The Civil Service Commission

The purpose of the civil-service act (approved January 16, 1883), as declared in its title, is "to regulate and improve the civil service of the United States."It provides for the appointment of three Commissioners, not more than two of whom shall be adherents of the same political party, and makes it the duty of the Commission to aid the President, as he may request, in preparing suitable rules for carrying the act into effect. The act requires that the rules shall provide, among other things, for open competitive examinations for testing the fitness of applicants for the public service, the filling of classified positions by selections from among those passing with highest grades, an apportionment of appointments in the Departments at Washington among the States and Territories, a period of probation before absolute appointment, and the prohibition of the use of official authority to coerce the political action of any person or body. The act also provides for investigations touching the enforcement of the rules promulgated, and forbids, under penalty of fine or imprisonment, or both, the solicitation by any person in the service of the United States of contributions to be used for political purposes from persons in such service, or the collection of such contributions by any person in a Government building.

The Classified Service

It is estimated that in 1902 there were 235,854 positions in the executive civil service, of which 20,931 were in the executive offices at Washington and 214,923 were outside. About 120,000 positions are classified subject to competitive examination under the civil service rules. Persons merely employed as laborers or workmen and persons nominated for confirmation by the Senate are exempted from the requirements of classification. Within these limits certain classes of positions are excepted from examination, among them being employees at postoffices not having free delivery, Indians, attorneys, pension examining surgeons, deputy collectors of internal revenue, office deputy marshals, and a few employees whose duties are of an important confidential or fiduciary nature.


Examinations are held in every State and Territory twice a year. Full information respecting these examinations is to be found in a manual issued by the Commission in January and July of each year, for free distribution. The examinations range in scope from technical, professional, or scientific subjects to those based wholly upon the age, physical condition, experience, and character as a workman of the applicant, and in some cases do not require ability to read or write. To insure practical tests of fitness 654 different kinds of examinations were held during the year ended June 30, 1902, each of which involved different tests and more than half of which contained no educational tests, but consisted of certificates of employers or fellow workmen. During the fiscal year ended June 30, 1903. 86,787 persons were examined, 64,439 passed, and 26,343 were appointed.

The Filling Of Vacancies

A vacancy is filled from among the three persons of the sex called for standing highest on the appropriate register, the order being determined by the relative rating, except that the names of persons preferred under section 1754, Revised Statutes, come before all others. Until the rating of all papers of an examination is completed the identity of no applicant is known. A vacancy may also be filled by promotion, reduction, transfer, or reinstatement.

Military Preference

Persons discharged from the military or naval service by reason of disability resulting from wounds or sickness incurred in the line of duty and who receive a rating of at least 65 are certified first for appointment. All others are required to obtain a rating of 70 or more to become eligible. The rule barring reinstatement after a separation of one year does not apply to any person honorably discharged after service in the civil war or the war with Spain, or his widow, or an army nurse of either war.

The Philippine Civil Service

Appointments to the insular civil service of the Philippines are made under an act passed by the Philippine Commission and rules promulgated by the Governor of the islands. The municipal service of Manila is also classified and subject to the provisions of the act and rules, which are similar to the United States act and rules. The United States Commission, under an Executive order, assists the Philippine Board by conducting examinations in the United States for the Philippine service and in all other practicable ways. These examinations are held only for positions for which competent natives cannot be found, the natives being preferred for appointment. The United States rules permit the transfer of classified employees who have served for three years from the Philippine service to the Federal service.

The Civil Service In Porto Rico And Hawaii

The Federal positions in Porto Rico and Hawaii by act of Congress fall within the scope of the civil service act and are filled in the same ways as competitive positions in the United States. The competitive system does not extend to the insular and municipal positions of the islands.

Unclassified Laborers

Appointments of unclassified laborers in the Departments at Washington under Executive order are required to be made in accordance with regulations to be approved by the heads of the several Departments and the Civil Service Commission. Such regulations have been adopted by several of the Departments, and the positions of laborers are being filled by the appointment of those applicants who are rated highest in age, physical condition, and industry and adaptability. The system is outside the civil service act and rules.