My Dear General--As I stated in my last, the different departments are supposed to be in some way connected with the Executive Office, and the Cabinet Secretaries to be the immediate subordinates and councilors of the President, but this is more the case in some administrations than others, and at all times the members of the Cabinet preserve a certain amount of independence of executive control (of which they are apt to be jealous), and which they all strive to increase. A fair share of them have future political, if not clearly Presidential, aspirations, and are consequently anxious to employ the patronage of their offices, as far as possible, to add strength to their own personal positions. They have friends to reward and enemies to punish, and no President can secure the entire execution of his will in such matters, even if he were able to attend to it, which he cannot be. The truth is, that our method of managing the public offices is simply execrable, and to the last degree detrimental to the public business. "Rotation in office" may be a good doctrine in its place, but when it takes a man years to become a competent government servant, and he is rotated out so soon as he understands his business, the public must not grumble if at times their work is badly done or not done at all.
I doubt if ever before there was so general a displacement as at the beginning of Mr. Lincoln's term. This was owing largely to the fact that the departments fairly swarmed with the family dependents and connections of the Southern political magnates who then, for so long a time, had controlled the dominant party. A "Blue Book" of 1859 is a sight to see, in that respect. Many of the men from the North were strong Southern sympathizers, and so accustomed were they to consider their offices their property that even avowed secessionists considered themselves bitterly injured when required to make way for more loyal men.
Still, a very large number of the old employees were retained, and the
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Publication information: Book title: Inside the White House in War Times:Memoirs and Reports of Lincoln's Secretary. Contributors: William O. Stoddard - Author, Michael Burlingame - Editor. Publisher: University of Nebraska Press. Place of publication: Lincoln, NE. Publication year: 2000. Page number: 160.
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