Theodore Roosevelt Virtual Exhibit

Roosevelt and the Civil Service

Letter to W.A. Aiken
Letter to W.A. Aiken
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In 1889 Roosevelt became one of the three commissioners in the United States Civil Service Commission and by far the most energetic and honest such commissioner in the commission's history. After his tenure of six years, some 26,000 jobs formerly available only as political patronage were transformed into civil service positions.

In 1891 he wrote to W.A. Aiken concerning his ideas about how to make the Federal decennial census and permanent census bureau a more efficient agency. It should be made part of the "classified service" because "[o]nly in this way will it be possible to guarantee that it will do its work in an entirely nonpartisan way, and without such guarantee we had better not have one [I.e., a census bureau] at all."

He ends his letter in a typically Rooseveltian manner telling Aiken that he is "of course entirely at liberty to use this in any way which you think proper." He was not afraid to make known his beliefs and to defend them.

Theodore Roosevelt Manuscripts (Collection), 1882-1926 VC21258

Last Updated: June 17, 2009