Home  »  Volume XVII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART II  »  § 20. Thomas A. Jenckes

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

XXI. Political Writing Since 1850

§ 20. Thomas A. Jenckes

The pioneer in the movement for new standards in the public service was Thomas A. Jenckes of Rhode Island. A lawyer, a man of wealth, and a congressman, he secured the reference of the appointing system to the committee on retrenchment in 1866. The resulting report, submitted in 1868, is “the effective starting point” in the modern movement for civil service reform in this country. Yet there was at first little interest in the cause. Mr. Jenckes was aptly compared to “Paul at Athens, declaring the unknown God.” The average citizen regarded corruption as an unavoidable evil. The professional politician had only sneers for the reformer. Said Roscoe Conkling: “When Dr. Johnson defined patriotism as the last refuge of a scoundrel, he was then unconscious of the then undeveloped capabilities of the word ‘reform.’”