Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/753

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PENSIONS FOR ALL.

will stoop to mendicancy for a pension they do not need. Pope asks:

"What can ennoble sots or slaves or cowards?
Alas! not all the blood of all the Howards."

And yet a pension can un-noble the chief of all the Howards, and reduce him to ignominious pauperism. The Duke of Norfolk, with an income of two millions of dollars a year, is on the pension-list of England for sixty pounds a year. This pension was granted to his ancestor by the gentle Richard III. Nobody knows why. It may have been for smothering the princes in the Tower. It could not have been for anything very good, because Richard was not in the habit of rewarding virtue; yet for more than four hundred years the Dukes of Norfolk, chiefs of all the Howards, have asked for and received this degrading outdoor relief. We, too, can fall to the same base level by the same process of gravitation, as the following testimony shows:

When the Mexican War Pensions Bill passed, the "honor" of being the first man to claim his dole and get it was given to a prominent and wealthy citizen of Kentucky, who did not need the alms any more than the Duke of Norfolk needed the charity of sixty pounds a year. Yet he took it, and was applauded for his promptness by the press as if he had done a patriotic deed. Such demoralizing power has a pension.

It is true that we have no hereditary pensions yet extending beyond the third and fourth generation, but we have made a fair beginning, and may hope to enjoy that high-caste luxury in gorgeous blossom after it shall be withered and dead in England. The "royal prerogative" is now exercised by Congress, with a profuse liberality exceeding that of kings. Our senators and representatives are creating a pensioned aristocracy out of the consanguineous relics of naval and military officers, official dignitaries, and successful politicians, many of whom had no claim to recognition except that their public lives were laboriously spent in the private service of themselves.

The "retired system" is a high-toned pension scheme, available only to those who have taken the superior degrees in the order. This is borrowed from the "half-pay" and "retiring" system of England, where it had a logical and consistent reason for existence, under the social law which decreed that no man should earn an honest living by his own exertions after he had once held the "king's commission." No such law prevails in this country, and the practice founded on it is an exotic ill adapted to the climate of a republic. We have now on the "retired list" of the army one general, four major-generals, twenty-six brigadier-generals, eighty-five colonels, and three hundred and fifty-nine officers of lower grade. The navy can make a like showing, and the civil