Those cheerful frauds who enrich themselves by the confection of such small primers of American citizenship as are on tap at the local immigrant school have divine certainty on two points. First, of course, is the great democratic hypothesis of equality which Mr. Lincoln phrased so enchantingly at Gettysburg. But next the halting, all credulous alien is told that in the dark days of our republic, when irate heaven scorned the frontiersman and his libations, a very wicked gargoyle named the spoils system flourished in the land. Ah, alien--when he departed, and the curtains parted, there was Pendleton, kicking the gong around, and civil service reform was born full fledged into the republic. The England its birth was difficult, for all the midwifery of Macaulay and of Gladstone, but England is not the United States. The alien does not doubt, but he is not long a citizen before ugly suspicions grow up to cloud his mind.
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Yesterday, Senator Reed of Pennsylvania refused to attend a banquet convoked to felicitate the newly crowned postmaster of Pittsburgh. He objected to the ousting, on purely partisan grounds, of the man who had preceded him, and whose term was not yet consummated. "There are," said Senator Reed, "other cases in which this arbitrary removal has been called into action in Pennsylvania." And there are, although Senator Reed did not mention them, numerous cases in other states, as, for example, the postmaster of Chicago, who was uprooted from a useful career in the same bland and cavalier fashion, if not to the honor, at least to the glory, of the Democratic party. There is in further background the Portland postmaster of happy memory, whose protest against Lord Woodrow and demand for back salary piqued the Supreme Court into its historic rumble that the power to appoint connotes the power to remove, though a hundred Pendletons block the path.
The flaw in this prounciamento rests not in its legality, for the Supreme Court was, and is, composed of men whose consecration in life is to the high art of being legal. But it is not their consecration to be philosophers, and perhaps that is why, with the exception of Holmes, Brandeis, and Cardozo, the Court is fifty years behindhand in its political philosophy. The Roscoe Pound of a golden prime was wont to insist that law was in really social engineering; now he talks ponderously of the common courts and of their law which must chiefly enforce our security. When the arch-apostle of social jurisprudence has left his banner, what moulding, horrible depths of legalism must the Supreme Court contain, and what small hope for the farsighted and illegal cauterizer of our civil institutions.
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Mr. Reed, and his fellow Republicans in Chicago, are angry because they had to surrender the key to their enfiefed barn before the first of the month. The point they miss, the point the Supreme Court missed, the point our legislators miss is so elementary that their refusal to grasp it must be disingenuous. Why should the divorce of our civil service from politics stop just on the threshold of social utility? Why should every office sufficiently exalted to arrest the interest of a capable man, or well paid enough to support him, remain in the grab bag of our party soothsayers? Why should the honest ambition of those men in our civil service who are able, but are declassed in the heinous hierarchy of our parties, be stified by the knowledge that the tempting rungs have been filched from the ladder, and are distributed by the high mok-a-mok to his faithful chieftains? Why in short, do we prattle so happily of civil service reform as a fit accompli because men who sort letters and deliver mail are chosen by examination, when those who direct their activity are selected, simply and openly, by politicians? No really successful civil service, such as the British or the Swiss, has developed with this poison at its roots, and ours cannot escape the rule. Talk of driving the moneychangers out of the temple may be Biblical, and, as in the Bible, they have been driven from the vestibule of our own. But we should not overlook the pews, now the takers of the collection. POLLUX.