NATIONAL, EXPENDITURE 1OR PENSIONS.
1. Liberality of the national government.
2. Importance of the subject.
3. All who were injured and the survivors of those who died or were killed should be pensioned.
4. True ground for granting pensions.
5. Same subject.
6. Old age pensions.
7. Who have been most active in getting pension legislation? 8. Indiscriminate pensioning is a dishonor to the worthy.
9. Amount of expenditure.
to. Should money be borrowed to pay pensions? Expenses of military hospitals.
1. Closely related to National defence is the pension ing of persons who have served in the army and navy during the war.a Pensions have been granted by other governments, as rewards for unusual feats of valor, for disability and for long service, but not on such broad terms as by the United States.' 2. The subject is one of the highest importance— first, because justice should be done the deserving; sec ond, because the numerous abuses of the system should be as speedily as possible lopped off ; third, because two fifths of all the public money is now spent for pensions.
3. No one questions the justice and desirability of pensioning all who were injured in the public service, and all who are dependent on those who were killed or who died in public service. Congress has been severely criticised for passing far beyond these limitations.
4. Let us, then, begin by finding out on what prin ciple pensions can be sustained. Those who served with out harm and have received their full reward are entitled to no further compensation. If any contracts relating to bounties or other matters remain unfulfilled by the Gov ernment, it should fulfill them in letter and spirit. But when this has been done, gratitude, not justice, is the only sound basis for doing more.
5. True, indeed, those who have taken part in every worthy war have performed a great service, which no one should seek to lessen or forget. Yet those who took part in the last Civil War simply performed a service, a duty, to which as citizens they were liable, and which would have been performed, if not willingly, then as a compulsory service. With many, a willing or unwilling service was imperative. A cashier in a bank who risks his life in defending the treasure confided to his keeping is rightly rewarded, because his duty to manage its busi ness does not require such exertions to protect its prop erty. A policeman neither receives nor expects any re ward for an injury sustained while performing his duty. Every physically capable member of government is a po liceman, under obligation to render war service, if it be demanded, during some period of his life. He may or may not engage in active service, yet it is not for him but for his government to say when he must serve. Happy and fortunate is one if not required to perform it; but when the command is given, the dreadful character of the service is no excuse for disobeying or reason for ex pecting an unusual reward for doing one's duty.' 6. It is sometimes said in defence of the present sys tem that every person who went to the war was physi cally injured, and, though bearing no evidence of injury on his return, it will appear, and therefore the Govern ment has done no more than it ought in giving pensions to all who have received them. It is doubtless, true that in very many cases the severe, unusual life of the soldier impaired his vitality, though this effect did not at once appear. As he grows older there comes the unwelcome discovery. On the other hand, physical decay is the in evitable outcome of advancing years. In many cases it is the effect of irregularities. Thus the question becomes difficult—nay, often impossible—to decide. Is the disease or weakness the effect of service as a soldier, or of sub sequent irregularity, or of both? And if it is the effect of both, to what degree has military and civil service con tributed? There is, then, a good reason for giving every soldier a pension for general disability incurred in the service, and so it has often been granted by the leading governments of the world. It also follows, from what has been said, that the time or age at which this should begin must be arbitrary, for it certainly would not be practicable to ascertain a time for beginning by an ex amination, however careful, of every case.
7. Who have been the chief agents in securing pen sion legislation? None will dispute the amazing activity of pension agents. Another class favoring pension legis lation are travelers who are trying to ascend the steep and sandy hills of politics. The war party was the first to start in the race for increasing pensions, but it was quickly seen that in this both parties could run and with equal skill, and at all times the one has been as vociferous as the other in shouting on the housetops for larger pensions and equally facile in excusing its conduct in private. Both parties on more than one occasion have presented a very ludicrous appearance to the outside world in their attempts to take care of the "old soldiers." Their conduct and motives have been well understood, and many a soldier has speedily forgotten the efforts of his real or pretended benefactors, not even remembering them with his votes. Indeed, on many occasions have politicians, unable to conceal their disappointment, ac cused the "old soldier" of ingratitude.
8. Finally, the present indiscriminate pension system, rewarding so many alike, whether injured or not, dishon ors those who in justice are entitled to further recogni tion. The Government should act as an insurance com pany, promising and expecting to pay for the injury sus tained by any one in its service, and to his family after his death. If only such were paid, then indeed they would be regarded with more respect and reverence than is now entertained toward almost a million pensioners. For the uninjured, for the man who simply performed his duty voluntarily, which otherwise would have been compulsory, there ought not to be the same feeling as for the victim of the struggle. To put him in the same rank with the injured is to reduce the latter to a lower level.
9. A review of general and special pension legisla tion shows that it rests on no particular principles. The system has grown until it forms a large part of the an nual expenditure of the Government. The total amount thus far expended is $2,469,731,366,' or nearly the amount of the interest-bearing debt when it was at the highest point.
1o. As the cost of the system is growing heavy, it has been proposed that the present generation should borrow the money needed to pay pensions, throwing the burden of paying them on others. A more ludicrous outcome of the system cannot be imagined. The principle on which the increase of pensions has been founded is the present ability and willingness of the people to maintain them. But this profession can no longer be made if another gen eration is to be saddled with the burden which, as far as any obligation exists, the present generation ought to bear. The larger portion of the great sum now annu ally paid is a gift, and not the fulfillment of any contract or duty.' Plainly, if the Nation is too poor to give, it ought not to indulge in the pretence of giving. Depend ents of one class ought not to borrow to pay dependents of another. This plan outrages all sense, and if once adopted might lead to endless expenditure. Nothing is easier than to contract bills for others to pay. Such a policy is disgraceful and without excuse, except as far as expenditure is based on obvious necessity.
The Government maintains several military hos pitals at an annual expense of more than $4,000,000,' which rests on the same grounds as the expense for pen sions. The Government is expected to take care of all who were disabled in its service, and the question is not concerning its duty in this regard, but simply the mode: whether this shall be done through hospitals of its own or in other ways.' aThe expenditure growing out of the Civil War from 1861 to 1879 was $6,189,929,908. For details of this, see Senate Document, No. 206, 46 Cong. 2 Sess.
i"The foreign pension codes are based upon this idea of the duty owed to the State, and that the same is to be rendered without regard to pension, save in case of disability or long service, and of the right of the State to demand the services of every man capable of bearing arms without regard to any ether than a disability pension, and that the pension itself is a mark of extreme honor, reward of long service or dis tinguished ability." Corn. Black, Ann. Pension Rep. 1887, 9.
History of Military Pension Legislation in the U. S., by W. H. Glasson. Columbia University Studies in History, etc., Vol. 12.
'Every citizen owes to his country the duty of defending Its chosen government, when endangered, against all foes, at the peril, and, if need be, at the sacrifice of his life. Whoever does this freely and promptly, as soon as the occasion arises, does patriotically what his duty requires. Such men deserve their country's gratitude, and a grateful people, admiring their courage and devotion and thankful for the preservation of their country and its chosen institutions, will not allow such soldiers to suffer for the sacrifices they have made without such reason able relief as can, under the circumstances, be given. This is the basis for pensions, and the only rational Justification for expending the revenues of the government, which are drawn from, and belong to the public, in the way of pensions to soldiers.' Corn. Lockren, Ann. Pension Rep. 1895, 13.
'See Appendix C, for the annual cost of pensions.
"I deny that a statute of this kind is in the nature of a contract, it is a mere provision fixing the bounty or gift to be made by the Government." Senator Sherman, 15 Cong. Rec. 5478. See Senator Hawley's remarks, Id. 5040.
°National Home for Disabled Volunteers for 1899.
Central Branch $598,692Northwestern Branch 288, Eastern Branch 271,194 Southern Branch 386,927Western Branch . 294,269 Danville Branch 101,250 Pacific Branch 243,623 Marion Branch 221,448 Clothing 228,773Salaries and incidental expenses ... 41,730 State or Territorial homes for disabled volunteer soldiers ... 1,032,345 Support of Soldiers' Home 87,888Soldiers' Home, permanent fund 141,400 Soldiers' Home, interest account 80,906 $4,088,128 "In England pensions are given to soldiers and sailors or those dependent upon them, officers of the courts, political offi cers, colonial governors, and pensions in the diplomatic service." 18 Am. and Eng. Encyc. of Law, 284.
See Report of Pension Corn. Black, 1887, for description of foreign pension systems. Most of the speeches of members of Congress are in favor of extending the pension system. The act of 1879 providing for payment of arrears of pensions ab sorbed vastly greater sums than the committee who reported the measure indicated. See debate in 8 Cong. Rec. 1981-1984, 2033-2040; 2042-2051, 2052-2068.
Some of the articles in the magazines have sustained the action of Congress, see those by G. B. Raum on Pensions and Patriotism. 153 N. Am. Rev. 204; The Pension Office,• 28 Lipp. Mag. 200. The magazines more generally have criticised pen sion legislation with varying severity. See articles, A Raid on the Treasury, L. W. Bacon, 6 Forum 540; U. S. Pension Office, Gaillard Hunt, 66 At. Monthly 18; Arrears of Pension Bill, 42 Nation 871, 40 Nation 172; Degradation by Pension. A. R. Foote, 12 Forum 423, 15 Forum 462; Pensions—Time to Call a Halt, H. W. Slocum, 12 Forum 646; Anomalies of our Private Pension System, T. F. Dennis, 15 Forum 377; Half a Million Dollars a Day for Pensions, J. De W. Warner, 16 Forum 439; Grand Army as a Pension Agency, C. MoK. Leser, 15 Forum 622. A valuable communication from the Corn. of Pensions concerning the cost of establishing a service pension appears in 28 Cong. Rec. 4485.