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Unproductive Republican Economic Policies

April, 1865 witnessed the victory of Northern industrial capitalism over the conservative, agrarian South – no longer could Southern statesmen restrain the North in the halls of Congress. Post-1865 America saw the rise of corporations, the completion of Manifest Destiny and near-extermination of the Indians, and the gilded age of “evil robber barons.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Unproductive Republican Economic Policies

“Historians have tended to treat the Civil War as a boon to industry and the American economy. Thomas C. Cochrane cites several prominent historians . . . who variously praised the impact of the conflict on wartime production and its stimulating effect on postwar economic and industrial development.

Cochrane . . . examined statistical data on industrial production and found that, in general, there was not a strong case for a positive impact and that the war had a retarding effect on industry and the economy. Cochrane also found little support for the claims of beneficial effects of the Civil War on postwar development. He concludes with this speculation:

“From most standpoints the Civil War was a national disaster, but Americans like to see their history in terms of optimism and progress. Perhaps the war was put in a perspective suited to the culture by seeing it as good because in addition to achieving freedom for the Negro it brought about industrial progress.”

[Charles and Mary] Beard’s claim that the Civil War was a spur to industry and the rise of the American economy is based on the lasses-faire philosophy of the Republican Party and its success in implementing its major policy goals, such as subsidies to the intercontinental railroads, the establishment of a national currency and the protective tariff.

The Republican’s economic philosophy was not truly laissez-fair. In fact, their policy agenda was the opposite . . . in that it advocated special treatment for big business and a much larger role for the federal government. This can be seen in Republican policies to subsidize railroads, provide protective tariffs [for select private industries], and increase government debt and government control over money and banking as well as in their attitude toward labor.

Their policies [of tariffs and subsidies] . . . are now considered economically wasteful . . . and considered nothing more than special interests seeking a handout from the taxpayer through the government. [That Republican policies were productive] ignores the negative effects on the agriculture, service and cultural sectors. The Republicans’ policy would be better labelled as mercantilist in that it facilitated rent-seeking behavior.

Capital diverted to railroad building would surely have been put to good use elsewhere in the economy . . . [and] Moreover, had railroads not been highly subsidized, a better built, lower cost, and more timely system could have been put in place.

Tariffs were a centerpiece of Republican policy. They reversed a relatively free-trade policy . . . [and] protectionism forced consumers to pay higher prices for both imported and domestically produced goods protected by the tariff – that is, they purchased fewer of these products, used less desirable substitutes, and had a lower standard of living.

On net, the losses to consumers and the overall economy are greater than the gains to the protected producers and the tax revenue that accrues to the government.”

(Tariffs, Blockades and Inflation, the Economics of the Civil War; Mark Thornton and Robert B. Ekelund, Jr., Scholarly Resources Books, 2004, excerpts, pp. 84-87)

Conservative Southern Democrats Turn Republican

In 1952, liberal Republicans pushed aside conservative Robert A. Taft in favor of a man with no discernable political principles – Dwight Eisenhower. As FDR’s Democrat Party adopted virtually every plank of the Communist Party USA platform by 1944, conservative Southern Democrats like Virginia Senator Harry Byrd, were criticized by their own party for voting against Truman’s liberal policies and with “Mr. Republican,” Ohio’s Senator Taft. In a historic shift, Eisenhower carried the State of Virginia in 1952 with more than 56 percent of the vote.  Conservative Southern Democrats would have more of FDR-Truman collectivism.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Conservative Southern Democrats Turn Republican

“What would Harry Byrd do now? Four years earlier, at his suggestion, Virginia Democrats had endorsed Dwight Eisenhower for President. Now the general was the Republican presidential nominee, and the senator’s loyalists had played a part in bringing that about. But Eisenhower was a war-hero, the kind of popular figure who could capture the imagination of the American people and put an end to two decades of liberalism in the White House.

[Byrd] had become the central figure in the conservative coalition of Democrats and Republicans in the Congress that battled the President, and in 1949, Truman had declared in frustration, “There are too many Byrds in Congress.”

Facing fierce opposition from Southern Democrats, Truman decided to forego another reelection bid in 1952, but Byrd continued to hammer away at the evils of Trumanism.” “I’ve been asked what kind of Democrat I am,” Byrd told one campaign audience . . . I’m a Virginia Democrat, a true Democrat, and if any further definition is needed, I am not a Truman Democrat.”

With the Virginia Democrats having backed Eisenhower in 1948 [rather than Truman], Republicans hoped that an open GOP-Byrd organization alliance in support of the general could be arranged in 1952.

The Eisenhower strategy in Virginia was much the same as it was throughout the South. And, for the first time in years, a national Republican campaign featured the South prominently in its plans.

A confidential memorandum distributed to the Eisenhower campaign’s Southern operatives provided detailed instructions on how to woo voters who had never been Republicans. The remarkable document revealed a well-considered strategy for cracking the solidly Democratic South:

“For the South to “bolt” its traditional Democratic voting in 1952 will require a candidate who does not merely campaign under the Republican banner, but AN AMERICAN – worthy of the South’s political support.

One must understand and consider carefully the Democratic saga that pervades the Southern mind. Northerners are prone to look askance upon the traditional view that the South still has in its heart the War Between the States, and believe that the almost one hundred intervening years surely have settled the dust of that conflict. This is especially so as there is practically no living Southerner who could recall, from personal experience, the post-bellum carpet-bagger days, which history teaches did so much to alienate the South from the Republican Party.

True, a great deal of soothing water has passed over the dam that separates the South from the North, but there still remains a hatred and distrust of the Republican Party LABEL when attached to a candidate, particularly in the hearts and minds of those Southerners whose schooling has not been of the advanced type . . .

Specific suggestions for obtaining Southern support for Eisenhower include:

Do not try to sell the Republican Party to Southern voters – sell Eisenhower as the great American he is – whose principles of governing have been accepted by the Republican Party in making him their candidate . . .

Do not try to build a STATE Republican Party in the South while seeking to elect Eisenhower. In 1953, with Eisenhower in the White House and hundreds of thousands of Federal jobs available, will be the right time to build a strong Republican Party in the South . . .

Do not let the Negro question enter into the Southern campaign, for there is no Negro problem that the South cannot itself take care of. Even if it means alienating some of the Negro vote in populous Northern cities – what of it? The Negro vote no longer belongs to the Republican Party as in the days of old, for gratitude for freedom from slavery has long been forgotten.

In its place, we have 20 years of “handouts” to the Negroes by the Democratic Party, which the Negro cannot and will not forget at the polls. You cannot teach intelligent voting, except to a small number of Negroes higher education. The 136 electoral votes of the South mean more to the Republican Party than the possible loss of a few Northern States, even a big one like Pennsylvania, with its 32 votes. Absolute fairness and opportunity should be accorded the Negro, but for the South the question of segregation is holy and must not be disturbed.

Look upon the South with reality – a people sick of the type of Democratic rule they have had since FDR, but still too proud to embrace a Republican Party which would symbolize for them another surrender – another Appomattox.

Work in harmony with the Dixiecrats – they are anxious to defeat Trumanism . . .”

(The Dynamic Dominion, Realignment and the Rise of Virginia’s Republican Party Since 1945, Frank B. Atkinson, George Mason University Press, 1992, excerpts, pp. 47-51)

Lincoln Revives a Dying Party

It was a commonly held opinion by 1860 that the western territories were not conducive to large plantation and the black labor required to make it economically feasible. It was Lincoln in his “House-Divided” speech who fanned the flames of sectional discord and set the South on its path toward political independence, and the North on its path to war. Washington in his farewell address warned of the dangers of sectionalism – the same that Lincoln and his party created and nourished.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lincoln Revives a Dying Party

“The defeat of the slave-State constitution in Kansas made it certain that none of the land [Stephen] Douglas had opened to slavery north of 36-30 [latitude] would become slave. In view of the economic circumstances it was becoming more and more evident that unless the Republican party acquired new tenets there was no reason for continuing its organization.

[William] Seward, one of the leading lights of the party, and [Horace] Greeley, the leading editor of the party, were willing at this time to dissolve the party, but Lincoln was unwilling for the Republicans to disband their distinctive anti-slavery [expansion] organization and have nobody to follow but Douglas, who did not care whether slavery was “voted up or voted down.”

Accordingly, in his debate with Douglas, [Lincoln] had to supply additional material for the sustenance of his party’s life; for the time was rapidly approaching when it would become obvious to everybody that the extension of slavery into the territories had been checked permanently by prevailing economic conditions.

In order to win victory at the polls in 1858 it would be necessary for a Republican candidate not only to hold persons already enrolled in the moribund political organization, but also to gain recruits to the cause of prohibition of slavery in the territories by federal law.

The two groups from which new members could be drawn were the bona-fide abolitionists and the Henry Clay “Whigs” who had hitherto refused to enroll themselves in a sectional political party. The abolitionists supplied the soul of the anti-slavery movement of the North, but they had in general refused to vote for anybody who compromised on anything less than a declaration in favor of abolition of slavery in the slave States.

The Henry Clay Whigs of the North opposed further acquisition of territory which could be devoted to slavery but desired ultimate abolition of slavery only under conditions equitable to the South. They had most kindly feelings toward the Southern whites and like Clay they preferred the liberty of their own race to that of any other race, although they were no friends of slavery.

Lincoln so skillfully calculated the wording of his famous House-Divided speech that it won converts to his following from both sides of the above-mentioned groups. It carried water on both shoulders, so to speak, for it was so constructed that it was acceptable to both radicals and moderate conservatives. [The speech] contained bait for abolitionist consumption . . . and [it also] veils the radicalism . . . and makes of the whole what many Henry Clay Whigs even in the South hoped.

The idea presented . . . to the effect that the advocates of slavery intended to push slavery forward into the Northern States unless the system was checked . . . contained a powerful cement for amalgamating the heterogeneous elements of the North into one sectional party opposed to such extension. [Lincoln’s speech] was sufficiently nourishing to the party’s life to have “all free” enshrined as an ultimate ideal and to spread the idea that the South would be satisfied with nothing less than “all slave.”

(The Peaceable Americans of 1860-1861, A Study in Public Opinion, Mary Scrugham, Doctoral Dissertation, Philosophy, Columbia University, 1921, excerpts, pp. 18-21)

Liberal Republicans versus Liberal Democrats

From its inception, the Republican Party was purely sectional and required only five years to bring on a constitutional crisis that destroyed the Founders’ Union. By the mid-1930s when FDR had adopted a collectivist platform and utilized labor unions to funnel money and votes to him, an increasingly dominant liberal wing of the Republican Party chose to be equally collectivist. Conservative Robert A. Taft was in line to be the GOP nominee in 1952, until the party selected Eisenhower who appeared to have no demonstrated political principles.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Liberal Republicans versus Liberal New Dealers

“In their profound suspicion of the New Deal’s motives and ideological passion, nearly all eminent Republicans were at one with Taft; yet not all Republican leaders were ready to take, by Taft’s side, a forthright stand against the collectivist assumptions upon which the New Deal had been erected

The liberal, or anti-Taft, element of the Republican Party acted upon the assumption that the New Deal was irrevocable. Concessions, therefore, must be made to public opinion, allegedly infatuated with Roosevelt’s programs . . . Victory at the polls, rather than the defense or vindication of principles, seemed to most of the liberal Republicans the object of their party.

In some matters, it might be possible to outbid the New Dealers; in most, to offer nearly as much as Roosevelt offered. Hoover and Landon had fallen before a public repudiation of the old order; and the liberal Republicans assumed that the public’s mood had not altered much since 1936, and would not alter. They accepted “the inevitability of gradualism,” for the most part.

For [Wendell] Wilkie, [Thomas] Dewey and [Dwight] Eisenhower, with their campaign managers and chief supporters, campaigned on the explicit or implicit ground that Republicans were better qualified to administer those national programs which the Democrats had happened to initiate. This amounted to a confession, perhaps, that the Democratic party was the party of initiative, of ideas, of new policies, of intellectual leadership. These rivals of Taft did not venture, very often, to challenge the basic assumptions of New Deal and Fair Deal.

Even today, the attitude of many Republicans toward the New Deal remains ambiguous . . . [but] the theoretical basis of the New Deal, however modified and chastened by hard experience, remains a force in American politics.

For that matter, Franklin Roosevelt was by no means content with the Democratic party he had led to victory; his unsuccessful endeavor to “purge” the Democratic party of conservatives, just before Taft entered the Senate, was the consequence of the belief that “the Democratic Party and the Republican Party . . . one should be liberal and the other conservative . . . [as] this has been the division by which the American parties in American history have been identified.

Later in 1944, Roosevelt was to propose to Wendell Wilkie (who had lost the Republican presidential nomination) that he and Wilkie should unite to form a new, “really liberal party.”

(The Political Principles of Robert A. Taft, Russell Kirk & James McClellan, Fleet Press, 1967, excerpts, pp. 46-48; 51)

 

To Stay the Tide of Bloodshed

At least six efforts were made, most of Southern origin, to settle the political differences with the North peacefully. From the Crittenden Compromise of late 1860, the Washington Peace Conference led by former President John Tyler, the Confederate commissioners being sent to Washington in March 1861, to the Hampton Roads Conference of February 1865, the South tried to avert war and end the needless bloodshed. It was clear that one side wanted peace, the other wanted war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

To Stay the Tide of Bloodshed

“Carl Schurz, a notorious agitator and disunionist from Wisconsin, telegraphed to the governor of that State: “Appoint commissioners to Washington conference – myself one – to strengthen our side. By “our side” he meant those who were opposed to any peace measures to save the country from war and preserve the Union.

The Republicans wanted to make as wide as possible the gulf between the North and the South. This peace Conference, therefore, was a failure, because the abolitionists were determined there should be no peace.

In the Senate, Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi, made an urgent appeal to the Republicans “to assure the people of the South that you do intend to calmly consider all propositions which they may make, and to recognize their rights which the Union was established to secure.” But the Republican Senators remained mute.

Mr. Davis held that if the Crittenden Resolutions were adopted, the Southern States would recede their secession. He also said that the South had never asked nor desired that the Union founded by its forefathers should be torn asunder, but that the government as was organized should be administers in “purity and truth.” Senator Davis, with mildness and dignity of voice, also said, “There will be peace if you so will it; and you may bring disaster upon the whole country if you thus will have it. And if you will have it thus . . . we will vindicate and defend the rights we claim.”

As the year of 1860 was going out, all reasonable hope of reconciliation for the South departed. The Southern leaders then called a conference. What was to be done? All their proposals of compromise, looking for peace within the Union, had failed. It was evident that the Republican party in Congress was to wait until Mr. Lincoln came in on March 4th. But efforts for peace were not given up, even after the war began, but were earnestly continued in an effort to stay the tide of bloodshed.

(Efforts for Peace in the Sixties, essay by Mrs. John H. Anderson of Raleigh, Confederate Veteran Magazine, August 1931, page 299)

Industrial Machines and Political Machines

The triumph of Northern arms in 1865 ensured the political supremacy of the New England industrial elite over the agricultural South — the South that presided over the republic’s “classic years,” defended its political conservatism and produced most of the presidents. With the South in ruins, industrial interests with unlimited funds and government patronage had won the second American revolution.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Industrial Machines and Political Machines

“What Charles Beard has called “the second American Revolution — the revolution that assured the triumph of the business enterprise — had been fought and largely won by 1877. In four great lines of endeavor — -manufacturing, extractive industries, transportation and finance — business marched from one swift triumph to another.

In 1860 about a billion dollars was invested in manufacturing plants which employed 1,500,000 workers; but in less than fifty years the investment had risen to 12 billions and the number of workers to 5,000,000.

A bloody and riotous year, violence was everywhere evident in the America of 1877. The great railroad strike of that year was the first significant industrial clash in American society. “Class hatred,” writes Denis Tilden Lynch, “was a new note in American life where all men were equal before the law. The South was in the turmoil of reconstruction, sand-lot rioters ruled in San Francisco; and 100,000 strikers and 4,000,000 unemployed surged in the streets of Northern cities.

At a cabinet meeting on July 22, 1877, the suggestion was advanced that a number of States should be placed under martial law.

Once triumphant, the industrial tycoons discovered that they could not function within the framework of the social and political ideals of the early Republic. To insure their triumph, a new social order had to be established; a new set of institutions had to be created of which the modern corporation was, perhaps, the most important . . . [and with] the Industrial machine came the political machine.

Dating from 1870, the “boss system” had become so thoroughly entrenched in American politics by 1877 that public life was everywhere discredited by the conduct of high officials. The simplicity of taste which had characterized the “classic” years of the early Republic gave way to a wild, garish, and irresponsible eclecticism. “The emergence of the millionaire,” writes Talbot Hamlin, “was as fatal to the artistic ideals of the Greek Revival as were the speed, the speculation and the exploitation that produced him.”

In one field after another, the wealth of the new millionaire was used to corrupt the tastes, the standards, and the traditions of the American people.”

(A Mask for Privilege, Carey McWilliams, Little, Brown & Company, 1948, pp 8-10)

Union Saved for Republican Party Hegemony

With the South out of Congress since 1861 and no Southern leadership to provide a conservative and responsible voice in US government, the predictable occurred. As a soldier Grant was a butcher who sent wave after wave of new recruits to wear down the thin Southern brigades; as a politician, Orville H. Browning of Illinois described Grant as “weak, vain, ignorant, mercenary, selfish and malignant”; that he was surrounded by corrupt and unprincipled men and that his reelection would be a great calamity to the country.” Grant’s election in 1868 was achieved with a few hundred thousand freedmen votes, they herded to the polls by the Republican’s terrorist Union League.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Union Saved for Corrupt Republican Party Hegemony

“The eight years of Grant’s administration rocked with one scandal after another. Citizens defrauded the government in the acquisition of land and in claims for [Northern veteran] pensions; contractors supplying the army and navy were often venal; and unscrupulous lawyers levied toll on ignorant and defenseless Indians.

Members of Congress were bribed and disgraced. Cabinet officers were investigated and impeached. Subordinate officials and employees were revealed in outright betrayal of public trust. Never had the Republic sunk to so low an estate of official morality.

During the 1870s there was both incompetence and dishonesty in the large customhouses; discipline and integrity among the navy-yard labor forces were at a low ebb; the Indian service had been roundly condemned by [James] Garfield; land agents connived at irregularities, and surveyors made fraudulent claims for work not performed.

The tone of the eight years of Grant’s administration was . . . set by a small number of weak and unreliable persons holding seats in Congress and in high executive office. It was during these years that the most resounding scandals occurred, not only in Washington but in many States and cities. When the mighty wandered far from the paths of rectitude, it was not surprising that some of the lesser ranks followed their example.

To a few of the scandals we turn . . . The Credit Mobilier . . . originally organized to finance railroad construction, [it] fell into the control of a group of adventurers, including a member of Congress, Oakes Ames. The corporation was awarded a lucrative but fraudulent contract for the . . . [Union Pacific Railroad and disgraced Grant’s] Vice Presidents Colfax and Wilson.

Laxness or corruption in the award of Indian trading posts had been suspected for some time under General [William] Belknap’s administration of the War Department. [Secretary of the Navy George M. Robeson levied] percentages on . . . contractors’ engagements with the navy, [and] Robeson grew rich. [Secretary of the Treasury John D. Sanborn, a protégé of Benjamin Butler, siphoned money destined for the Internal Revenue Service].

The most dramatic and perhaps the most damaging evidence of corruption during the Grant administration involved the evasion of internal revenue taxes on distilleries. Fraud had long been suspected [and persons involved] included General John A. McDonald, collector of internal revenue in St. Louis . . . other collectors, the chief clerk of the internal revenue division of the Treasury Department in Washington [and] General Orville Babcock, President Grant’s private secretary, who was subsequently indicted but who escaped conviction.”

(The Republican Era, 1869-1901, A Study in Administrative History, Leonard D. White, Macmillan Company, 1958, excerpts pp. 366-373)

Carpetbaggers in the Philippines

The entrance of the United States into the game of imperialism came after an unnecessary war with Spain and the seizure of the latter’s former imperial possessions of Cuba and the Philippines. The promise of independence for the natives was soon realized to be empty, and the standard procedure of installing US-friendly regimes in conquered regions began — and continues today.

As articulated below, it is worth pondering if exploitation by the dominant Tagalogs after the US military departed was worse than exploitation by American carpetbaggers. The latter believed, and still seem to believe, that all people of the world are really hard-working New England Puritans in native clothing and if taught to master the art of democratic town hall meetings they could be left alone.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Carpetbaggers in the Philippines

“The problem of giving self-government to the Filipinos was made difficult by the existence of several distinct tribes speaking different languages and cherishing race enmities among themselves. The most important tribe was the Tagalogs, numbering 1,466,000 out of a population of nearly 8,000,000. They exceeded the others in culture and in the will to dominate the islands. If left to themselves it was believed that they would establish supremacy over the islands both political and economic. This policy has weighed down our policy in the islands.

Whatever the reasons why the United States should withdraw from the conduct of government there, it would be against the spirit of our promises to all the people if by so doing the large majority of the natives were left to the exploitation of the Tagalogs.

[In 1900], a governmental commission was appointed, with William H. Taft at the head, with instructions to introduce civil government as far and as rapidly as possible. The commission itself was at the top of the system with wide executive and law-making powers. It was directed to establish schools and create courts of justice.

Provision was made that the language of the United States should be taught in the schools, and that the officials should be taken from the natives as far as possible. These instructions were written by Secretary of War [Elihu] Root after a careful study of conditions in the Philippines.

The next step in developing government for the Philippines was McKinley appointing Taft Governor] and made him with the other members of his commission a Council to assist him in governing. At the same time three of the ablest natives were added to the membership of the Council, in which they were a minority.

Taft’s first care was to establish local self-government in the provinces . . . The suffrage for this process was awarded to persons who had held office in the islands, or owned a specified amount of property, or who spoke, read, and wrote Spanish or English. Elections were held in 1907, and the Assembly fell at once into the hands of a nationalist party.

The natives, that is, the Tagalog ruling class, were disappointed that no larger share of the government of their own country was given them, and they likened themselves to the [American] South when it was ruled by carpetbag officials from the North.

When President [Warren] Harding came into authority he sent General [Leonard] Wood and Lieutenant-Governor General Forbes to investigate and give advice on the withdrawal of the United States from the islands. They reported, in 1921, that the natives were not ready for self-government and advocated the continuance of the existing system. The natives were disappointed at the decision of the commissioners and continued to protest against the continuance of United States authority over them.”

(Expansion and Reform, 1889-1926, John Spencer Bassett, Kennikat Press, 1971 (original 1926), pp. 103-107)

Cuba Libre Si, Southern Libre No

Thirty-three years after Appomattox the United States Congress, still dominated by Republicans, resolved that the oppressed and invaded Cuban people “are, and of right ought to be, free and independent.” A further irony is that Captain-General Valeriano “Butcher” Weyler, who instituted the cruel “reconcentrado” policy in Cuba, was a young Spanish attache in Washington observing the War Between the States, and especially, Sherman’s brutal tactics to subjugate Americans.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Cuba Libre Si, Southern Libre No

“When the civil war in Cuba began in 1895 the old methods of resistance were adopted by the insurgents, and although 200,000 Spanish troops were sent to Cuba the revolt was not suppressed. Small bands struck at Spanish detachments, raided from the swamps the plantations of the cane growers, or levied contributions on property owners. They had the sympathy of the poorer men in general, from whom they received supplies or recruits.

To put down this form of resistance demanded more enterprising soldiers than Spain’s. General [Valeriano] Weyler, the Captain-General, undertook to overcome it with a decree of reconcentration. In 1896 he ordered all Cubans living outside of garrison towns to move within such towns or be treated as rebels. The inhabitants, forced to leave their homes, were huddled together in narrow spaces in towns and, provided with little food, many died from malnutrition.

[President William] McKinley, less inclined than [his predecessor Grover] Cleveland to oppose the public [sentiment], took a more earnest attitude with Spain. [On] June 27, 1897 he protested to Madrid against the harsh policy adopted by [General Weyler] and against reconcentration in particular.

Spain replied that the situation was not as bad as represented and that reconcentration was no worse than the devastation in the Civil War by [Northern Generals] Sheridan and Hunter in the Shenandoah Valley and by Sherman in Georgia.

[On] April 11 [1898] the President laid before Congress the whole Cuban question . . . Congress took a week to debate and on April 19 adopted resolutions declaring that the right of the people Cuba “are, and of right ought to be, free and independent” and empowering the President to use force to carry these resolutions into effect.”

(Expansion and Reform, 1889-1926, John Spencer Bassett, Kennikat Press, 1971 (original 1926), pp. 71-72; 76)

 

The North’s Powerful Pension Attorney Lobby

The North’s war pensions were costly – from 1866 to 1917 the total disbursement for pensions was over $5 billion – though including the negligible amount for the Indian and Spanish Wars. It is said to be the “largest expenditure for pensions of any sort in the history of the world.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The North’s Powerful Pension Attorney Lobby

“Disability pensions for [Northern] Civil War soldiers were authorized on a liberal scale by acts passed in Congress in 1862, 1864, 1865, 1872 and 1873. In 1872, [James A.] Garfield said in the House that the expenditure for pensions, then standing at $27,000,000, had reached its peak, would remain stationary for a few years and then decline.

His prediction might have proved correct but for the activities of the pension attorneys.

These men were numerous in Washington. They helped a soldier file his claim and received a fee fixed by the government. When the claim was good they rendered proper services. But as the good claims became fewer, some attorneys took up bad claims many of which were rejected by the Commissioner of Pensions.

Then grew up the habit of referring such claims, approved by a lenient committee, to Congress as private bills, where they usually passed without inquiry on the floor of either house. In carrying out this process the pension attorneys became a powerful and persistent lobby.

They went further than mere private bills and sought to get laws passed for more liberal pensions. To carry their schemes through they established newspapers and appealed to the soldier vote. They had a strong influence in the Grand Army of the Republic, composed of officers and soldiers of the Civil War.

Their first striking success was in 1879 when the Arrears-Pension Act was passed . . . [and] gave [a lump sum to] any pensioner the arrears from death or discharge to the time a pension was applied for. Under the stimulus of the attorneys the act was passed with the strong support of each party.

Under it the pension bill rose from $27,000,000 in 1878 to $56,000,000 in 1880; and the number of applicants increased from 44,587 to 141,466 in the same period. The pension attorneys were rewarded for their efforts by this vast increase in business, though the legal fee did not exceed $10 for each claim.

When [Democrat Grover] Cleveland was President he adopted the plan of examining carefully the private pension bills sent him for signature. Many of them he signed, and many he vetoed after satisfying himself they were unwarranted. Against him the pension attorneys opened their powerful batteries and reminded the public he was elected by the votes of former Confederate soldiers.

Cleveland did not modify his course and when the lobby got Congress to pass a bill in 1887 to allow pensions to all [Northern] soldiers dependent on their own labor and not able to earn a living he vetoed that bill also. For his entire pension policy he was severely arraigned in [the election of] 1888 and the assault was a strong factor in his defeat.

[Republican] President [Benjamin] Harrison took office pledged to a liberal pension policy. In his first annual message . . . Harrison urged the passage of a dependent pension law [and] Congress complied . . . In its second year of operation, when it was fully acting, the total expenditure for pensions had increased by $68,000,000 a year, and in the course of seventeen years by a total of $1,058,000,000. It was passed as a political measure, with an eye to the old soldier vote.”

(Expansion and Reform, 1889-1926, John Spencer Bassett, Kennikat Press, 1971 (original 1926), pp. 18-21)