Mr. President, in the old Arabian story, from the little box upon the sea-shore, carelessly opened by the fisherman, arose the towering and haughty demon, ever more monstrous and more threatening, who would not crouch again. So from the small patronage of the earlier day, from a Civil Service dealing with a national revenue of only $2,000,000, and regulated upon sound business principles, has sprung the un-American, un-Democratic, un-Republican system which destroys political independence, honor, and morality, and corrodes the national character itself. In the solemn anxiety of this hour the warning words of the austere Calhoun, uttered nearly half a century ago, echo in startled recollection like words of doom: “If you do not put this thing down it will put you down.” Happily it is the historic faith of the race from which we are chiefly sprung, that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. It is that faith which has made our mother England the great parent of free States. The same faith has made America the political hope of the world. Fortunately removed by our position from the entanglements of European politics, and more united and peaceful at home than at any time within the memory of living men, the moment is most auspicious for remedying that abuse in our political system whose nature, proportions, and perils the whole country begins clearly to discern. The will and the power to apply the remedy will be a test of the sagacity and the energy of the people. The reform of which I have spoken is essentially the people’s reform. With the instinct of robbers who run with the crowd and lustily cry “Stop thief!” those who would make the public service the monopoly of a few favorites denounce the determination to open that service to the whole people as a plan to establish an aristocracy. The huge ogre of patronage, gnawing at the character, the honor, and the life of the country, grimly sneers that the people cannot help themselves and that nothing can be done. But much greater things have been done. Slavery was the Giant Despair of many good men of the last generation, but slavery was overthrown. If the Spoils System, a monster only less threatening than slavery, be unconquerable, it is because the country has lost its convictions, its courage, and its common-sense. “I expect,” said the Yankee as he surveyed a stout antagonist, “I expect that you ’re pretty ugly, but I cal’late I ’m a darned sight uglier.” I know that patronage is strong, but I believe that the American people are very much stronger.
OF NEW YORK. (BORN 1829.)
THE NECESSITY AND PROGRESS OF CIVIL SERVICE REFORM.
An Address delivered at the Annual Meeting of the
National Civil Service
Reform League at Chicago, Ill., December 12, 1894.