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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/751

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PENSIONS FOR ALL.

There is a deliglitful contrast between the rugged and healthy-state of the old veteran after his pension has been allowed and his decrepit condition before the allowance. I know a man who was simply a harbor of refuge for diseases until he obtained his pension, and then they disappeared. Having drawn his "arrears," he prudently took out a life-insurance policy. The affidavit on which he obtained his insurance curiously contradicted the affidavit on which he got his pension, proving that the pension had restored him to health and made him a "good risk" for the insurance company. The department was greatly shocked on learning the facts, and revoked the pension; but, on discovering that the delinquent was a good caucus warrior and a hustler at the polls, the department became shocked at its own imprudence and restored him to the "nation's roll of honor."

It is not irony or sarcasm to say that the insurance companies can afford to give lower rates to old pensioners than to other people, because the pensioners' chances of long life are greater than the chances of other men. The commissioner's figures prove this. He reports that the number of the pensioners of 1861 to 1865 who died in 1888 was only two per cent of the three hundred thousand pensioners on the rolls, most of whom must be between forty-five and sixty-five years of age, and all of whom are legally and officially suffering from wounds and diseases contracted in the army. Three hundred thousand healthy citizens of the like age will show a larger mortality than those diseased pensioners can show. This proves that a large proportion of those "veteran diseases" are fictitious.

Still more miraculous is the power of pension laws to bring dead men back to life. Year after year the "Mexican War Pension Bill" was rejected by Congress. At last the claim agents proved by the tables of mortality that the Mexican War soldiers were nearly all dead. That war, they said, was an insignificant affair; our army in Mexico was small, and the surviving members of it could not be numerous after the lapse of forty years. Besides, it was invidious to be generous to the soldiers of the late war and niggardly to the soldiers of Mexico. This plea carried the bill through. It was passed on the 29th of January, 1887, and before the 1st of March, 1889, 21,296 surviving soldiers of Mexico, and 7,742 widows, had filed their claims for pensions under the law. On the very face of the returns it is evident that most of those claims are without any of that merit or grace whereby pensions are justified, namely, service in battle, or at least on the genuine theatre of war during the time of active hostilities.

How happens it that so many Mexican War veterans spring up out of the ground, like Roderick Dhu's freebooters, at the clarion call "to pensions"? Not one tenth of those claimants ever saw a