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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/755

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PENSIONS FOR ALL.

measure of a conquest, the ransom of an empire. It would far exceed the fine imposed by Germany on France in 1871.

It is time that the soldiers themselves repudiate the demagogues and vindicate their own patriotism. The glory of the Union army is tarnished, by the mercenary clamor for pensions. If the soldier is to be a chronic menace to industry, he will forfeit his claim to honor, and cancel the obligation due him for service in the war. As it stands now, every Union soldier is "a suspect" in the eyes of his countrymen. He is regarded as a pension-grabber, and as a patriot who desires to commute his military glory for a stipulated sum in cash. The suspicion is unjust. There are thousands of Union soldiers who, having served the country in war, refuse to forage on it now.

It may be said. Why do they not protest against the pension scheme? Why do they remain silent while the forays are being organized? The answer is easy. In the first place it is not a pleasant thing for any old soldier to criticise the plans and purposes of his comrades. It is an unthankful duty, even if it is a duty at all. It can only make him unpopular among those whose approbation he would like to have. Secondly, he thinks that a general pension law is the only plan by which the worthy soldiers can be placed on a level of reward with the unworthy claimants who never did any good service, but who have no delicacy and no scruples about getting on the pension-rolls. He says: "There are many brave, needy, and deserving soldiers who will never make application for a pension, therefore let the Government offer it." And, thirdly, whatever his own opinions may be as to the morality or policy of pensions, he does not care to be officious in opposition to the general sentiment on that subject, nor does he wish to stand as an obstacle in the pension path of others.

During the latter part of the war there may have been some Union soldiers who were tempted into the army by large bounties, but they were a very small proportion of the whole. Excepting these, it may be truly said that the men who saved the Union neither knew nor cared when they enlisted what were the rates of pay, or the measure of allowances for service. They were moved by patriotism and not by promises of pay. The charge that they were a "mercenary soldiery" was false in the days of Abraham Lincoln, although it was freely made by the envious and disloyal. Let it not become true now. Let not the "pension temptation" change the character or diminish the fame of the Grand Army.