RECENT events, as they say in France, connected with civil-service reform may be briefly summarized in this way, Mr. Curtis has resigned the chairmanship of the Civil-Service Advisory Board, on the ground that several important appointments, recently made, showed that the President was unfaithful both to the letter and the spirit of the civil-service regulations. Mr. Medill has resigned from the board, on the ground that his holding the two offices of Mayor of Chicago and Civil-Service Commissioner is incompatible with the rule issued some time ago by the President, forbidding United States officials from holding State or municipal offices. The President has publicly renewed his declaration of fidelity to civil-service refonn, both in letter and in spirit. The President has requested Mr. F. L. Olmsted to accept the chairmanship vacated by Mr. Curtis. Mr. Olmsted has declined. The President has requested Mr. Dorman B. Eaton of New York to the place of Mr. Curtis, and Mr. Shellabager of Ohio to take that of Medill. Mr. Eaton having accepted the appointment, it was immediately denied that he had been appointed at all; and at the same time it was announced that the rules were to be modified so as to enable the President to select as appointees for positions in the civil service men who were more in sympathy with the administration than the competitive system seems likely to produce. For the latest fact or rumor on the subject we must refer the reader to the newspapers ; but of this at least there is no doubt that Mr. Olmsted and Mr. Eaton were actually approached on the subject, and that either selection was good. Mr. Eaton is a trained lawyer, a trained politician, and a trained reformer, He has studied politics too in the great national hot-bed of rotation and corruption, the city of New York. He knows what the evils of the present system are, and how they ought to be remedied. If there were no Caseys and no Sharpes in the service, the selection of Mr. Eaton might be accepted as a complete vindication of the President’s honesty. But under all the circumstances, it merely serves to render the existing confusion on the subject of the relation of General Grant to the civil service more confused than before. The mystery as to his real intentions we have not much hope of being able to dispel, because we do not believe that General Grant himself understands the meaning of civil-service reform well enough to have well-defined intentions on the subject. But some light may be thrown on the causes of the present confusion by one or two considerations which are generally overlooked.

What is civil-service reform ? We have all been talking about it with great vehemence for the past six or seven years, but sometimes it seems as if we had ourselves forgotten what is its essential feature and fundamental peculiarity. It is generally spoken of as a political reform, like minority representation or the abolition of special legislation. Yet its nature in reality is rather moral than political. It is not merely that we wish to put an end to rotation, and introduce stability of tenure ; we wish besides this, or rather by these means, to introduce into the American system the virtues of subordination, of obedience, of faithfulness in the discharge of duty, of respect for law, and to put an end to the recklessness, the extravagance, the lawlessness, selfishness, and corruption which now characterize it. Civil-service reform is merely a piece of machinery for giving sober, industrious, and thorough people the power and influence of which they have become, by force of circumstances, deprived. The essence of it is, after all, not the adoption of a series of rules for the examination of candidates for Treasury clerkships, but a real devotion on the part of the reforming power to those virtues we have named, a profound belief in the necessity of elevating the tone of the government ; in short, a little of that sacred “ passion of perfection ” which leads men in troubled times to sacrifice to the general good their selfish appetites and love of ease. Without this spirit, there can be no life in the rules.

General Grant, however, has never given the public any reason to believe that he is possessed by this spirit, while he has given a thousand reasons for believing that he is not. It is true that, if we go back to the opening of his first administration, we find him announcing his determination to turn the cold shoulder to the politicians, and make his appointments without regard to any other claims than those of fitness. We have no doubt that he was sincere in his professions, for he did nominate a Cabnet, selected with a view to what he considered fitness, and in doing so declared war upon the politicians, as he had promised. But it proved a bloodless conflict. He grew very tired of it. He was fond of popularity and ease, and in a few months a truce was declared. From that time to this he has not troubled himself about the matter. He has allowed “ the machine” to be worked by the old crew for their own profit, cjuite content himself if they will work it without pestering him with questions for which he has by nature and education no disposition to deal. It would not be difficult to select from the principal acts of General Grant’s administration those in which he himself took a lively interest ; for when he does take a lively interest in anything, he is apt to make his friends and supporters, as well as his enemies, understand the fact. He did take a lively interest in the annexation of San Domingo. This was evident enough both from his messages, and from the urgency with which he half publicly importuned members of Congress. He took a warm interest in the Indian peace policy. He has showed a persistent determination to keep his brother-in-law Casey in the New Orleans Custom-House, and to support his government of Louisiana by force of arms if necessary. He has also washed, in an evident but unintelligent sort of way, to reduce taxation, to pay off the national debt, and to get the currency into a sound condition ; we say unintelligent, because he has never pretended to have any definite ideas on economical subjects, except some antique exploded fallacies which can hardly be supposed to furnish the grounds for his practical recommendations, so long as we have the much more plausible explanation, that he has allowed his Secretary of the Treasury to drift him into a policy of which he neither understands the virtues nor the defects. The general desire of the country that England should pay the Alabama claims he undoubtedly shared, but he shared it with that perfect confidence of success in the end which prevented any violent longing or imperious demands. But San Domingo and Casey were very near his heart.

This indifference to reform, rather than opposition to it, we will believe, explains much of General Grant’s apparently eccentric conduct. General Grant belongs to a generation which had other ideas than those with which ours is familiar. He belongs to the period of American life when the energies of the country were mainly occupied in “ developing our vast resources,” and boasting of our vast exploits ; when all that was asked of an American was, that he should he ready to lend a helping hand, whenever it was needed. General Grant, like thousands of others of us, was brought up to believe that ours is the best government the sun ever shone upon, and he believes it still. Besides this, his military education and experience, which we all supposed five years ago would certainly have prepared his mind for that kind of disgust at the existing political régime which would throw him into the reform camp, seems to have had in fact a precisely opposite effect. It has produced in him only that spirit of adaptability to the political status quo which is a virtue in a general, and a vice in a general who has undertaken to play the part of a statesman. The civil service he is willing enough should be reformed, as he would probably he willing that the Methodist church should be reformed ; but he does not wish to be troubled about it. The people have seemed to desire some civil-service rules, and he has got them made. He is willing enough that they should he enforced, so long as they do not conflict with his own plans ; but if they do, so much the worse for the rules. It was the misfortune of Mr. Curtis to mistake General Grant for a reformer, and this mistake undoubtedly made the situation absurd ; but we should not shut our eyes to the fact that a great deal has been accomplished by getting the machinery in operation ; with a resolute and sceptical man at the head of the board, determined that the rules shall he enforced in any case, much may be done in the next three years. General Grant’s very love of repose and popularity would make him play the part of a reformer, in course of time ; and his rules will be enforced as soon as some one is found who will make it easier for him to enforce than, to suspend or modify them.

— The curious effect which a legal falsehood perpetuated for a number of generations may have in confusing the judgment and perverting the moral notions of a people is very strikingly shown in the case of the “ presumption in favor of innocence ” favored by the traditions of the English and American common law. It was long ago laid down that the “ common law favored life, liberty, and dower,” though, with characteristic obscurity, the grounds of this selection were never explained. Why “ dower ” should have been selected as the only kind of property to be protected, except on the ground of the common law’s “tenderness for married women,” it is difficult to see. Certainly it was pretty much the only evidence of tenderness ever given; for during the existence of marriage, the law considered “ the husband and wife as one, and that one the husband.” “ Life ” and “ liberty ” are vague, general terms, too, which comprehend the life and liberty of the murderer as well as of the victim, the robber as well as the robbed, the felon condemned by this same law to be hung tomorrow, and the judge who condemns him. Indeed the maxim was so very vague, that hardly any serious attempt was ever made to explain its limits, except that so far as “ life ” was concerned, there was a presumption in the case of a criminal accusation that the accused was innocent, and that the accusing party must prove substantively his connection with the crime.

The presumption in question, however, rationally rests, whatever may be its historical or judicial origin, on no such foundation as the prejudice of the common law in favor of life and liberty. It was not because certain judges and lawyers whose minds were deeply impregnated with the spirit of common law, on inquiring of their legal consciousness what they liked, received as a reply, “ life, liberty, and dower,” and in reply to the opposite question, “ death, incarceration, and the abolition of dower ” ; it was for a far wider and saner reason. The “ presumption ” exists in the civil as well as in the common law, and was part of the established Aryan jurisprudence as long ago as the trial of Socrates for corrupting the minds of the Athenian youth. When a crime has been committed and an arrest has been made, and the government or the injured party have accused the prisoner, there is no presumption a priori of guilt or of innocence. There is really no reason a prion why, in the absence of proof (and of course, so far as the jury is concerned, there has been no proof whatever, no matter what evidence may have been adduced before the committing magistrate), one man should be tried more than another. The reason why the prosecutor must prove the connection of the prisoner with the crime is the same reason which compels any one who brings a civil action to prove that he has some ground of suit The government says that a certain man, woman, or child has committed a certain crime ; of course such a charge, like any other affirmative statement, must be proved But there is, rationally speaking, no presumption at all in the case. In case of a failure of justice from want of proof, the common law, with its presumption in favor of innocence, says that nothing having been proved, the prisoner is innocent, and forthwith gives him the benefit of a verdict of “ not guilty,” from which reason and morality alike revolt. The only verdict which expresses the truth is the Scotch verdict of “ not proven.”

The absurdity of the notion that there is any presumption in the case of a man brought before a jury to be tried for the commission of a crime may be seen in this way. A presumption is merely a probability derived from the observed facts of life. It is an inference “ drawn by a process of probable reasoning,” “ affirmative or disaffirmative,” of a fact in the absence of proof or until proof can be attained. For example, there is a presumption that a man who was last seen several years ago in an open boat far out at sea, in a violent storm, and has never been heard from since, is dead. There is a presumption that when a letter has been sent through the mail, it has reached its destination. There is a presumption that a child born in wedlock is legitimate. No sensible man can deny the correctness of these inferences, because he knows that ninety-nine children out of a hundred born in wedlock are legitimate ; ninety-nine letters out of a hundred sent by mail do reach their destination ; ninety-nine out of a hundred who disappear in a storm at sea in an open boat are drowned. Therefore, in the absence of proof, he would say that there was preponderance of probability in favor of these conclusions. But no man could possibly say that, in the case of any one arrested on suspicion of a criminal act, there was a probability that it had not been committed by the suspected person. Whence could such an inference arise ? Not certainly from a comparison of the number of cases in which such a conclusion would be correct with those in which it would be incorrect. Indeed it seems much more probable that, in a majority of cases, persons arrested for crime are guilty. Nevertheless, the fact of the existence of the presumption in the common law that every man is innocent until he is proved guilty, must be admitted; and the presumption has imbedded itself in and become part of the mental constitution of the English race. In America, especially, the legal tone given to public opinion by the old school of constitutional politicians gave vague maxims of this sort a powerful hold on the national mind, the more so in the case of the presumption in favor of innocence that it harmonized with the prevailing feeling of laissez faire and general sympathy with everybody. The number of swindling contractors, disreputable lawyers, and degraded politicians who have triumphed over their enemies within the past few years by the simple fact that nothing had been “ proved ” against them is incalculable. Although every one knew in many of these cases that the wealth of the contractors, lawyers, and politicians in question could not be accounted for except by fraudulent profits, corruption of judges, or the purchase and sale of votes, nevertheless, every man was presumed to be innocent, and in fact was innocent, until he was proved to be guilty. At last a case happened in which the point of sheer absurdity was reached. Fisk, who, after years spent in open thieving, during which he had on one occasion confessed that he was a “ robber,” and had “ sold his soul,” and on another had broadly hinted that he kept murderers in his employ, and who was known throughout the world as the most notorious and shameless rascal of this century, finally found a defender in Mr. George Ticknor Curtis, who gravely announced his opinion, on the strength of the commonlaw presumption, that Fisk ought to be considered an innocent man. This was a little beyond the endurance even of a coinmon-law-abiding people, and certainly in New York the old presumption has never had such a good standing since.

But the presumption still exists in the minds of lawyers and judges, and it stands very clearly in the way of the good administration of criminal justice in a certain class of cases. In the case of “ habitual criminals ” — criminals who commit offences, not, as most people do, from a sudden impulse of passion, but as a means of getting their living — there is clearly a very strong presumption that, when found in their usual “beats,” they are there for no good purpose. There are thousands of these “ professionals ” in London, in New York, in Boston, and every other great city ; the police know them, and generally know what they are about. But they come and go in hotels, cars, and steamboats, prowl about the streets at night, or have mysterious interviews with “fences” and “brokers,” comparatively free from danger ; they may be arrested, to be sure, but, unless their connection with some particular crime can be proved, they return to their predatory lives. A bill is now pending in the State of New York for the regulation of this class of criminals, founded on recent English legislation, the design of the bill being to make the presumption in the case of habitual criminals favor guilt instead of innocence. If the bill passes, it will be possible to arrest in public places any one known to be an “ habitual criminal,” take him into court, and, instead of being obliged to prove something against him, oblige him to prove that he was, at the time of his arrest, engaged in some lawful business, or be sent to prison. It is easy to see what the effect of such a law rigidly enforced would be. To give a good account of himself is exactly what the habitual criminal, whether he be thief, pickpocket, burglar, or “ fence,” or “ broker,” cannot do ; he would be driven either into less dangerous occupations, or be kept in an almost perpetual confinement, or else be forced to change his place of residence.

We may say, in conclusion, that while it is never well to treat a serious subject with levity, still it is not easy to avoid a smile at the idea of the introduction of this bill in Albany. There must be something ludicrous in it to members of the New York Legislature themselves. Almost any thoughtful member might enjoy a quiet laugh over the fate which has put into such hands as his the supervision of criminals. It would be very difficult to discriminate, in the forum of morals or of law, between certain classes of “ habitual criminals ” and certain classes of habitual politicians.