. 27, 1871. The Senate had under consideration the bill (S. No. 298) to relieve members of Congress from importunity and to preserve the independence of the different departments of the Government.