North Carolinian Nathanial Macon opposed the granting of pensions to War of 1812 veterans since the freedom they fought for and retained seemed suffient compensation for military service. He was aware of the predictable political constituency enabled by a large army, true then as it is today.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Grand Army Rights as Conquerors
“The assumption behind the original pension law of 1862 had been that the Federal government . . . was liable only for injuries . . . sustained while in [service]. Mere service as a Union veteran did not entitle a man to any special consideration, even if he happened to be sick, jobless or destitute. By far the most common rebuttal [to pension reform] involved the declaration of a new principle: that the Union veteran had a prior claim on the nation’s treasury, not as a compensation for illness, not as a gratuity, but as an absolute right.
The Service Pension Association’s Frank Farnham, calling the GAR “the representatives of those who saved the country, by the greatest of sacrifices,” argued that “any reasonable demand” of the veterans should receive the public’s “unqualified support.”
Opposition to the Grand Army, he said, came mostly from the ex-Confederates, ex-Copperheads and Mugwumps. New York supporters of the $8 service pension bill were even more blunt. “The GAR,” they proclaimed in 1886, “own this country by the rights of a conqueror.”
[“Nation” editor Edwin] Godkin . . . found service pensions appalling in principle. As Congress was considering a proposal to pension all veterans over the age of sixty, he wrote:
“A large proportion of the half-million people who are added to the pension roll are persons who have no possible claim to consideration. Some of them were worthless as soldiers during the war; others are now “hard up” simply because they have grown shiftless and dissipated since the war; others are well-to-do and in no possible need of any increase to their income. The simple fact about the matter is that any old “bummer” who can establish the fact that he was connected with the Union Army in any way for ninety days, even if he got no further than the recruiting camp, may now have his name placed on the pension roll and draw $8 a month for the rest of his life.”
(Glorious Contentment The Grand Army of the Republic, Scott McConnell, UNC Press, 1992)