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The writings and speeches of Grover Cleveland; (Volume 1) online

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extensions and footings are found correct. This work is cer-
tainly not difficult, and might well be done by a lad but slightly
acquainted with figures. The charter requires that this officer
"shall examine and report upon all unliquidated claims against
the city, before the same shall be audited by the common
council." Is it not very plain that the examination of a claim
means something more than the footing of the account by
which that claim is represented? And is it not equally plain
that the report provided for includes more than the approval
of all accounts which, on their face, appear correct? There is
no question but that he should inquire into the merits of the


claims presented to him; and he should be fitted to do so by a
familiarity with the value of the articles and services embodied
in the accounts. In this way he may protect the interests of
the city; otherwise his services are worse than useless, so far
as his action is relied upon.

I am utterly unable to discover any valid reason why the
city offices should be closed and the employees released from
their duties at the early hour in the day which seems now to be
regarded as the limit of a day's work. I am sure no man
would think an active private business was well attended to if
he and all his employees ceased work at four o'clock in the
afternoon. The salaries paid by the city to its officers and
their employees entitle it to a fair day's work. Besides, these
offices are for the transaction of public business; and the con-
venience of all our citizens should be consulted in respect to
the time during which they should remain open.

I suggest the passage of an ordinance, prescribing such hours
for the opening and closing of the city offices as shall subserve
the public convenience.

It would be very desirable if some means could be devised
to stop the practice, so prevalent among our city employees, of
selling or assigning in advance their claims against the city for
services to be rendered. The ruinous discounts charged and
allowed greatly diminish the reward of their labors; in many
cases habits of improvidence and carelessness are engendered,
and in all cases this hawking and trafficking in claims against
the city presents a humiliating spectacle.

In conclusion, I desire to disclaim any dictation as to the
performance of your duties. I recognize fully the fact that
with you rests the responsibility of all legislation which touches
the prosperity of the city and the correction of abuses. I do
not arrogate to myself any great familiarity with municipal
affairs, nor any superior knowledge of the city's needs. I
speak to you not only as the chief executive officer of the city,
but as a citizen proud of its progress and commanding posi-


tion. In this spirit the suggestions herein contained are made.
If you deem them worthy of consideration, I shall still be
anxious to aid the adoption and enforcement of any measures
which you may inaugurate looking to the advancement of the
interests of the city and the welfare of its inhabitants.


Address as Governor, at Albany, January i, 1883.

Governor Cornell :

1 am profoundly grateful for your pleasant words and kind
wishes for my success. You speak in full view of labors that
are past and duty well performed, and no doubt you gener-
ously suppose what you have safely encountered and over-
come, another may not fear to meet.

But I cannot be unmindful of the difficulties that beset the
path upon which I enter, and I shall be quite content if, when
the end is reached, I may, like you, look back upon an official
career honorable to myself and useful to the people of the

I cannot forbear at this time also to express my appreciation
of the hearty kindness and consideration with which you have,
at other times, sought to make easier my performance of official


You have assembled to-day to witness the retirement of an
officer, tried and trusted, from the highest place in the State,
and the assumption of its duties by one yet to be tried. This
ceremony, simple and unostentatious, as becomes the spirit of
our institutions, is yet of vast importance to you and all the
people of this great Commonwealth. The interests now trans-
ferred to new hands are yours; and the duties here newly
assumed should be performed for your benefit and your good.
This you have the right to demand and enforce by the means


placed in your hands, which you well know how to use; and if
the public servant should always know that he is jealously
watched by the people, he surely would be none the less faith-
ful to his trust.

This vigilance on the part of the citizen, and an active inter-
est and participation in political concerns, are the safeguards
of his rights; but sluggish indifference to political privileges
invites the machinations of those who wait to betray the peo-
ple's trust. Thus, when the conduct of public affairs receives
your attention, you not only perform your duty as citizens,
but protect your own best interests. While this is true, and
while those whom you put in place should be held to strict
account, their opportunity for usefulness should not be
impaired, nor their efforts for good thwarted, by unfounded
and querulous complaint and cavil.

Let us together, but in our different places, take part in the
regulation and administration of the government of our State,
and thus become, not only the keepers of our own interests,
but contributors to the progress and prosperity which will
await us.

I enter upon the discharge of the duties of the office to
which my fellow-citizens have called me with a profound sense
of responsibility; but my hope is in the guidance of a kind
Providence, which I believe will aid an honest design; and the
forbearance of a just people, which, I trust, will recognize a
patriotic endeavor.


Address as President, at Washington, March 4, 1885.

Fellow-Citizens :

t In the presence of this vast assemblage of my countrymen I
am about to supplement and seal, by the oath which I shall
take, the manifestation of the will of a great and free people.
In the exercise of their power and right of self-government
they have committed to one of their fellow-citizens a supreme


and sacred trust; and he here consecrates himself to their

This impressive ceremony adds little to the solemn sense of
responsibility with which I contemplate the duty I owe to all
the people of the land. Nothing can relieve me from anxiety
lest by any act of mine their interests may suffer, and nothing
is needed to strengthen my resolution to engage every faculty
and effort in the promotion of their welfare.

Amid the din of party strife the people's choice was made;
but its attendant circumstances have demonstrated anew the
strength and safety of a government by the people. In each
succeeding year it more clearly appears that our democratic
principle needs no apology, and that in its fearless and faithful
application is to be found the surest guaranty of good govern-

But the best results in the operation of a government wherein
every citizen has a share, largely depend upon a proper limita-
tion of purely partisan zeal and effort, and a. correct apprecia-
tion of the time when the heat of the partisan should be
merged in the patriotism of the citizen.

To-day the executive branch of the government is trans-
ferred to new keeping. But this is still the government of all
the people, and it should be none the less an object of their
affectionate solicitude. At this hour the animosities of politi-
cal strife, the bitterness of partisan defeat, and the exultation
of partisan triumph should be supplanted by an ungrudging
acquiescence in the popular will, and a sober, conscientious
concern for the general weal. Moreover, if, from this hour,
we cheerfully and honestly abandon all sectional prejudice and
distrust, and determine, with manly confidence in one another,
to work out harmoniously the achievements of our national
destiny, we shall deserve to realize all the benefits which our
happy form of government can bestow.

On this auspicious occasion we may well renew the pledge
of our devotion to the Constitution, which, launched by the
founders of the republic and consecrated by their prayers and


patriotic devotion, has for almost a century borne the hopes
and the aspirations of a great people through prosperity and
peace, and through the shock of foreign conflicts and the perils
of domestic strife and vicissitudes.

By the Father of his Country our Constitution was com-
mended for adoption as "the result of a spirit of amity and
mutual concession." In that same spirit it should be admin-
istered, in order to promote the lasting welfare of the country,
and to secure the full measure of its priceless benefits to us
and to those who will succeed to the blessings of our national
life. The large variety of diverse and competing interests
subject to Federal control, persistently seeking the recognition
of their claims, need give us no fear that "the greatest good to
the greatest number" will fail to be accomplished, if, in the halls
of national legislation, that spirit of amity and mutual conces-
sion shall prevail in which the Constitution had its birth. If
this involves the surrender or postponement of private inter-
ests and the abandonment of local advantages, compensation
will be found in the assurance that the common interest is
subserved and the general welfare advanced.

In the discharge of my official duty I shall endeavor to be
guided by a just and unrestrained construction of the Consti-
tution, a careful observance of the distinction between the
powers granted to the Federal government and those reserved
to the State or to the people, and by a cautious appreciation of
those functions which, by the Constitution and laws, have been
especially assigned to the executive branch of the government.

But he who takes the oath to-day to preserve, protect, and
defend the Constitution of the United States only assumes the
solemn obligation which every patriotic citizen, on the farm, in
the workshop, in the busy marts of trade, and everywhere
should share with him. The Constitution which prescribes his
oath, my countrymen, is yours; the government you have
chosen him to administer for a time is yours; the suffrage
which executes the will of freemen is yours; the laws and the
entire scheme of our civil rule, from the town meeting to the


State capitals and the national capital, are yours. Your every
voter as surely as your Chief Magistrate under the same high
sanction, though in a different sphere, exercises a public trust.
Nor is this all. Every citizen owes to the country a vigilant
watch and close scrutiny of its public servants, and a fair and
reasonable estimate of their fidelity and usefulness. Thus is
the people's will impressed upon the whole framework of our
civil polity — municipal, State, and Federal; and this is the
price of our liberty and the inspiration of our faith in the

It is the duty of those serving the people in public place
closely to limit public expenditures to the actual needs of the
government economically administered, because this bounds
the right of the government to exact tribute from the earnings
of labor or the property of the citizen, and because public
extravagance begets extravagance among the people. We
should never be ashamed of the simplicity and prudential
economies which are best suited to the operation of a republi-
can form of government and most compatible with the mission
of the American people. Those who are selected for a limited
time to manage public affairs are still of the people, and may
do much by their example to encourage, consistently with the
dignity of their official functions, that plain way of life which
among their fellow-citizens aids integrity and promotes thrift
and prosperity.

The genius of our institutions, the needs of our people in
their home life, and the attention which is demanded for the
settlement and development of the resources of our vast terri-
tory, dictate the scrupulous avoidance of any departure from
that foreign policy commended by the history, the traditions,
and the prosperity of our republic. It is the policy of inde-
pendence, favored by our position and defended by our known
love of justice and by our power. It is the policy of peace
suitable to our interests. It is the policy of neutrality, reject-
ing any share in foreign broils and ambitions upon other con-
tinents, and repelling their intrusion here. It is the policy of


Monroe and of Washington and Jefferson : "Peace, commerce,
and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliance
with none."

A due regard for the interests and prosperity of all the peo-
ple demands that our finances shall be established upon such
a sound and sensible basis as shall secure the safety and confi-
dence of business interests and make the wage of labor sure
and steady; and that our system of revenue shall be so adjusted
as to relieve the people of unnecessary taxation, having a due
regard to the interests of capital invested and workingmen
employed in American industries, and preventing the accumu-
lation of a surplus in the treasury to tempt extravagance and

Care for the property of the nation, and for the needs of
future settlers, requires that the public domain should be pro-
tected from purloining schemes and unlawful occupation.

The conscience of the people demands that the Indians
within our boundaries shall be fairly and honestly treated as
wards of the government, and their education and civilization
promoted, with a view to their ultimate citizenship; and that
polygamy in the Territories, destructive of the family relation
and offensive to the moral sense of the civilized world, shall be

The laws should be rigidly enforced which prohibit the
immigration of a servile class to compete with American labor,
with no intention of acquiring citizenship, and bringing with
them and retaining habits and customs repugnant to our civili-

The people demand reform in the administration of the
government and the application of business principles to
public affairs. As a means to this end civil service reform
should be in good faith enforced. Our citizens have the right
to protection from the incompetency of public employees who
hold their places solely as the reward of partisan service, and
from the corrupting influence of those who promise and the
vicious methods of those who expect such rewards. And those


who worthily seek public employment have the right to insist
that merit and competency shall be recognized instead of party
subserviency or the surrender of honest political belief.

In the administration of a government pledged to do equal
and exact justice to all men, there should be no pretext for
anxiety touching the protection of the freedmen in their rights,
or their security in the enjoyment of their privileges under the
Constitution and its amendments. All discussion as to their
fitness for the place accorded to them as American citizens is
idle and unprofitable, except as it suggests the necessity for
their improvement. The fact that they are citizens entitles them
to all the rights due to that relation, and charges them with all
its duties, obligations, and responsibilities.

These topics, and the constant and ever-varying wants of
an active and enterprising population, may well receive the
attention and the patriotic endeavor of all who make and exe-
cute the Federal law. Our duties are practical, and call for
industrious application, an intelligent perception of the claims
of public office, and, above all, a firm determination, by united
action, to secure to all the people of the land the full benefits of
the best form of government ever vouchsafed to man. And let
us not trust to human effort alone; but, humbly acknowledging
the power and goodness of Almighty God, who presides over
the destiny of nations, and who has at all times been revealed
in our country's history, let us invoke his aid and his bless-
ing upon our labors.



To the New York Civil Service Reform Association.

Mayor's Office,
Buffalo, N. Y., October 28, 1882.

In answer to your letter of inquiry, dated October 20, 1882,
in relation to civil service reform, I beg to refer you to my
recent letter accepting the nomination for Governor, in which
many of the matters referred to in your letter are touched
upon, and I assure you that the sentiments therein expressed
are sincerely and honestly entertained, and are stated without
any mental reservation.

I have no hesitation in saying that I fully approve of the
principles embodied in the Pendleton bill relating to this sub-
ject, and that I should be glad to aid in any practical legislation
which would give them a place in the management of the affairs
of the State and of municipalities, so far as they can be madt
applicable thereto. I believe that the interests of the people
demand that a reform in the national and State administrative
service should speedily become an accomplished fact, and that
the public should receive honest and faithful service at the
hands of well-fitted and competent servants. When contests
between parties are waged for the purpose of securing places
for professional politicians, of high or low degree, whose only
recommendation for appointment is their supposed ability to
do partisan service, the people are apt to be defrauded by the
displacement of tried and faithful servants, well able to per-
form the duties for which they are paid with the people's money,


and the substitution of those who are unfit and incompetent.
In this way, the interests of the party may be subserved, but
the interests of the people are neglected and betrayed.

This pernicious system gives rise to an office-holding class,
who in their partisan zeal, based upon the hope of personal
advantage, arrogate to themselves an undue and mischievous
interference with the will of the people in political action; this
breeds the use of dishonest and reprehensible methods, which
frequently result in the servants of the people dictating to their
masters. If places in the public service are worth seeking, they
should be the reward of merit and well-doing, and the oppor-
tunity to secure them on that basis should be open to all.
Those holding these places should be assured that their
tenure depends upon efficiency and fidelity to their trusts, and
they should not be allowed to use them for partisan purposes.
The money they earn they should receive and beallowed to re-
tain, and no part of it should be exacted from them by way of
political assessments.

It seems to me that very much or all of what we desire in the
direction of civil service reform is included in the doctrine that
the concerns of the State and nation should be conducted on
business principles, and as nearly as possible in the same man-
ner that a prudent citizen conducts his private affairs. If this
principle is kept constantly in mind I believe the details of a
plan by which its adoption may be secured will, without much
difficulty, be suggested. You refer especially to mismanage-
ment in schools, asylums, and institutions of charity and cor-
rection, and to the difficulty of securing the construction of an
additional aqueduct in the city cf New York. Without being
fully acquainted in detail with the evils and obstacles sur-
rounding these subjects, I believe they may be remedied and
removed by a due regard to the dictates of humanity and de-
cency and the application of the principles to which I have

Yours very respectfully,

Grover Cleveland.



From Message to the New York Legislature, January, 1883.

It is submitted that the appointment of subordinates in the
several State departments, and their tenure of office or employ-
ment, should be based upon fitness and efficiency, and that
this principle should be embodied in legislative enactment, to
the end that the policy of the State may conform to the reason-
able public demand on that subject.


The Second Message to the New York Legislature, Jan., 1884.

New York, then, leads in the inauguration of a comprehen-
sive State system of civil service. The principle of selecting
the subordinate employees of the State on the ground of capac-
ity and fitness, ascertained according to fixed and impartial
rules, without regard to political predilections and with reason-
able assurance of retention and promotion in case of meritori-
ous service, is now the established policy of the State. The
children of our citizens are educated and trained in schools
maintained at common expense, and the people, as a whole,
have a right to demand the selection for the public service of
those whose natural aptitudes have been improved by the edu-
cational facilities furnished by the State. The application to
the public service of the same rule which prevails in ordinary
business, of employing those whose knowledge and training
best fit them for the duties at hand, without regard to other
considerations, must elevate and improve the civil service and
eradicate from it many evils from which it has long suffered.
Not the least gratifying of the results which this system promises
to accomplish is relief to public men from the annoyance of
importunity in the strife for appointments to subordinate



Letter t> Neiv York Civil Service Reform Association.

Albany, October 24, 1884.
Hon. George William Curtis:

Dear Sir: While my letter of acceptance, in that part
devoted to civil service reform, has verbal reference to sub-
ordinates in public affairs, I am of the opinion that there are
other officials of a non-political character, to whose retention
in place during the term for which they were appointed the
same considerations should apply. I am, of course, a Demo-
crat, attached to the principles of that party, and if elected I
desire to remain true to that organization. But I do not think
partisan zeal should lead to "arbitrary dismissal for party or
political reasons" of officials of the class above referred to,
who have attended strictly to their public duty, and have not
engaged in party service, and who have not allowed themselves
to be used as partisan instruments, or made themselves obnox-
ious to the people they should serve, by the use of their offices
to secure party ends.

Yours very truly,

Grover Cleveland.


Letter to the National Civil Service Reform League.

Albany, December 25, 1884.
Hon. George William Curtis, President, etc.:

Dear Sir: Your communication dated December 20,
addressed to me on behalf of the National Civil Service Reform
League, has been received.

That a practical reform in the civil service is demanded is
abundantly established by the fact that a statute, referred to in
your communication, to secure such a result, has been passed
in Congress with the assent of both political parties; and by
the further fact that a sentiment is generally prevalent among


patriotic people calling for the fair and honest enforcement of
the law which has been thus enacted. I regard myself as pledged
to this, because my conception of true Democratic faith and
public duty requires that this, and all other statutes, should be
in good faith and without evasion enforced, and because, in
many utterances made prior to my election as President,
approved by the party to which I belong and which I have no
disposition to disclaim, I have in effect promised the people
that this should be done.

I am not unmindful of the fact to which you refer, that
many of our citizens fear that the recent party change in the
National Executive may demonstrate that the abuses which
have grown up in the civil service are ineradicable. I know
that they are deeply rooted, and that the spoils system has
been supposed to be intimately related to success in the main,
tenance of party organization; and I am not sure that all those
who profess to be the friends of this reform will stand firmly
among its advocates, when they find it obstructing their way

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