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brown-stone building on Pennsylvania Avenue near Fifteenth Street. Its head is the Attorney-General, who is the chief law officer of the government. He represents the United States in all matters involving legal questions, gives his advice and opinions on questions of law submitted by the President and heads of Departments, and exercises a general superintendence over United States attorneys and marshals, and all law business of the government. He is assisted by a Solicitor-General, and by two Assistant Attorneys-General.
The Department of Agriculture was established in 1862. Its building, just west of the Smithsonian Institution, was erected in 1868, and attracts attention from its perfect architectural finish and trimly cut grounds. It is the duty of its chief, the Commissioner of Agriculture, to collect and diffuse useful information on subjects connected with agriculture. Its chief officers and divisions are a Statistician, an Entomologist, a Botanist, a Chemist, a Microscopist, a Propagating Garden, a Seed Division, a Library, a Bureau of Animal Industry, a Forestry Division, and an Ornithological Division.
Such are the great departments of government. There is another arm of the service not yet noticed, in a measure distinct, yet which has a certain supervisory relation to all—the Civil-Service-Commission. This Commission has offices in the City Hall, and first began its duties in July, 1883. Its officers comprise three Commissioners, a Chief Examiner, a Secretary, and a Stenographer. It was created to secure a better class of officers in the civil service, and
to inaugurate reforms in the methods of appointment to office. Before its day these appointments had been made largely on the score of party service or manipulation. The Commission is intended to secure them on the score of merit by competitive examinations. There are some 17,000 persons employed in the Departments which we have been considering, 6,000 of whom come within the provisions of the Civil-Service law. These provisions are, that clerkships in the eight executive departments at Washington paying not over $1,800, and not less than $900, with subordinate positions in the posta and customs service, shall be filled by a system of examinations intended to ascertain the capacity of the persons seeking such employment.
To detail the manner in which these examinations are made we will suppose that the reader is desirous of securing a government position under the CivilService Act. Instead of applying to his senator or other person of influence, he simply applies by mail
a postal card is sufficient—to the Commission at Washington, and receives by return mail an application paper telling him exactly what to do. All persons not under eighteen nor over forty-five, he learns, are eligible, but this limitation as to age does not apply to persons honorably discharged from the naval or military service of the United States. There are also blank spaces in the paper for the signing of his name, age, occupation, and residence. These statements must be sworn to, and confirmed by the vouchers of three persons. This paper is then forwarded to the Commission, which enters the applicant's name upon its record, and in due time notifies him when and where the next examination will be held. These examinations are of three kinds, general, limited, and special—the two first-named being designed for clerkships and subordinate positions in the Departments, the last for positions in which technical and special knowledge is required. The limited examination is not at all formidable. It consists of writing from dictation and a printed form, and a few examples in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. The general examination includes the limited, and in addition questions on fractions, percentage, interest, discount, elements of bookkeeping and accounts, history, geography, grammar, and the government of the United States. The special examinations embrace a wide range of subjects and vary according to the branch for which they are held.
But suppose that you pass the examination, and that your name is so recorded on the list, then, when a vacancy occurs in a department, its head notifies the Commissioners, who immediately send him four names, taken from those who stand highest on the list, together with the examination papers. From these four names the official makes his choice, having regard to a just apportionment among the various States and Territories. It is self-evident that this is an excellent law, and that if honestly enforced it will do much to remove the idea that the civil service of the government is the property of one man, or of one party, to be used to reward political friends or punish political enemies.