July 25, 1892
PENSIONS – GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC DAY
Among the duties to our own citizens devolved upon the Nation by the war, one not to be overlooked is the welfare of those who made the chief sacrifices in the conflict. Those who have shared in the fullest measure the prosperity which has come upon our country from the services of the men who stood by Lincoln and the good cause when all was at stake on the fields of the war, should be the last to hesitate, to haggle, or to condemn when the question of pensions is to be considered and decided. Two classes of debts were incurred during the war. Debts to the men who risked their money, and debts to the men who risked their lives. Both had the plighted faith of the Nation. The money obligations have been redeemed to the uttermost farthing. Depreciated paper has been paid dollar for dollar with gold – the intrinsic money of the world. The pledge to the soldier was surely no less sacred. It came to him from the Pulpit, from the Press, from every organ of the Government-it was in the platforms of all the political parties- in a word it came from every loyal pen and tongue and heart, and the very conscience of the Nation spoke when Lincoln declared again and again that we should, above all, “care for him that hath borne the battle and for the widow and his orphans.”
I do not need to be reminded of the frauds in the granting and payment of pensions. I understand very well that the men who make and execute the laws are not all of them trustworthy. But with information quite as full and accurate as that of the men who are loudest in the denunciation of pensions I have a firm conviction that no equal sum of money expended on account of the war has been more free from the taint of fraud than the pensions granted to the veterans who responded to the calls of Lincoln. The Government spends vast sums for ships, for fortifications, for the improvement of rivers and harbors, for public buildings, for salaries of executive, legislative, and judicial officers, and for a host of other proper objects. Does anyone suppose that the Government gets a full and honest equivalent in return for every dollar so expended? I am fully persuaded that very few appropriations made by the nation do more good and are more justly deserved than those who go to the men who in the great crisis saved their country from irretrievable disaster and ruin. And this was done at the sacrifice by the soldiers of their own best opportunity and their fairest hope in life. They gave to their country the formative years when occupations are learned and when habits and character are fixed.
The list of our countrymen who have acquired large fortunes since the war contains hundreds of thousands of names. How few of those names are also found on the honored roll of the men who during four years upheld the flag in the divine war. The share of his country’s riches which would have accrued to the Union Solider if he had remained at home, has gone to other hands. His service made the United States bonds as good as gold. Prosperity and wealth, national and individual, followed as the night the day, the restoration of a sound financial condition by reason of the victory he achieved. Let it not be said that the men who have profited most by the salvation of their country have turned their backs on the men who saved it, No man whose head is good and whose heart is right will ever point a veteran of the war to the wretched road that leads to the poor house, He will rather urge with Lincoln: “Care for him that hath borne the battle and for the widow and his orphans.”