After Johnny Came Marching Home: The Political Economy of Veterans' Benefits in the Nineteenth Century
This paper explores new estimates of the number of veterans and the value of veterans' benefits -- both cash benefits and land grants -- from the Revolution to 1900. Benefits, it turns out, varied substantially from war to war. The veterans of the War of 1812, in particular, received a smaller amount of benefits than did the veterans of the other nineteenth century wars. A number of factors appear to account for the differences across wars. Some are familiar from studies of other government programs: the previous history of veterans' benefits, the wealth of the United States, the number of veterans relative to the population, and the lobbying efforts of lawyers and other agents employed by veterans. Some are less familiar. There were several occasions, for example, when public attitudes toward the war appeared to influence the amount of benefits. Perhaps the most important factor, however, was the state of the federal treasury. When the federal government ran a surplus, veterans were likely to receive additional benefits; when it ran a deficit, veterans' hopes for additional benefits went unfilled. Veterans' benefits were, to use the terms a bit freely, more like a luxury than a necessity.