The Republican era, 1869-1901; a study in administrative history by White Leonard Dupee 1891-1958

The Republican era, 1869-1901; a study in administrative history by White Leonard Dupee 1891-1958

Author:White, Leonard Dupee, 1891-1958
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: United States -- Politics and government -- 1865-1900
Publisher: New York, Macmillan
Published: 1958-03-15T05:00:00+00:00


Before 1829 the postal service had been nonpoliticaf in character.Appointment of postmasters was de facto for good behavior; removalswere not made for partisan reasons; clerks in the larger offices werenot disturbed by a change of administration. Custom, not law, pre-scribed this state of affairs.

During and after Jackson s administration departmental clerksand post office employees were gradually taken over by Democraticand Whig administrations alike. The Department became the greatpatronage agency of government; the Postmaster General, the “cabinetpolitician.” The Civil Service Act of 1883 was aimed in the firstinstance at the larger post offices and the customs service. Its protec-tion was extended to postal employees in offices having a staff ofover fifty and to the departmental clerical force in Washington.Much of the service remained outside the civil service system, butthe most vulnerable parts were covered by law and by the inadequateauthority of the Civil Service Commission.

The merit system was gradually extended, partly by the increasein number of offices requiring more than fifty employees, partly bycovering-in new classes of employees. The principal new categorieswere the Railway Mail Sendee, with over 5,000 employees (1889);the free-delivery offices, with over 7,000 employees (1893); ma^'bag and mail-lock repair shops, with about 200 employees (duringCleveland’s second administration).36

The Post Office Department generally welcomed the merit systemand its successive extensions, although it was not energetic in theearly years in enforcing civil sendee requirements in the field. JohnWanamaker stated in his second annual report: “I think it wouldbe impossible to find an appointing officer who has not been gladto take advantage of stringent examinations to keep away the merepolitical place-seekers. They used to be provided; they would surelybe provided in all the Departments if they were lacking.”37 In hislast annual report he recommended placing all carriers (in small aswell as large offices) under civil service.38 Postmaster General Bissell

3C U.S. Civil Service Commission. Annual Report, 1898-99, pp. 134-36.

37 Postmaster General, Annual Report, 1889-90, p. 39.

38 Ibid., 1891-92, p. 81.


The Post Office Department

wrote in his annual report for 1892-93, referring to the Civil ServiceAct, “Indeed, so great have become the proportions of this Depart-ment, and the magnitude of its operations, that, in my judgment, itwould be a matter of practical impossibility to conduct its affairswith any near approach to its present degree of efficiency without thebenefit and protection of this law/’39

In its annual report for 1884-85, the Civil Sendee Commissionrecorded a large number of enthusiastic comments from postmasters.4*Two will suffice to indicate their tenor. New York City: “It [i.e., themerit system] has relieved me almost entirely from solicitation andaltogether from pressure in the matter of appointments. The characterand capacity of those appointed under the rules have been good. . . .The general effect of the system upon the moral tone and businessefficiency of this office has, as I believe, been excellent. ... I amconvinced its discontinuance or curtailment would be to the lastdegree injurious to the public interests. . . ,”41 Cincinnati: “The relieffrom solicitation and pressure for office was felt immediately afterthe law went into effect. .


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