The Writings of Carl Schurz/To Grover Cleveland, January 11th, 1893


“Solitude,” Jan. 11, 1893.

Yesterday I received the enclosed letter from Mr. Sherman Hoar, a Member of Congress from Massachusetts, one of the young Democrats, whom you probably know. Although the letter is of a somewhat confidential character, I think it best to communicate it to you with the request that you return it at your convenience. As to the recommendation he makes concerning Mr. Roosevelt, I agree with him in every essential respect. I may add to what he says that, as I have very good reasons to believe, it has not been Mr. Roosevelt's wish to remain a member of the Civil Service Commission and that he has been prevailed upon to consider the possibility of remaining only at the urgent solicitation of several friends of the civil service reform cause. I am convinced, as Mr. Hoar is, that you now occupy a position in which you can deal a blow to the spoils system from which it will never recover; that by doing so you will render the country a service no less great, if not greater, than even by the reform of the tariff, and that in performing this task you can hardly find a more faithful, courageous and effective aid than Mr. Roosevelt.

Since you in our last conversation confidentially mentioned to me your difficulties in the construction of your Cabinet, you will perhaps not think it presumptuous if I add to what I then said, this further remark:

The observance of certain general principles in making appointments being a matter of detail, and the President not being able to watch every case in person, it seems important that he should have at least in the great patronage Departments, the General Post-Office, the Treasury and the Interior Departments, Secretaries upon whose sympathy and coöperation with him as to the observance of those principles he can safely depend. This appears especially necessary with regard to the General Post-Office, which owing to the multitude of the places at its disposal has usually attracted the greatest attention and caused the most scandal. The laying down of certain definite rules for the government of its operations and for the resistance to be offered to the pressure which is unavoidable, would seem to be especially called for.

Concerning the question whether the chiefs of division in the Departments should be brought under the civil service rules which was touched upon in our last conversation, I might say in addition to what I said, that it would perhaps be harmless to leave the appointment of the chiefs of division to the discretion of the chiefs of the bureaus subject to the approval of the heads of the Departments, were the chiefs of the bureaus permitted to make the selections themselves without outside interference. But such is not the case. When it is known that the chiefs of the bureaus have the potential voice in the appointment of the chiefs of division, they are at once set upon by Congressmen or other influential politicians who urge them to make removals for the purpose of putting their favorites, or importunate place-hunters they want to get rid of , into the places thus vacated. This goes so far that while I was Secretary of the Interior several of my chiefs of bureaus came to me with the earnest request that I relieve them of this pressure which harassed them excessively, by making a rule enabling them to say that they had no power to dispose of such places. The pressure then came upon me and gave me a great deal of trouble until it was generally understood that I would not yield to it. The extension of the civil service rule would obviate all this and, withal, furnish the most efficient men considering that the power of removal remains unimpaired.

If you should have time for an exchange of views upon this and kindred subjects, it would give me much pleasure to put myself at your disposal. I notified Mr. Roosevelt that you wish to see him on Jan. 17th at 12 o'clock.