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“Thou Wicked Servant”

Though opposed to Lincoln’s violations of the Constitution in his war against the American South, Northern Democrats saw the need to crush secession, which was a manifestation of the Tenth Amendment and inherent right of the people of a State to withdraw from a federal compact to which they conditionally assented. Those Northern Democrats did not see that due to the vast differences between the sections by 1861, peaceful separation was the only logical solution for the Southern people to pursue free, representative government. Connecticut Senator William C. Fowler (below) was born in 1793, during Washington’s presidency – living long enough to see the end of Washington’s Union.

“Thou Wicked Servant”

“Expressing opposition to secession, [Northerners Clement] Vallandigham, [Samuel S.] Cox, [Stephen D.] Carpenter, and Fowler maintained that they desired not an independent Confederacy but simply a restoration of the “Constitution as it is” and the “Union as it was.” They declared they were in favor of a constitutional war to crush secession, but they charged that Lincoln was waging a battle for the conquest and subjugation of the South and that he was conducting it in a despotic fashion, subverting the constitutional liberties of individuals and the rights of States.

Opposing military conscription, they also criticized the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and declared that freedom of speech had been abolished in the Union.

In particular, they attacked Lincoln’s policy of emancipation. Spurning the argument that emancipation was a legitimate measure adopted to aid the prosecution of the war, they pictured it as an unconstitutional act by which the President had changed the war aims of the North from the preservation of the Union to abolition of slavery.

“If,” said Fowler in the Connecticut State Senate in 1864, “the President should avow the fact that he has violated the Constitution, in order to save the Union, as the President did in a letter to Mr. Hodge, let us say to him “out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant.”

The peace advocates placed special blame for war upon the abolitionists of the North, stating repeatedly that it was not the institution of slavery but the agitation of the slavery question by the abolitionists that had caused hostilities.

For the immediate outbreak of fighting, the three Midwesterners placed responsibility upon Lincoln and the Republicans because of their refusal to compromise with Southerners in the crisis of 1860-1861.”

(Americans Interpret Their Civil War, Thomas J. Pressly, 1954, Princeton University Press, excerpts pp. 131-133)

The Real Cause of Secession

The protectionist Morrill Tariff passed the Senate on March 2, 1861, with many Southern members already having resigned their seats due to their States no longer being part of the United States. In response, Virginia Senator Roger Pryor delivered a blistering tirade against the Northern protectionists: “The importune protectionists of Pennsylvania . . . after higgling successively with every party for a stipend from the Treasury, at last caught the Republicans in a moment of exigent need, and from their lust for place, extorted the promise of a bounty to iron. This bill is the issue of a carnal coalition between the Abolitionists of New England and the protectionists of Pennsylvania.” The low, free trade tariff passed by the Confederate Congress would be ruinous to high-tariff Northern ports.

The Real Cause of Secession

“Southern agrarians had made known their intense hostility to protective [import] duties which they considered a burdensome tax upon their enterprise for the benefit of Northern manufacturers. It was the issue that drove South Carolina to the edge of rebellion thirty years before, and ever since 1846 Southern influence had kept tariff schedules at low levels.

But a tariff increase had been one of the major planks in the Republicans’ Chicago [party] platform. Its appeal had won them many votes in the East, especially in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Accordingly they were determined to redeem their pledge without delay; indeed they were warned repeatedly that failure to act would ruin them in Pennsylvania.

[Republican Simon] Cameron’s correspondence made it evident that conservative Pennsylvanians were determined to have a higher tariff regardless of the consequences; that this was not an issue which they regarded as properly open to compromise. Harry C. Carey of Philadelphia, the doctrinaire protectionist who was ready to concede almost anything else to the South, comforted his sympathizers with a unique diagnosis of the secession crisis which absolved them of any responsibility. In begging Northern congressmen to raise the tariff, he argued that free trade was actually “the cause of the discord with which we are troubled.” Only protection [of Northern manufacturers] could form a sound foundation for a prosperous and harmonious Union.

In any event, Republicans wasted no time in bringing the tariff question before Congress. A bill sponsored by Representative Justin S. Morrill of Vermont, which provided substantial protection for Pennsylvania iron and other Northern manufactures, had passed the House at the previous session. Cameron pressed for its consideration in the Senate as early as the second day of the new session.

Senator Hunter of Virginia, defending the rights of farmers and consumers, led the opposition to the new tariff . . . [as to] Virginia and the rest of the South this bill would be ruinous. “I know that we here are too weak to resist or to defend ourselves; those who sympathize with our wrongs are too weak to help us . . . No sir, this bill will pass. And let it pass into the statute-book; let it pass into history, that we may know how it is that the South has been dealt with when New England and Pennsylvania had the power to deal with her interests.”

A week later an amended version of the Morrill Tariff passed the Senate by a vote of 35 to 14, the opposition coming exclusively from Southerners and western Democrats. Representative [Daniel] Sickles of New York City reflected the views of the merchants when he protested that this bill would further alienate the South from the Union, for “our Southern friends perceive that . . . you intend . . . to tax them on the necessaries of life in order to enrich the manufacturing classes of the North . . .”

(And the War Came: The North and the Secession Crisis, 1860-1861, Kenneth M. Stampp, LSU Press, 1950, excerpts pp. 161-164)

Dec 8, 2018 - America Transformed, Historical Accuracy, Lincoln Revealed, Myth of Saving the Union, Propaganda, Republican Party Jacobins    Comments Off on Taking Propaganda as Self-Evident Truth

Taking Propaganda as Self-Evident Truth

The long-standing myth of Lincoln’s speech at Gettysburg in November 1863 is first questioned by his status as a secondary speaker to the eminent Edward Everett, and that the event promoters did not desire Lincoln to upstage him. Additionally, those seated behind Lincoln at stated afterward that the published speech were not Lincoln’s words, and that he was a “wet blanket,” and newspaper accounts criticized his ill-chosen words. Those who heard Lincoln’s speech said later published accounts were “revised” by someone.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Taking Propaganda as Self-Evident Truth

“Is it time to pull US troops out of Iraq? Back in 1862 you could have been arrested for saying US troops should be pulled out of the Confederacy, because Abraham Lincoln insisted that they were fighting for “a new birth of freedom.”

Lincoln is the subject of yet another new book – worshipful, naturally – called “The Gettysburg Gospel,” by Gabor Boritt (Simon & Schuster).

This is the second recent book about the Gettysburg Address, the previous one being Gary Will’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Lincoln at Gettysburg.” Both books treat Lincoln as a national savior, overlooking his fallacious appeal to the Declaration of Independence.

According to Lincoln, the Declaration “brought forth a new nation.” That is plainly not true. The Declaration says nothing about a “nation”; it speaks only of 13 “Free and Independent States.” It is, in fact, a declaration of secession! The 13 States are serving notice that they are pulling out of the British Empire.

Lincoln even contradicts himself. In his first inaugural, denying the right of any State to leave the Union, he had said that “the Union is older than the States.” That is like saying that a marriage is older than the spouses. Apart from being nonsense, it implies that the “new nation” didn’t begin with the Declaration after all.

But Lincoln worshipers, bewitched by his eloquence, rarely notice these things. They overlook not only his lapses in logic but also his gross violations of the Constitution: usurpations of power, suspension of habeas corpus, arbitrary arrests of dissenters and even elected officials, crackdown on the free press, the Emancipation Proclamation (Lincoln himself doubted his authority to issue it but finally yielded to Republican pressure), and so on.

Some of the worshippers, such as Wills and Harry V. Jaffa, strain to defend these measures, but Boritt seems not to even notice them. He sounds like Tony Snow explaining Bush’s Iraq policies: the king can do no wrong. Lincoln always praised Thomas Jefferson, but under his administration Jefferson, the ur-secessionist, would have found himself in the clink.

Unless the North conquered the South, Lincoln said at Gettysburg, self-government itself would “perish from the earth.” Balderdash, of course. Yet most Americans still take Lincoln’s war propaganda as self-evident truth. He ranks among history’s most durably successful humbugs.”

(How Lincoln Gave Us Kwanzaa, Joe Sobran, Sobran’s Real News of the Month, January 2007, Volume 14, Number 1, excerpts pg. 9)

The American Revolution Reversed

The American Revolution Reversed

“In 1863 Abraham Lincoln declared in pseudo-biblical language that our forefathers had brought forth “a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” and that “we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.” Lincoln at Gettysburg committed a quadruple lie that has since become standard American doctrine about the Revolution.

First, what was created in 1776 was not a nation but an alliance. At that time there was not even the Articles of Confederation. Second, he elevated the bit of obiter dicta about equality above the Declaration’s fundamental assertion of the right of societies of men to govern themselves by their own lights, attaching a phony moralistic motive to the invasion and conquest of the South – what [historian Mel] Bradford called “the rhetoric of continuing revolution.”

Third, Lincoln was not engaged in preserving the Union. The Union was destroyed the moment he had undertaken to overthrow the legitimate governments of 15 States by force. He was establishing the supremacy of the government machinery in Washington, which he controlled, over the many self-governing communities of Americans.

Fourth, he cast the Revolution in a mystical way, as if the forefathers had met on Mount Olympus and decreed liberty. But governments, even of the wisest men, cannot decree liberty. The Americans were fighting to preserve the liberty they already had through their history, which many saw as a benevolent gift of Providence. The American Revolution was reversed, its meaning disallowed, and its lesson repudiated.

Did not Jefferson Davis have a better grasp of the Revolution when he said that Southerners were simply imitating their forebears, and that the Confederacy “illustrates the American idea that government rests upon the consent of the governed?

Lincoln could launch a war against a very substantial part of the people. To this end he was willing to kill 300,000 Southerner soldiers and civilians and even more of his own native and immigrant proletariat. The crackpot realist General Sherman said it well: “We are now in the enemy’s country, and I act accordingly . . . The war will soon assume a turn to extermination, not of soldiers alone, that is the least part of the trouble, but the people.”

Clearly, the government, the machinery controlled by the politicians in Washington, who had been chosen by two-fifths of the people, now had supremacy over the life and institutions of Americans.”

(Society Precedes Government: Two Counterrevolutions, Clyde N. Wilson, Chronicles, April 2015, excerpts pp. 17-18) www.chroniclesmagazine.org

European Recognition for the South

Napoleon III favored the South as he was committed to building a French empire in Mexico, and viewed Southern armies as his potential allies and the North as an adversary. Britain became convinced early that no mediation would work as the South wanted to part in a Union with the North, and that Lincoln would entertain no thoughts of political independence for the South. Rather than the popular belief that a dislike of African slavery was holding back European recognition for the South, it was Russian intrigue against France and England that sent the Czar’s Baltic and Pacific fleets to New York and San Francisco harbors in late 1863 for an eight month stay – and as a veiled threat to Europe to avoid mediation or intervention.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

European Recognition for the South

“Napoleon seized the initiative which was relinquished by Lord Russell, and late in 1862 . . . proposed joint mediation [of America’s war] to Britain and Russia. Napoleon’s proposal called for a six months’ armistice to lead to formal recognition of the Confederacy.

The proposal was politely but promptly turned down. Alexander II, Czar of All the Russians . . . still resented British-French intervention in favor of Turkey, which had led to the Crimean War. A year later – not before the fortunes of war had decisively changed in favor of the Union – Russia sent two fleets, one to New York and the other to San Francisco, as a demonstration of friendship.

The British answer . . . sent in November 1862, said in effect that mediation would have no chance of success. From St. Petersburg, on November 18, 1862, [Russian Prince Gorchakov] . . . assured the French Ambassador of his intention to instruct the Russian Minister at Washington . . . to join the intended “demarche of France and Britain in case there is a favorable reception on the part of the Union government.” Naturally, such a chance never existed.

[In January 1863, France offered] mediation to the United States government. The result was a blunt rejection by [Secretary of State William] Seward, supported by a Congressional resolution denouncing foreign interference in the strongest terms.

In June, 1863, when French troops entered Mexico City and the Confederacy was still undefeated, Napoleon received in private audience two pro-Southern Englishmen. They were John A. Roebuck, an ultraconservative MP, and his associate, William S. Lindsay, a representative of Britain’s powerful shipbuilding industry. After returning to London, Roebuck introduce a resolution in the House of Commons urging the recognition of the Confederacy and disclosing confidential details of his talk with the Emperor of the French.

[Edward T. Hardy, American-born] consular agent of the Austrian Empire in Norfolk, Virginia, [was extremely well-informed about Southern intentions and wrote] . . . “the Aspect of American Affairs,” . . . filed as an important document in the Imperial Chancery of Vienna.

Hardy’s sixteen-page handwritten report assumed that [Maximilian’s acceptance of the Mexican Crown was a foregone conclusion, and that, “an Empire having been proclaimed, a war with the United States in inevitable; and the next to importance to the pacification and reconciliation of the people of Mexico is a recognition of the Southern Confederacy, and an alliance offensive and defensive with it.” This sounds like an invitation to Maximilian from Jefferson Davis for a joint offensive against the Union.

(Lincoln and the Emperors, A.R. Tyrner-Tyrnauer, Harcourt, Brace & World, 1962, excerpts pp. 83-85; 90)

 

Lincoln’s European Revolutionaries

Lincoln’s election owed much to the Italian, Hungarian, German, French, Spanish, Polish and Irish exiles who fled Europe after their failed socialist revolutions. In appreciation for swinging the foreign vote to him, Lincoln offered military command to Italy’s Garibaldi early in the war, and made Carl Schurz and Franz Sigel generals. Austrian Charge d’affairs to Washington, Chevalier J.G. Huelsemann, viewed Lincoln as a rude politician “who emerged from a log cabin to become the symbol of republican democracy and the very antithesis of” his emperor. The Chevalier found Jefferson Davis “definitely superior” to Lincoln.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

Lincoln’s European Revolutionaries

“The sympathy of the United States in general, and Lincoln’s Republicans in particular, for the revolutionaries of Europe was a long-established fact. Chevalier Huelsemann had frequently expressed indignation at the cordiality displayed in America toward exiles of the anti-Habsburg revolutions.

He never forgot his bitter feud with Daniel Webster over favors shown to Hungary’s Kossuth, and he also remembered that Abraham Lincoln, back in the Springfield days, had offered a resolution at a public meeting which called for recognition “in governor Kossuth of Hungary the most worthy and distinguished representative of the cause of civil and religious liberty on the continent of Europe.”

This, however, had taken place about ten years before when Mr. Lincoln was just a local politician and could be ignored by an envoy of the Emperor. But the righteous ire of the Chevalier rose to the boiling when President Lincoln, in the first month of his administration, announced the “provocative appointment” of Anson Burlingame, a “violent radical,” to the post of Minister Extraordinary at the Court of His Apostolic Majesty Francis Joseph I.

Former Senator Burlingame was guilty of giving moral support to the revolutionary leaders of Europe and, above all, of having sponsored legislation in favor of recognizing the new, anti-Austrian Italy of the Risorgimento. Plainly, such a man could not be allowed to enter the exalted presence of the Emperor. The Secretary of State [William Seward] rejected all protests of Huelsemann and instructed Burlingame to proceed to Vienna.

Burlingame, on his arrival in Paris, was informed by Austrian Ambassador Prince Metternich that his American Excellency would not be received by the Emperor.

At this point Lincoln intervened . . . [with orders that Burlingame] “has been commissioned United States Minister to China.”

(Lincoln and the Emperors, A.R. Tyrner-Tyrnauer, Harcourt, Brace & World, 1962, excerpts pp. 32-34)

Lincoln Cultivates the German Vote

Lincoln set out to cultivate the German vote while campaigning for the first Republican candidate John C. Fremont in 1856, using the popular expression “God Bless the Dutch” (Deutsche) at rallies. In this, Lincoln had to distance himself from the Republican party’s absorption of nativist “Know-Nothing” party members who distrusted foreigners. To further his own presidential ambitions in 1860, he purchased a German language newspaper in Springfield, Illinois – the result was that German Protestants and refugee 1848 revolutionists helped assure him of the presidential nomination.

Lincoln repaid his important German supporters with patronage positions: Carl Schurz became the United States Minister to Spain; Herman Kreismann to the Berlin legation; Georg Wiss, Consul to Rotterdam; George Schneider, Consul to Denmark; Theodore Canisius, Consul at Vienna; Johann Hatterscheidt, Consul to Moscow; Charles Bernays, Consul at Zurich; Heinrich Boernstein, Consul at Bremen. Other German-born naturalized American citizens receiving European consulates included August Wolff, August Alers, and Francis Klauser. To former Prussian military officers went regiments, brigades and preferential promotions.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln Cultivates the German Vote

“The proportion of foreigners grew from 13 percent to 19 percent. For all these newcomers to Illinois, the Homestead [Act] was the promise of an easy settlement in the West. Among them, foreigners, especially the Germans, constituted a particularly active and militant group in favor of the Homestead. It was, in fact, in response to the Germans of Cincinnati in 1861 that Lincoln would make his first declaration on the subject.

Lincoln entrusted to Gustave Koerner, the direction of efforts extended toward the Germans. Koerner, a lawyer from Belleville, put him in touch with [Theodore] Canisius, editor in chief of the Frei Presse of Alton, and, on May 30, 1860, Lincoln confided to the latter the management of the Illinois Staats Anzeiger, which he had recently acquired. An important role went to Friedrich Hecker, hero of [the] 1848 [German socialist revolution], who . . . established himself as the principal organizer among Germans . . .

In the person of Koerner, Lincoln brought into his campaign a moderate anti-slavery man who had broken with [Stephen] Douglas in 1854, two years after being elected lieutenant governor of Illinois.

By 1860 Lincoln enjoyed several advantages with German voters. He was known as the main adversary to nativism within the Illinois Republican party. The Caucus of German delegates at the [Republican’s 1860] Chicago Convention brought together . . . Caspar Butz, former Forty-eighter and representative in the Illinois house . . . Keorner; Hecker; George Schnieder, the founder of the Illinois Staats Zeitung and a collaborator of Lincoln since 1856 . . . and Joseph Weydemeyer, a former Prussian artillery officer, friend of [Karl] Marx, editor of the Voice of the People [Stimme des Volkes] in Chicago in 1860, genera of a Missouri regiment, and principal correspondent of Marx and Engels on military questions in the Civil War.”

(Lincoln, Land and Labor, 1809-1860, Olivier Fraysse, University of Illinois Press, 1988, excerpts pp. 138-141)

Other Voices of the North

Charles H. Lamphier, editor of the Illinois State Register in Lincoln’s hometown of Springfield, referred to the president as “the ineffable despot, who, by some inscrutable dispensation of Providence presides over the destinies of this vast republic.” Lincoln’s reelection victory led Lamphier to write that “this result is the heaviest calamity that ever befell this nation . . . the farewell to civil liberty, to a republican form of government . . . his election has filled our hearts with gloom.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Other Voices of the North

“On the Fourth of July, when Lee’s army was dragging itself from the [Gettysburg] battlefield, the North was electrified by news that Vicksburg had fallen. But the national holiday also heard voices in the North declaring the people had lost their liberties. Franklin Pierce, former President of the United States, spoke to 25,000 at Concord, N.H., denouncing the war as “sectional and parricidal.”

“Even here in the loyal States,” he said, “the mailed hand of military usurpation strikes down the liberties of the people, and its foot tramples on a desecrated Constitution.”

New York’s Governor [Horatio] Seymour – who deplored the election of Lincoln as a “great calamity,” made formal protests against “arbitrary arrests,” and vetoed a bill to permit soldiers in the field to vote on grounds it was unconstitutional – spoke before a large audience at the Academy of Music in New York City.

He asserted that not only was there a “bloody civil war” in progress but that a “second revolution” was threatening in the North because of the hostility between the two political parties. Then he said, “Remember that the bloody, and treasonable, and revolutionary doctrine of public necessity can be proclaimed by a mob as well as by a government.”

Benjamin Wood, Democratic Congressman and editor of the New York Daily News, published an editorial attack on President Lincoln, charging that he was trying to preach “passive submission,” through the columns of [John W.] Forney’s Chronicle at Washington. The editorial spoke of the Chronicle as “the salaried organ of the bloodstained criminals at Washington.”

[Many German language] newspapers deserted Lincoln . . . [such as] the Illinois Staats-Anzeiger of Springfield, a newspaper once secretly owned by him. In announcing its break with Lincoln, the newspaper said:

“Reviewing the history of the last four years, nothing is left to us but to cut loose decidedly and forever from Lincoln and his policy, and to protest against his reelection under all circumstances and at any price. No reasons of expediency can influence us ever to ever accept Lincoln as our President again . . .”

(Lincoln and the Press, Robert S. Harper, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1951, excerpts pp. 271-272; 304)

The Meaning of Freedom

The author below writes that in early postwar South Carolina, slave “desertion on . . . plantations became increasingly frequent . . . to enjoy the freedom the Yankey’s have promised the Negroes.” Rather than remain with the people and place they had known most if not all their lives, domestic Patience Johnson told her mistress that “I must go, if I stay here I’ll never know I am free.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Meaning of Freedom

“Christmas Day, 1865, saw many South Carolina plantations entirely deserted by their Negro populations. After visiting the plantation of a relative on February 9, 1866, the Reverend John Hamilton Cornish reported that, “Not one of their Negroes is with them, all have left.”

Like many domestics, most of those field hands who remained . . . were very old, very young or encumbered. The mistress of the Ball plantation in Laurens District recalled . . . at end of 1865 “many of the Negroes sought employment on other places, but the least desirable stayed with us, for they could not easily find new homes and we could not deny them shelter.”

Large numbers of agricultural laborers left their native plantations during the Christmas season to camp in a neighboring village while they searched for an employer. Employment, however, was not always easily found. David Golightly Harris, visiting Spartanburg on New Year’s Day, 1866, “saw many Negroes enjoying their freedom by walking about the streets & looking much out of sorts . . . Ask who you may “What are you going to do,” & their universal answer is “I don’t know.”

Augustine Smythe found much the same conditions prevailing in . . . the Orangeburg District. “There is considerable trouble & moving among the Negroes,” he reported. “They are just like a swarm of bees all buzzing about & not knowing where to settle.”

Apparently, many freedmen were driven to return to their old places by economic necessity. Isabella A. Soustan, a Negro woman who had somehow found freedom in a place called Liberty, North Carolina, in July 1865, expressed her thoughts on the dilemma that many ex-slaves faced in their first year of emancipation. “I have the honor to appeal to you one more for assistance, Master,” she petitioned her recent owner. “I am cramped [here] near to death and no one [cares] for me [here], and I want you if you [please] Sir, to send for me.”

Some few freedmen were willing to exchange freedmen for security. “I don’t care if I am free,” concluded Isabella, “I had rather live with you, as I was as free while with you as I wanted to be.”

(After Slavery: The Negro in South Carolina During Reconstruction, 1861-1877, Joel Williamson, UNC Press, 1965, excerpts pp. 39-41)

Nov 18, 2018 - America Transformed, Costs of War, Economics, Lincoln's Grand Army, Lincoln's Revolutionary Legacy, Northern Culture Laid Bare, Northern Pensions    Comments Off on Congressional Demagogues and Conscienceless Profiteers

Congressional Demagogues and Conscienceless Profiteers

By 1890 the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), as a fraternal order of Northern veterans, had become not only indispensable to politicians for election victory, a guiding light for “correct” histories of the war in textbooks and a Northern view of American nationalism, but most importantly, a very powerful lobby for pensions.

In late January 1879, Congress passed the Arrears of Pension Act for Northern veterans who could collect past monies due for any claimed disability, which “placed a tremendous premium on deception and fraud.” Men who had an attack of fever while in the army persuaded themselves that every ill since being discharged was caused by that fever. By the time Grover Cleveland became president in 1885, the pension list had grown to 385,125 who drew more than $65 million annually from the public treasury, North and South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Congressional Demagogues and Conscienceless Profiteers

“It has ever been easy to arouse popular excitement upon the treatment of wounded or disabled soldiers, and this noble sentiment has been often played upon by designing men. Moreover, the Democratic party has always been compelled to deal with more than the usual caution with the question when it affected soldiers who served in the Federal ranks . . . as any unwillingness to pass pension bills for such soldiers was certain to be interpreted as reflecting sympathy for the lost cause.

For this reason Grover Cleveland, as he looked over the pension system of the nation of which he was chosen president, must have summoned all of his courage. To allow the [pension] scandals which had developed to pass unrebuked was impossible for a man with his views of the duty as a President; to attempt to end them was to bring down more abuse from his enemies in both political parties.

Under a just system of army pensions the maximum of expenditure on account of any war is reached within eight or ten years of its close. Thereafter death steadily diminishes the number of legitimate pensioners . . . In 1866 there had been 126,722 pensioners drawing from the public treasury, all told, about thirteen and a half million dollars annually. As the years passed these numbers increased until, in 1873, there were more than 238,000 names on the roll, which called for some $29,000,000 a year.

From that time mortality should have materially reduced the number of pensions; and if the congressional demagogues had kept their hands off, this would certainly have happened.

In his first annual message to Congress [Cleveland] used the words: “It is fully as important that the rolls should be cleansed of all those who by fraud have secured a place within, as that meritorious claims should be speedily examined and adjusted.”

Conscienceless profiteers, intent upon coining into gold a noble public sentiment, had adopted the practice of disregarding the decisions of the Pension Bureau, and taking spurious claims directly to Congress in the form of private pension bills, which dishonest manipulators or too sentimental patriots steered through, as secretly as the rules would allow. It was a practice safe as well as profitable, for few politicians dared to resist, lest they be regarded as unpatriotic.”

(Grover Cleveland: The Man and the Statesman, Volume I, Robert McElroy, Harper and Brothers, 1923, excerpts pp. 189-191)