12. Reform and Revolt
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277 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 12 REFORM AND REVOLT A key objective of President Grant’s peace policy was to improve the personnel in the Indian service and move beyond what J. D. Cox called “the old regime when agencies were given as political prizes to parti- ]DQVµ:LWKLQWKHÀUVW\HDURIWKHDGPLQLVWUDWLRQVRPHWKLQJOLNHDPHULW V\VWHPEHJDQWRHPHUJHLQRWKHUDUHDVDVZHOO,QWKH3DWHQW2΀FHDQ agency that placed a premium on technical expertise, the commissioner implemented a program of competitive examinations adapted “to the ZRUNWREHGRQHµDQGWKHR΀FHVHOHFWHGSHUVRQQHOIURPDOLVWUDQNHG by test scores. The Census Bureau remodeled its existing examination to ÀWWKHVNLOOVVRXJKWLQLWVHPSOR\HHVDQGWKH7UHDVXU\'HSDUWPHQWWRRN similar steps.1 %XWVXFKHͿRUWVUHSUHVHQWHGDQHQWHULQJZHGJHUDWKHUWKDQDUDGical reworking of federal practices. The spoils system remained alive and well. For decades, presidents had received and acted on advice from congressmen and senators in making appointments. Despite its potential for abuse, this cumbersome mechanism had a grounding in logic. Especially in selecting nominees for the thousands of federal of- ÀFHVVFDWWHUHGDURXQGWKHFRXQWU\PHPEHUVRI&RQJUHVVNQHZEHWWHU than the administration in Washington the character of the applicants and the needs of their localities. As Grant later put it, “In a country as vast as ours the advice of Congressmen as to persons to be appointed CHAPTER 12 278 is useful, and generally for the best interests of the country.” Of course, like his predecessors, Grant also quickly grasped the utility of patronage in securing congressional backing for his policies.2 Abuses had inhered in the system for decades. During the 1860s, however, the great increase in the bureaucracy raised concerns about whether this clumsy method of hiring could meet the needs of a modernizing society. In addition, Andrew Johnson’s extensive use of removDOV DQGUHSODFHPHQWVLQKLVÀJKWZLWKWKH5HSXEOLFDQ&RQJUHVVJDYH concrete examples of abuse that reformers could cite to rally support IRUDZKROHVDOHUHVWUXFWXULQJV@OHWWHUDERXWFROOHFWLQJPRQH\IRUWKH(OHFWLRQµ Agreeing that the problem threatened, “very seriously, the chances of Republican Success,” Fish promptly wrote to Grant, who was in New REFORM AND REVOLT 283 HG@&R[·VLQVLQXDWLRQVµEXW the president’s “good nature again prevailed.” In his response Grant showed solicitude for Cox’s need to shore up his family’s economic sitXDWLRQ +HWKDQNHGWKHVHFUHWDU\IRUKLV´]HDODQGDELOLW\µLQR΀FHDQG expressed the hope that “in the new sphere you have pointed out for yourself . . . you may fully realize your brightest expectations.”16 If Grant was not particularly sorry to see Cox go, it was not because of the secretary’s civil service views. Rather, it was because of his behavior, bordering on insubordination, in connection with another matter—the so-called McGarrahan claim. The issue, which had been a PLQRULUULWDQWLQR΀FLDO:DVKLQJWRQIRU\HDUVLQYROYHGDGLVSXWHRYHU a tract of land in California containing a lucrative quicksilver mine. The New Idria Mining Company had worked the mine for several years and claimed ownership under federal preemption legislation passed in 1866. In 1857, however, William McGarrahan had purchased interest in the tract, known as Panoche Grande, from a Mexican citizen named Gomez, whose claim rested on a land grant issued by the Mexican government in 1844, before California became part of the United States. Although the UHJLVWUDWLRQRI*RPH]·VRULJLQDOJUDQWKDGEHHQÁDZHGDQGLQFRPSOHWH McGarrahan insisted that in equity it was valid, and for nearly a decade he had tried to win recognition of his claim. He had pushed his case in WKHFRXUWVLQWKH/DQG2΀FHKRXVHGLQWKH,QWHULRU'HSDUWPHQWDQG in Congress, where he sought a private act upholding his claim. Some observers considered his claim bogus at best and possibly fraudulent, EXWLQWKH&RQJUHVVEHIRUH*UDQWWRRNR΀FHWKH+RXVHSDVVHGDELOO recognizing McGarrahan’s right to the land. Major Republican leaders ZHUHVLWXDWHGRQHLWKHUVLGHRIWKDWYRWH³DFRQÀJXUDWLRQWKDWDPSO\ LOOXVWUDWHGWKHGL΀FXOW\RIVRUWLQJRXWWKHFRPSOLFDWHGLVVXH7KH6HQDWH took no action on the bill, and the question carried over to the Forty- )LUVW&RQJUHVVZKLFKWRRNR΀FHZLWK*UDQW17 In the executive branch, adjudication of questions related to land JUDQWVUHVWHGZLWKWKH,QWHULRU'HSDUWPHQW·V/DQG2΀FHDQGWKH1HZ REFORM AND REVOLT...


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