Early Personnel Management in the Federal Civil Service
Modern public personnel administration might be said to originate from the passage of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1883, or more generally from the management movement and from Taylor’s work in the late nineteenth century, which together fueled the scientific management movement of the twentieth century (Person 1930–35). But these events have a history also. Officials of the American government had to deal with personnel problems from the beginning of the Republic. The early presidents, giving substantial weight to qualifications as well as to political views and class background (“community standing”), personally filled the top appointive positions of the government (Finer 1952). They delegated to department heads the job of filling clerical positions. Department heads in turn frequently relied on the recommendations of their chief clerks when making these appointments (White 1951: 129). There was no need to recruit for these jobs; the number of applicants was more than adequate. Once employed, the civil servants, with official sanction, enjoyed long tenure in office (White 1948: 513–515). During the Federalist and Jeffersonian years, some departments even had a rudimentary system of promotion (Fish 1905; White 1953). Thus, long before industrialists began organizing jobs into promotion lines at the turn of the twentieth century, at least some federal administrators had concluded that promotion was an efficient way to fill job vacancies.1
KeywordsCivil Service Promotion Decision Common School Personnel System Merit System
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