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Ousting the spoilsman
During this period of national bicentennial
observances, the Federal civil service is
proud to take its place among institutions
that have made important contributions to
building a better America. Through the
"merit system," the backbone of today's
civil service, Federal personnel practices
reflect the ideals of equality and fairness
that were fundamental to the founders of
the new republic. For almost one hundred
years, the merit system has played a vital
role in building one of the finest govern-
ments in the world.
There was a time, however, when the merit
system did not exist.
The year was 1881. The nation was well
started on its second hundred years-and
was on the move. There was room to grow,
and the country was growing. The West
was tamed and Horatio Alger heroes were
young America's ideal.
Everything pointed to progress, with a no-
table exception-a weakness in govern-
ment that embarrassed most Americans.
The "spoilsmen" still rode in the driver's
Many citizens wanted to change the sys-
tem that fostered inefficiency an),,,tpf
dishonesty on the part of p 0i erl ...
appointed to office through~ ~~ oils sys- p
tem," but they had not s e ,esede in p~ .
ting a stop to the prae k.e: Then, ora "
summer day in the Capi Ftty, something :'
happened that shocked t nation. .
The President of the United States was
assassinated by a madman who felt he was
entitled to a public office as a political
Aroused citizens everywhere showed by
their ballots in the congressional elections
of 1882 that they wanted civil service re-
The Civil Service Act was signed into law
January 16, 1883.
What the act did
To put it in the fewest possible words, the
Civil Service Act brought MERIT to the
Under the new law, applicants would have
to demonstrate their fitness for a job in
competitive entrance examinations-open
to all citizens-ruling out such consider-
ations as political influence, "who you
know," and other nonmerit considerations.
Appointments would be made from among
those scoring highest in the tests.
Equally important, there would be no
wholesale firings and restaffing when the
political parties changed. This meant there
would be continuity in Government, for the
operating people in the competitive serv-
ice would stay put when the leadership
Not all Federal employees were placed
"under civil service" at first. Only 10 per-
cent of the Federal work force was in the
competitive service in 1883. But today, 90
percent of all Federal positions are under
Expanding the act
The original Civil Service Act has stood
the test of time. But by new laws and ex-
ecutive action the civil service system has
been modified to improve the effectiveness
of the Federal work force.
A retirement program was authorized so
that employees could retire and live out
their lives in dignity. From the start, the
Federal employee has contributed to his
own civil service retirement fund.
A job classification act was passed to pro-
vide equal pay for equal work.
Veterans were given preference for initial
hiring and retention.
A training act was passed to prepare Fed-
eral employees to meet the challenge of
changing times, to qualify for changing job
requirements, and to prepare for promo-
tion to greater responsibility.
An equal employment opportunity act was
passed, further strengthening the merit
system by requiring that all personnel ac-
tions be free of discrimination. The Act
calls for affirmative action programs, es-
tablishes a discrimination complaint pro-
cedure, and gives broader enforcement
authority to the U.S. Civil Service Com-
And a number of other features were
added to provide a comprehensive and
progressive employment system to attract
well qualified people to careers in the Fed-
Civil service today
America has continued to grow. In stature,
in wealth, in productivity, and in democ-
racy, America has been the pace setter
among nations. As the Nation has grown,
so has the Government-its missions mul-
tiplied, its personnel requirements made
more varied and specialized to meet the
changing needs of changing times.
Since World War II we have needed more
than 2 million civil servants to carry out
the Government programs authorized by
law to serve the needs of the Nation and
The work of civil servants touches the life
of every American many times every day.
Their role in the day-to-day business of
Government is of vital importance in the
attainment of national goals.
Career men and women engage in some of
the world's most exciting and important
work. They are plumbing the depths of the
oceans, exploring the reaches of space.
They are finding cures for deadly diseases,
developing new ways to grow better crops.
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pride in serving their country and its peo-
ple. The individual civil servant has many
good reasons for being satisfied with his
choice of the Federal Government as an
Civil service work is stimulating. The rapid
pace at which change is taking place keeps
the civil servant on his toes to help provide
the service America needs today and to-
Civil service work is meaningful. The
nature of Government work is important.
Whether the employee is engaged in find-
ing a cure for cancer, launching a satellite,
sending a social security check, or deliver-
ing the mail, his work matters.
Civil service work is challenging. Nearly
all of today's mounting problems have
their effect on Government. Civil servants
face and meet challenging problems every
day-and derive great satisfaction from
Civil service work is satisfying. Today's
civil servant swims in the mainstream of
progress. His associates are men and
women he can respect and trust. His lead-
ership is strong. His best effort is appreci-
ated, rewarded, and expected.
Civil service work is rewarding. In addition
to the nature of the work itself, civil service
offers tangible attractions that compare fa-
vorably with those found in private em-
ployment. In general, pay is comparable to
salaries offered in industry for work of sim-
ilar difficulty and responsibility. Opportu-
nities for advancement are excellent for
persons who demonstrate they are ready
for more responsible assignments, and
training programs are conducted to further
career development. Federal employees
earn liberal vacation and sick leave allow-
ances, are members of a model retirement
system, and are offered excellent life in-
surance and health benefits coverage for
which the Government pays part of the
But the greatest reward of all comes from
service-service to all Americans.
For more information
If you wish more information about a spe-
cific program or specific jobs in the civil
service, you may visit the personnel officer
at a nearby Federal installation, you may
write the U.S. Civil Service Commission,
Washington, D.C. 20415, or you may write
or visit a Federal job information center in
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
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U.S. Civil Service Commission
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