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We who were there knew how earnest were the appeals to patriotic men to arm for the national defence, how earnest the promises to look out for the soldiers and the dear ones left behind, not only for the present time, but for the future. How the bands played! and how the self-sacrificing spirit of those who had enlisted was lauded, in the effort toʻget others to enlist! There was no talk then that "the person who suffers for his country has no moral claim to special consideration and honor," that "he has no natural and no legal right to compensation."
True, the nation can compel a man to give his service. But where would be the glorious record of this nation in war, had our armies been made up of conscripts? How many battles would have been fought? and, most important of all, how many victories would we have won? The nurse of manly sentiment, the very essence of true soldiering, is voluntary service. Without that men become mere machines, tools of tyrants and dictators; and the nation that has only that kind of soldiers is as certainly doomed as is the blighted tree.
Formerly no soldier was entitled to a pension whose disability by wound or disease could not be proved to have originated while in active service. The present law, extending the pension right to all soldiers disabled by disease or age from earning their living by manual labor, was framed by the chairman of the Senate Committee on Pensions, the Hon. C. K. Davis, and was based on the belief, supported by the general expression of officers of both the Union and Confederate armies represented on the committee and in the Senate, that very few, if any, soldiers had come out of the tremendous ordeal of danger, hardship, and privation to which they were exposed during the war, without more or less, and often serious, detriment to their stock of vital energy. Senator Davis supported the bill by an argument upon these lines, which met with such general acceptance that the bill became a law with little opposition. That argument had no basis in the vital statistics of the soldiery engaged in great wars. It did not pretend to have any foundation in a scientific investigation of the facts. It simply represented the concurrent opinions of leading officers of the opposing armies in our Union war, derived from their personal observation and experience.
But the reasons urged for this beneficent extension of the pension roll have received a strong confirmation in the observations of the
celebrated German alienist, Max Nordau. We quote from his recent work on "Degeneracy":
Science knows what disorders are produced in a man by a single strong moral shock; e.g., a sudden mortal danger. It has recorded hundreds and thousands of cases in which persons saved from drowning, or present at fire on shipboard or in a railway accident, or who have been threatened with assassination, etc., have either lost their reason or have been attacked by grave and protracted, often incurable nervous illnesses. In war hundreds and thousands are exposed to all these fearful impressions at the same time. For months cruel mutilation or sudden death menace them at every step. They are frequently surrounded by the spectacle of devastation, conflagration, and the most appalling wounds and heaps of corpses frightful to behold. Moreover, the greatest demands are made on their strength. They are forced to march until they break down, and cannot count on having adequate nourishment or sufficient sleep. And shall there not appear among these hundreds of thousands the effect which is proved to result from a single one of the occurrences which take place by thousands during the war?
He concludes that few soldiers come out of a great war without some form of nervous degeneration. Thus science comes to the aid of casual observation in supporting the wisdom and justice of the existing pension law.
What the nation owes to its veteran defenders no skill can compute, no largess can repay. They not only sacrificed priceless years of their golden youth, endured hardships, risked life, and suffered from disease or wounds, but they lost the opportunities for business. or professional careers which so abounded at that period. Our Revolutionary ancestors organized the Society of the Cincinnati, and made its honors transmissible to their posterity, on the avowed ground that, having been impoverished beyond hope of recovery by their army service, they proposed to bequeath to their descendants, in lieu of the estates their stay-at-home neighbors had amassed, the precious badge of their order, as visible evidence of loyal sacrifice.
A sensible and business-like administration of the affairs of the soldiers' homes has minimized the evils which might have grown out of thoughtless and indiscriminate perversions of their benevolence. A few simple amendments to the pension law, more strictly regulating methods of disbursement, whereby the stipend now wasted by the thriftless or dissipated recipient should be applied for the support of
his family would greatly add to the measure of its beneficence.
THE LIMITATION OF THE SOLDIERS' HOME
BY C. E. FAULKNER.
There is naught of charity in the relief extended by a government to comfort men in their decline, who have risked life, health, and opportunity on battlefield and in prison in its behalf. Benevolence is not exhibited in the simple payment of debt; and the citizen who responds to his country's call in the hour of need, and dons the unambitious uniform of a private soldier, to face the perils, physical hardships, and mental suffering incident to bloody warfare, is forever the creditor of the government he serves.
The ability to command the ready service of conscience, courage, and intelligence in its volunteer reserve, is the true measure of national strength, and depends upon a manifest appreciation of such service. The brain, bone, and muscle of men who give greatest honor to the uniform of a private volunteer soldier are not for sale..
The allowance of pay commands little besides the necessaries to health and convenience; and the real reward for the service of such men cannot be doled from a public treasury, but is hidden in the folds of the flag upheld by their valor, and cherished in the memory of duty performed. Therefore, the question of dues may not be discussed in the consideration of plans to promote the peace and comfort of the passing volunteer. He has earned all that can be done to smooth his pathway to the grave, and the conditions of benefit are to be determined by those principles of equity which find definition in a wise public policy.
The establishment of institutions for the shelter and care of disabled volunteer soldiers aims at economy, efficiency, and comfort in the methods of administering relief; and any discussion of policy
which involves the welfare of those who are admitted to the homes operated under State or national authority must consider the needs of a social and spiritual life, as well as those which relate to physical comfort.
It must also take into account the fact that the provision for the present in matters of organization and equipment will not answer the needs of the immediate future, for only too soon will the requirements of hospital attendance and treatment overshadow every other need.
Great hospitals, strong in their equipment of skill and the improving appliances and aids to surgery, are best planned and managed by the general government; and into these the final musters of the State homes will be transferred, and the plants erected under State authority be converted to other use.
When this time comes in the United States, and the State homes erected by the Union soldier in the North and the Confederate soldier in the South have served their best purpose, State pride will have been satisfied, the lessons of patriotism fully committed, and a humane civilization be highly honored by the rendezvous of Yankee and rebel in a common "Bivouac of Death.”
The privilege of service and worship essential to religious comfort may be enjoyed in the soldiers' homes in fair degree, but the loss of social life is a deprivation and a hindrance to contentment which finds no balancing compensation. This fact has led the authorities in many States to make provision for the shelter and support of wives, and in some instances of children, by the allotment of cottages for family living.
Opinions differ concerning the propriety of rearing children under the influence of the associations inseparable from such a system, and the possible effect upon their after lives; but there is little doubt that the proof of a wholesome conservation of home life under such conditions is not satisfactory. A community of men quietly waiting for the end, passive spectators of the world's activities, and frequent victims of melancholia, may not put the cheer of society, the spur of mental activity, and the hope of industry before the young life associated with them.
Prudent business consideration must also take account of the fact that a comparatively small per cent. of the survivors of the volunteer armies are domiciled in the State and national homes. Any present
estimate of the probable time when the need of relief other than that afforded by pension grants will be at its maximum must be mere conjecture, for a law of average will not cover the variety of circumstances which may compel the failing soldiers to ground their arms in surrender to need.
The boys of '61, who comprised a large proportion of first enlistments, and the boys who waited until the surgeon's tape would let them pass to muster, are still a fair time this side of threescore years; but, when the shadow of infirmity and misfortune unite to darken the way of honest endeavor, they will swell the ranks of their older comrades who linger in ward and hospital for the end.
The conservation of home life through a fair commutation of the cost of support in the State and national homes to the men who have been admitted on regular applications, but who may live with family or friends in comfort, is clearly indicated by the requirements of their social life, duty to families, and the economy suggested in the increased capacity of the institutions thus relieved.
Added to these considerations is the privilege of exercising the rights and duties of citizenship, so often abandoned by men in the discouragements which frequently accompany them when leaving their usual abodes. The suggestion of a possible abuse of a commutation system by the itinerant soldier may be met by a proposition that continual residence for a given period in a certain locality shall be prerequisite to the benefit.
POWERS OF GUARDIANSHIP.
Many men in the receipt of pensions ignore the rightful claims upon them, and waste their allowance in hurtful ways. They resent the kindly interference in their behalf which officials propose, and thus often open the way for a dishonorable discharge, which might be avoided under a wise and helpful supervision.
The admission of an applicant to the shelter and care of a home should confer, therefore, such reasonable powers of guardianship upon the management as will protect him from the evils of excess in