Theodore Roosevelt Appointed United States Civil Service Commissioner

In the 1888 presidential election, Roosevelt campaigned in the Midwest for Benjamin Harrison.

President Harrison appointed Roosevelt to the United States Civil Service Commission, where he served until 1895. In his term, Roosevelt vigorously fought the spoilsmen and demanded enforcement of civil service laws. Close associate, friend and biographer, James Bucklin Bishop, described Roosevelt's assault on the spoils system indicating that,

The very citadel of spoils politics, the hitherto impregnable fortress that had existed unshaken since it was erected on the foundation laid by Andrew Jackson, was tottering to its fall under the assaults of this audacious and irrepressible young man...Whatever may have been the feelings of the (fellow Republican party) President (Harrison) — and there is little doubt that he had no idea when he appointed Roosevelt that he would prove to be so veritable a bull in a china shop—he refused to remove him and stood by him firmly till the end of his term.

During this same time, the New York Sun described Roosevelt as "irrepressible, belligerent, and enthusiastic"

In spite of Roosevelt's support for Harrison's reelection bid in the presidential election of 1892, the eventual winner, Grover Cleveland (a Bourbon Democrat), reappointed him to the same post.

Roosevelt's enthusiastic efforts on behalf of reform led President Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893) to appoint him as U.S. Civil Service Commissioner in 1889. During his term as United States Civil Service Commissioner (1889-1895) the full force of his energy, enthusiasm, and aggressiveness was put to the task of building up the Federal civil service system.

He undertook the task of reform with the same honesty and zeal that he showed for all of his endeavors. Commissioner Roosevelt believed his role was to create a civil service system that would attract the best people into government. He based his philosophy for reform on three principles:

* opportunities be made equal for all citizens.
* only those who had merit be appointed to federal jobs.
* public servants should not suffer for their political beliefs.

As Commissioner he led efforts to investigate fraud and political abuse in government and expose corrupt government officials. One week into his new job, he recommended the removal of examination board members in New York for selling test questions to the public for $50. Later, he had the police arrest Baltimore postal employees who were buying votes for the re-election of President Harrison, who had appointed him four years earlier. His actions demonstrated that civil service laws were going to be enforced regardless of political affiliation.

Government jobs belong to the American people, not politicians and shall be filled only with regard to public service.”

— Theodore Roosevelt