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or disregarded, it is safe to assume that the people who placed them in the Constitution, as embodying the legitimate results of the war for the Union, and who believe them to be wise and necessary, will continue to act together, and to insist that they shall be obeyed. The paramount question still is as to the enjoyment of the right by every American citizen who has the requisite qualifications to freely cast his vote and to have it honestly counted. With this question rightly settled, the country will be relieved of the contentions of the past; bygones will indeed be bygones; and political and party issues, with respect to economy and efficiency of administration, internal improvements, the tariff, domestic taxation, education, finance, and other important subjects, will then receive their full share of attention; but resistance to and nullification of the results of the war will unite together in resolute purpose for their support all who maintain the authority of the government and the perpetuity of the Union, and who adequately appreciate the value of the victory achieved. This determination proceeds from no hostile sentiment or feeling to any part of the people of our country or to any of their interests. The inviolability of the amendments rests upon the fundamental principle of our government. They are the solemn expression of the will of the people of the United States.
The sentiment that the constitutional rights of all our citizens must be maintained, does not grow weaker. It will continue to control the government of the country. Happily, the history of the late election shows that in many parts of the country where opposition to the fifteenth amendment has heretofore prevailed, it is diminishing, and is likely to cease altogether, if firm and well-considered action is taken by Congress. I trust the House of Representatives and the Senate, which have the right to judge of the elections, returns, and qualifications of their own members, will see to it that every case of violation of the letter or spirit of the fifteenth amendment is thoroughly investigated, and that no benefit from such violation shall accrue to any person or party. It will be the duty of the Executive, with sufficient appropriations for the purpose, to prosecute unsparingly all who have been engaged in depriving citizens of the rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution.
It is not, however, to be forgotten that the best and surest guarantee for the primary rights of citizenship is to be found in that capacity for self-protection which can belong only to a people whose right to universal suffrage is supported by universal education. The means at the command of the local and State authorities are, in many cases, wholly inadequate to furnish free instruction to all who need it. This is especially true where, before emancipation, the education of the people was neglected or prevented, in the interest of slavery. Firmly convinced that the subject of popular education deserves the earnest attention of the people of the whole country, with a view to wise and comprehensive action by the Government of the United States, I respectfully recommend that Congress, by suitable legislation and with proper safeguards, supplement the local educational funds in the several States where the grave duties and responsibilities of citizenship have been devolved on uneducated people, by devoting to the purpose grants of the public lands, and, if necessary, by appropriations from the Treasury of the United States. Whatever government can fairly do to promote free popular education ought to be done. Wherever general education is found, peace, virtue, and social order prevail, and civil and religious liberty are secure.
In my former annual messages, I have asked the attention of Congress to the urgent necessity of a reformation of the civil-service system of the government. My views concerning the dangers of patronage, or appointments for personal or partisan considerations, have been strengthened by my observation and experience in the Executive office, and I believe these dangers threaten the stability of the government. Abuses so serious in their nature cannot be permanently tolerated. They tend to become more alarming with the enlargement of administrative service, as the growth of the country in population increases the number of officers and placemen employed.
The reasons are imperative for the adoption of fixed rules for the regulation of appointments, promotions, and remorals, establishing a uniform method, having exclusively in view, in every instance, the attainment of the best qualifications for the position in question. Such a method alone is consistent with the equal rights of all citizens, and the most economical and efficient administration of the public business.
Competitive examinations, in aid of impartial appointments and promotions, have been conducted for some years past in several of the executive departments, and by my direction this system has been adopted in the custom-houses and post-offices of the larger cities of the country. In the city of New York over two thousand positions in the civil service have been subject, in their appointments and tenure of place, to the operation of published rules for this purpose, during the past two years. The results of these practical trials have been very satisfactory, and have confirmed my opinion in favor of this system of selection. All are subjected to the same tests, and the result is free from prejudice by personal favor or partisan influence. It secures for the position applied for, the best qualifications attainable among the competing applicants. It is an effectual protection from the pressure of importunity which, under any other course pursued, largely exacts the time and attention of appointing officers, to their great detriment in the discharge of other official duties, preventing the abuse of the service for the mere furtherance of private or party purposes, and leaving the employé of the government, freed from the obligations imposed by patronage, to depend solely upon merit for retention and advancement, and with this constant incentive to exertion and improvement.
These invaluable results have been attained in a high degree in the
offices where the rules for appointment by competitive examination hare been applied.
A method which has so approved itself by experimental tests at points where such tests may be fairly considered conclusive, should be extended to all subordinate positions under the government. I believe that a strong and growing public sentiment demands immediate measures for securing and enforcing the highest possible efficiency in the civil service and its protection from recognized abuses, and that the experience referred to has demonstrated the feasibility of such measures.
The examinations in the custom-houses and post-offices bave been held under many embarrassments and without provision for compensation for the extra labor performed by the officers who have conducted them, and whose commendable interest in the improvement of the public service has induced this devotion of time and labor without pecuniary reward. A continuance of these labors gratuitously ought not to be expected, and, without an appropriation by Congress for.compensation, it is not practicable to extend the system of examinations generally throughout the civil service. It is also highly important that all such examinations should be conducted upon a uniform system and under general supervision. Section 1753 of the Revised Statutes authorizes the President to prescribe the regulations for admission to the civil service of the United States, and for this purpose to employ suitable persons to conduct the requisite inquiries with reference to "the fitness of each candidate, in respect to age, health, character, knowledge, and ability for the branch of service into which he seeks to enter," but the law is practically inoperative for want of the requisite appropriation.
I therefore recommend an appropriation of $25,000 per annum to meet the expenses of a commission, to be appointed by the President in accordance with the terms of this section, whose duty it shall be to devise a just, uniform, and efficient system of competitive examinations, and to supervise the application of the same throughout the entire civil service of the government. I am persuaded that the facilities which such a commission will afford for testing the fitness of those who apply for office will not only be as welcome a relief to members of Congress as it will be to the President and heads of departments, but that it will also greatly tend to remove the causes of embarrassment which now inevitably and constantly attend the conflicting claims of patronage between the legislative and executive departments. The most effectual check upon the pernicious competition of influence and official favoritism, in the be. stowal of office, will be the substitution of an open competition of merit between the applicants, in which every one can make his own record with the assurance that his success will depend upon this alone.
I also recommend such legislation as, while leaving every officer as free as any other citizen to express his political opinions and to use his means for their advancement, shall also enable him to feel as safe as any private citizen in refusing all demands upon his salary for political purposes. A law which should thus guarantee true liberty and justice to all who are engaged in the public service, and likewise contain stringent provisions against the use of official authority to coerce the political action of private citizens or of official subordinates, is greatly to be desired.
The most serious obstacle, however, to an improvement of the civil service, and especially to a reform in the method of appointment and removal, has been found to be the practice, under what is known as the spoils system, by which the appointing power has been so largely encroached upon by members of Congress. The first step in the reform of the civil service must be a complete divorce between Congress and the Executive in the matter of appointments. The corrupting doctrine that “to the victors belong the spoils” is inseparable from Congressional patronage as the established rule and practice of parties in power. It comes to be understood by applicants for office, and by the people generally, that Representatives and Senators are entitled to disburse the patronage of their respective districts and States. It is not necessary to recite at length the evils resulting from this invasion of the Executive functions. The true principles of government on the subject of appointments to office, as stated in the national conventions of the leading parties of the country, have again and again been approved by the American people, and have not been called in question in any quarter. These authentic expressions of public opinion upon this all-important subject are the statement of principles that belong to the constitutional structure of the government.
Under the Constitution the President and heads of departments are to make nominations for office. The Senate is to advise and consent to appointments, and the House of Representatives is to accuse and prosecute faithless officers. The best interest of the public service demands that these distinctions be respected; that Senators and Representatives, who may be judges and accusers, should not dictate appointments to office.
To this end the co-operation of the legislative department of the government is required, alike by the necessities of the case and by public opinion. Members of Congress will not be relieved from the demands made upon them with reference to appointments to office until, by legislative enactment, the perpicious practice is condemned and forbidden.
It is, therefore, recommended that an act be passed defining the relations of members of Congress with respect to appointment to office by the President, and I also recommend that the provisions of section 1767 and of the sections following of the Revised Statutes, comprising the tenure-of-office act of March 2, 1867, be repealed.
Believing that to reform the system and methods of the civil service in our country is one of the highest and most imperative duties of statesmanship, and that it can be permanently done only by the co-operation of the legislative and executive departments of the government, I again commend the whole subject to your considerate attention.
It is the recognized duty and purpose of the people of the United States to suppress polygamy where it now exists in our Territories, and to prevent its extension. Faithful and zealous efforts have been made by the United States authorities in Utah to enforce the laws against it. Experience has shown that the legislation upon this subject, to be effective, requires extensive modification and amendment. The longer action is delayed, the more difficult it will be to accomplish what is desired. Prompt and decided measures are necessary. The Mormon sec. tarian organization which upholds polygamy has the whole power of making and executing the local legislation of the Territory. By its control of the grand and petit juries, it possesses large influence over the administration of justice. Exercising, as the heads of this sect do, the local political power of the Territory, they are able to make effective their hostility to the law of Congress on the subject of polygamy, and, in fact, do prevent its enforcement. Polygamy will not be abolished if the enforcement of the law depends on those who practice and uphold the crime. It can only be suppressed by taking away the political power of the sect which encourages and sustains it.
The power of Congress to enact suitable laws to protect the Territories is ample. It is not a case for half-way measures. The political power of the Mormon sect is increasing; it controls now one of our wealthiest and most populous Territories. It is extending steadily into other Territories. Wherever it goes it establishes polygamy and sectarian politi. cal power. The sanctity of marriage and the family relation are the corner-stone of our American society and civilization. Religious liberty and the separation of church and state are among the elementary ideas of free institutions. To re-establish the interests and principles which polygamy and Mormonism have imperiled, and to fully reopen to intelligent and virtuous immigrants of all creeds that part of our domain which has been, in a great degree, closed to general immigration by intolerant and immoral institutions, it is recommended that the government of the Territory of Utah be reorganized.
I recommend that Congress provide for the government of Utah by a governor and judges, or commissioners, appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate—a government analogous to the provisional government established for the territory northwest of the Ohio by the ordinance of 1787. If, however, it is deemed best to continue the existing form of local government, I recommend that the right to vote, hold office, and sit on juries in the Territory of Utah be confined to those who neither practice nor uphold polygamy. If thorough measures are adopted, it is believed that within a few years the evils which now afflict Utah will be eradicated, and that this Territory will in good time become one of the most prosperous and attractive of the new States of the Union.
Our relations with all foreign countries have been those of undisturbed peace, and have presented no occasion for concern as to their continued maintenance.