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Executive Order 3455—Civil Service in Postmaster Appointments

May 10, 1921

When a vacancy exists or hereafter occurs in the position of postmaster at an office of the first, second or third class, if such vacancy is not filled by nomination of some person with the competitive classified Civil Service who has the required qualifications, then the Postmaster General shall certify the fact to the Civil Service Commission, which shall forthwith hold an open competitive examination to test the fitness of applicants to fill such vacancy, and when such examination has been held and the papers in connection therewith have been rated, the said Commission shall certify the results thereof to the Postmaster General, who shall submit to the President the name of one of the highest three qualified eligibles for appointment to fill such vacancy unless it is established that the character or residence of any such applicant disqualifies him for appointment: PROVIDED: That at the expiration of the term of any person appointed to such position through examination before the Civil Service Commission, the Postmaster General may, in his discretion, submit the name of such person to the President, for renomination without further examination.

No person who has passed his sixty-fifth birthday, or who has not actually resided within the delivery of such office for two years next preceding such vacancy, shall be given the examination herein provided for.

If, under this order, it is desired to make nomination for any office of a person in the competitive classified service, such person must first be found by the Civil Service Commission to meet the minimum requirements for the office.


THE WHITE HOUSE, May 10, 1921.


There are more than 400,000 men and women participating in governmental work who are in classified service. All of these are under the permanent provisions of the civil service law and rules.

These permanent rules provide for the certification of the highest three eligibles, from which list of three each necessary appointment is made. The successful operation of the principles of civil service law has demonstrated the wisdom of this provision. This leaves in the appointing power, who has the ultimate responsibility for efficient administration, the necessary, constitutional right of choice. This right of selection is the kind of responsibility which cannot legally be and is not abridged by Act of Congress, and is in exact harmony with the spirit of the civil service principle.

There are 52,332 postmasters. Of these, 39,433 are in the Fourth Class, and are now under such civil service laws and regulations as bring them within the privileges and conditions of the classified service.

Of the remaining 12,899 post offices, 700 are First Class, 2,617 are Second Class and 9,582 are Third Class. Obviously these offices are business agencies of the government in legal purpose and should become so in fact. The only certain ultimate way to bring this about is to classify First, Second and Third Class postmasters. This will require an Act of Congress. It is a step forward, measured by the requirements of progress, and is one which I hope will be made. Under existing laws the Executive has no power to require that these offices be placed in the classified service.

Moving in that direction, however, the Executive Order issued today provides that if any such vacancy is not filled by nomination for promotion of one from* within the competitive classified civil service, then an open competitive examination shall be held and the appointment shall be made from one of the highest three eligibles, as required now by law in the classified civil service.

This order, which is for our own guidance in making these appointments, will bring an operation squaring with the requirements of any probable future legislation.

Under this order the kind of test and plan of investigation and examination which shall be provided for, shall be approved by the President and shall be based on the applicant's business training, experience, ^ fitness, organizing and executive ability and general qualifications for an efficient administration, and shall in no sense be a cloistered, scholastic examination which might result in a high grade in theory, but not a guaranty of efficiency in fact.

This order applies to all present incumbents of post offices whose terms have expired, and will apply to all other incumbents as their present terms expire.

Warren G. Harding, Executive Order 3455—Civil Service in Postmaster Appointments Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/329251

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