January 24, 2012

Pension Bill for Mexican War Veterans Stirred Sectional Emnity

In the below article, Senator Chandler states he was present at Jefferson Davis' Farewell to Congress, and accuses Davis of meticulously scheming to overthrow the U.S. government throughout his career.  So after you read this article, I encourage you to read my previous post containing Jefferson Davis' farewell speech, and think about whether you think that is a fair assessment.

"A Famous Feud." Omaha Daily Bee, Omaha, NE. July 23, 1899.

A Famous Feud.

Senator Chandler of New Hampshire, who has just had a warm controversy with his colleague, Senator Gallinger, over civil service reform, was the central figure in a famous controversy in the senate of 1879, of which ex-Senator Ingalls writes in the Saturday Evening Post of Philadelphia.  The pending question was a bill pensioning Mexican soldiers.  As this would include all southerners who fought in that war, the bill provoked a sectional debate.  Senator Hoar offered an amendment excluding Jefferson Davis from the operation of the act.  This precipitated a crisis.  Senator Garland eulogized the president of the confederacy and Senator Hoar retorted, "Two of the bravest officers of our revolutionary war were Aaron Burr and Benedict Arnold."

Senator Lamar jumped into the breach with an impassioned speech, concluding with these words: "When Prometheus was bound to the rock, it was not an eagle, it was a vulture that buried his beak in the tortured vitals of the victim!"

During this eulogy and exculpation of Jefferson Davis the northern senators sat in silence; the boldness of the performance was paralyzing; such an emergency had not been anticipated.  No one was ready.  The passionate and excited spectators in the galleries wondered why no champion of the north took up the glove.

Toward the close of the debate a note fluttered over the balustrade of the northeast gallery, and, wavering in the hot air, was caught in its descent by a page, who carried it to Senator Chandler of Michigan, to whom it was addressed.  It was written on a leaf torn from a memorandum book, without signature, and begging him in God's name to say something for the union soldiers and for the north.

He read the anonymous note brought from the gallery.  The black fury of his eyes blazed from the pallor of his face.  At the first opportunity he obtained the floor and delivered a tremendous philippic against Jefferson Davis.  It was evidently wholly unpremeditated, and therefore the more effective.

He said: "Mr. President, twenty-two years ago tomorrow, in the old hall of the senate now occupied by the supreme court of the United States, I, in company with Mr. Jefferson Davis, stood up and swore before Almighty God that I would support the constitution of the United States.  Mr. Jefferson Davis came from the cabinet of Franklin Pierce into the senate of the United States and took the oath with me to be faithful to this government.  During four years I sat in this body with Mr. Jefferson Davis and saw the preparations going on from day to day for the overthrow of this government.  With treason in his heart and perjury upon his lips he took the oath to sustain the government that he meant to overthrow.

"Sir, there was method in that madness.  He, in cooperation with other men from his section and in the cabinet of Mr. Buchanan, made careful preparation for the event that was to follow.  Your armies were scattered all over this broad land, where they could not be used in an emergency; your fleets were scattered wherever the winds blew and water was found to float them, where they could not be used to put down rebellion; your treasury was depleted until your bonds, bearing 6 per cent, principal and interest payable in coin, were offered for 88 cents on the dollar for current expenses, and no buyers.  Preparations were carefully made.  Your arms were sold under an apparently innocent clause in an army bill providing that the secretary of war might, at his discretion, sell such arms as he deemed it for the interest of the government to sell.

"Sir, eighteen years ago last moth I sat in these halls and listened to Jefferson Davis delivering his farewell address, informing us what our constitutional duties to this government were, and then left and entered into the rebellion to overthrow the government that he had sworn to support!  I remained here, sir, during the whole of that terrible rebellion.  I saw our brave soldiers by thousands and hundreds of thousands, aye, I might say millions, pass through to the theater of war, and I saw their shattered ranks return.  I saw steamboat and railroad train after railroad train arrive with the maimed and the wounded; I was with my friend from Rhode Island (General Burnside) when he commanded the Army of the Potomac and saw piles of legs and arms that made humanity shudder; I saw the widow and orphan in their homes and heard the weeping and wailing of those who had lost their dearest and their best.  Mr. President, I little thought at that time that I should live to hear in the senate of the United States eulogies upon Jefferson Davis living--a living rebel eulogized on the floor of the senate of the United States!  Sir, I am amazed to hear it and I can tell the gentleman on the other side that they little know the spirit of the north when they come here at this day and with bravado on their lips utter eulogies upon a man whom every man, woman and child in the north believes to be a double-dyed traitor to his government."


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