The spoils system . . . a system of terrorism under which the best and bravest men quail.1
UNTIL the end of this period ( 1899), the interest of the Conference in personnel was largely absorbed in criticism of partisan administration of public relief. The speakers cited instances of its baneful effect upon the competency of particular institutions, such as the almshouse, the jail, the state prison, and even the hospital for mental diseases. Even so, the most scathing exposé of the latter did not take place until 1926, when the former chairman of the state board of Illinois recited chapter and verse in the appointment of incompetent physicians, in their retention by political influence, and the disastrous effect that they had, in this riot of such mismanagement, on the services to mental patients.
During the nineteenth century the task of uplifting the banner for civil service reform was carried largely by the American Social Science Association, and since many of the Conference members were also members of that association, one must turn to papers of the American Social Science Association for the development of the idea of appointment on merit to public positions. By 1896 the scandal of the "spoils system," as it came to be called, had drawn together this informal separation of interests, and the Conference appointed a Committee on the Merit System which, at that Conference and at the 1898 meet-____________________