Land Claims, the Railroad Division, the Swamp Land Division, the Public Lands Division, &c., have to prepare legal decisions in cases which in the aggregate are of greater number and involve property of greater value than the cases decided by any State supreme court in the country. It is true that the decisions prepared by those different chiefs are not final, being subject to revision by the Commissioner and to appeal; but nobody acquainted with the business of this or any other department need be told that the preparation of those decisions, which requires a thorough knowledge of questions of fact and of law as well as of the history of legislation and of judicial proceedings, is a task of the highest importance. Most of these division chiefs are mere clerks, receiving at the very highest eighteen hundred dollars a year, and in some cases less. It would seem superfluous to say that in those places the highest degree of integrity as well as large legal acquirements are needed. In every great government in the world that I know of, officers performing these functions would hold a rank high above that of mere clerks, a tenure not subject to the mere arbitrary pleasure of a superior officer, and salaries in proportion to the duties imposed upon them. Of the division chiefs in the Secretary's office and in the Indian office the same may be said. The consequence is that in many cases men, fully up to the requirements of their positions, find occasion to better their condition by going into the service of private corporations or becoming members of private business firms. It is a mere question of opportunity, and it is only to be wondered at that such things do not happen still more frequently. During the hard times now behind us many persons of ability have sought and obtained employment in the government offices; but now, since all the business interests of the country have revived and the salaries of able men in private concerns are rising again to a more remunerative point, the probability is that the government offices will be more and more drained of the ablest public servants, and that it will be difficult to fill their places unless their pay be made reasonably sufficient to compensate them for their work and they have the prospect of an assured tenure. In this respect good pay is the best economy. I therefore urgently recommend that the salaries proposed in the estimates of this Department for the coming fiscal year be granted not as the maximum but as the minimum pay which those officers and clerks ought to have.
I am, sir, very respectfully your obedient servant,
- The President.
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