Grover Cleveland

Executive Order

March 21, 1888

To the United States Civil Service Commission.

GENTLEMEN: I desire to make a suggestion regarding subdivision (c), General Rule III, of the amended civil-service rules promulgated February 2, 1888. It provides for the promotion of an employee in a Department who is below or outside of the classified service to a place within said classified service in the same Department upon the request of the appointing officer, upon the recommendation of the Commission and the approval of the President, after a noncompetitive examination, in case such person has served continuously for two years in the place from which it is proposed to promote him, and "because of his faithfulness and efficiency in the position occupied by him," and "because of his qualifications for the place to which the appointing officer desires his promotion."

It has occurred to me that this provision must be executed with caution to avoid the application of it to cases not intended and the undue relaxation of the general purposes and restrictions of the civil-service law.

Noncompetitive examinations are the exceptions to the plan of the act, and the rules permitting the same should be strictly construed. The cases arising under the exception above recited should be very few, and when presented they should precisely meet all the requirements specified, and should be supported by facts which will develop the basis and reason of the application of the appointing officer and which will commend them to the judgment of the Commission and the President. The sole purpose of the provision is to benefit the public service, and it should never be permitted to operate as an evasion of the main feature of the law, which is competitive examinations.

As these cases will first be presented to the Commission for recommendation, I have to request that you will formulate a plan by which their merits can be tested. This will naturally involve a statement of all the facts deemed necessary for the determination of such applications, including the kind of work which has been done by the person proposed for promotion and the considerations upon which the allegations of the faithfulness, efficiency, and qualifications mentioned in the rule are predicated.

What has already been written naturally suggests another very important subject, to which I will invite your attention.

The desirability of the rule which I have commented upon would be nearly, if not entirely, removed, and other difficulties which now embarrass the execution of the civil-service law would be obviated, if there was a better and uniform classification of the employees in the different Departments. The importance of this is entirely obvious. The present imperfect classifications, hastily made, apparently with but little care for uniformity, and promulgated after the last Presidential election and prior to the installation of the present Administration, should not have been permitted to continue to this time.

It appears that in the War Department the employees were divided on the 19th day of November, 1884, into eight classes and subclasses, embracing those earning annual salaries from $900 to $2,000.

The Navy Department was classified November 22, 1884, and its employees were divided into seven classes and subclasses, embracing those who received annual salaries from $720 to $1,800.

In the Interior Department the classification was made on the 6th day of December, 1884. It consists of eight classes and subclasses, and embraces employees receiving annual salaries from $720 to $2,000.

On the 2d day of January, 1885, a classification of the employees in the Treasury Department was made, consisting of six classes and subclasses, including those earning annual salaries from $900 to $1,800.

In the Post-Office Department the employees were classified on February 6, 1885, into nine classes and subclasses, embracing persons earning annual salaries from $720 to $2,000.

On the 12th of December, 1884, the Bureau of Agriculture was classified in a manner different from all the other Departments, and presenting features peculiar to itself.

It seems that the only classification in the Department of State and the Department of Justice is that provided for by section 163 of the Revised Statutes, which directs that the employees in the several Departments shall be divided into four classes. It appears that no more definite classification has been made in these Departments.

I wish the Commission would revise these classifications and submit to me a plan which will as far as possible make them uniform, and which will especially remedy the present condition which permits persons to enter a grade in the service in the one Department without any examination which in another Department can only be entered after passing such examination. This, I think, should be done by extending the limits of the classified service rather than by contracting them.


Grover Cleveland, Executive Order Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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