Roosevelt the Reformer: Theodore Roosevelt as Civil Service Commissioner, 1889-1895

By Richard D. White Jr. | Go to book overview

8
1901
Continuing Reform as President

"IT IS ALL THE fault of the Fourth-Class Postmasters," complained President Theodore Roosevelt as he breakfasted with his family doctor at Oyster Bay. "When I can't sleep, and have been struggling all day with intricate problems in all the States of the Union, and the appointments that must be made of the Fourth-Class Postmasters, I go up-stairs, and in order to get to sleep, I sit and study out how the empire of Alexander the Great broke to pieces, and into what other empires it developed. After changing the subject in my mind, I can go to sleep."1 More than a decade after becoming civil service commissioner, the new president still struggled with the headaches of spoils politics.

Theodore Roosevelt's crusade for reform did not end when he departed Washington in 1895. For the next two years he served as one of New York City's four police commissioners. Earlier, as a New York assemblyman in 1884, Theodore became convinced that police reform was sorely needed in the city, and at that time he unsuccessfully proposed that a single police commissioner replace the four-member bipartisan board.2 As soon as he became police commissioner, Roosevelt attempted a series of innovations. To the dismay of many of his colleagues, he hired a young woman as secretary to the previously all-male police board. As he had in 1884, he attempted to reorganize the cumbersome four-member board and, again, failed. He was successful in other areas, and during his tenure he helped to build a rigorous system of recruitment, examination, and certification of police personnel as well as a laudable promotion scheme.3 For the first time, at least a small

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