This includes, of course, the claims of widows and dependent relatives. Although many have been dropped from the rolls by reason of death and other causes, the actual number of old soldiers on the pension-list is 323,020, while there are thousands of claims on file not yet adjusted by the Pension Bureau.
It is pretended that, although the soldiers were sound and hearty when they went into the army, they were enfeebled by hardship and disease when they came out of it. Some of them were, but not many in proportion to the whole number in the ranks. The great parade at Washington in 1865 is a sufficient refutation of that claim. The athletic and boisterous armies which marched in review before the President of the United States at the close of the war were not composed of sickly and vitiated men. They were fairly rollicking with health, they were full of "lusty life." Yet we are told they carried millions of mortal microbes in their knapsacks and all manner of diseases latent in their blood—diseases which needed only pension laws to develop them into activity.
Colossal as are the figures presented by the Commissioner of Pensions, they are to be multiplied six times when Congress finally capitulates to the Grand Army. Even in their present rudimentary form they make the English pension-list cheap and tawdry by comparison. Last year the English pension-roll contained the names of 156,492 persons altogether, who drew from the treasury £7,815,575, of which amount the army pensioners (97,004) drew £3,789,282, and the navy pensioners (38,366) drew £2,040,659. The Financial Reform Association of England, commenting on this exhibit, says: "John Bull will do well to notice that in these last five years of bad trade he has had to pay an army list of over 100,000 pensioners (military, naval, and civil) for doing nothing; and that their drawings, amounting to nearly eight millions, swallowed up the whole of the income-tax laid on the national profits for last year."
The complaint is valuable as a caution to "Brother Jonathan." He has had to pay three or four army corps, each as large as the one criticised by the Financial Reform Association of England, and it is proposed that they shall be recruited to their full capacity by adding to their numbers twice six hundred thousand more.
The pension-roll of England is very much larger than it was a hundred years ago when John Philpot Curran poured upon it the following sarcasm: "This polyglot of wealth, this museum of curiosities, the pension-list, embraces every link in the human chain from the exalted excellence of a Hawke or a Rodney to the debased situation of the lady who humbleth herself that she may be exalted; but the lesson it inculcates forms its greatest perfection.