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1862 October 29: Where is the Aid Promised to Wisconsin Families of Volunteers

October 29, 2012

An explanation from the state treasurer1 about why dependent families of Wisconsin Volunteers were not going to be paid the $5 per month that had been promised to volunteers back in August.  It is probably not a coincidence that his letter appeared one week before the fall elections of 1862.  It comes from the October 29, 1862, issue of The Prescott Journal.

The Reason why the promised
Aid to the Families of Wis-
consin Volunteers cannot be
paid during the Winter
months.

OFFICE OF STATE TREASURER, }
MADISON, Wis., Oct. 17, 1862. }

To the Wisconsin Volunteers and their dependent Families:

The Milwaukee News of the 14th inst., charges me with having “been engaged, since the adjournment of the legislature, in the disreputable business of retailing falsehoods by private letters to our soldiers in the distant camps, for the purpose of prejudicing our regiments against the democratic candidates at home.”  This charge is FALSE in every particular.  I have made no statements to our soldiers “in distant camps” or elsewhere, that are not strictly true.  I have, in one or two instances, possibly three at the outside, in answering business letters, where inquiries have been made in relation to the matter, given the reasons why the families of our Volunteers will be deprived of the promised aid from the State at the time of all others, when they will most need it—during the severe weather of winter.

The News calls upon its readers “to write immediately to the Southwest and to the Potomac. * * * Let there be no delay, write !  write ! !  Let every soldier know the truth.”  The advice is excellent.  I am free to acknowledge that I have not done my duty in this respect, as I have not, with the exception above named, written a word to any one in relation to the matter.  I thank the News for calling my attention to the subject.  I have been grossly negligent ;  I will be so no more.  If the News will pardon me for past negligence, I will speedily send this open letter to every soldier and soldier’s family whose address I can ascertain.  After about the middle of November, the payment of the five dollars per month, promised to the families of Volunteers, will be stopped, not to be resumed until sometime in the month of February.  Somebody is responsible for this.  Who is it?  The Democratic members of the last Assembly.  There are but two ways in which the State can raise money.  One, by a direct tax, the other by borrowing.  The legislature, at its recent session, passed an act levying a direct tax of two hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars, the proceeds to be used in paying the promised bounty to the families of the Volunteers.  This tax cannot be collected so as to reach the State Treasury before  the middle of February.  The members of the legislature knew that it would require something over two hundred thousand dollars to continue the payment of this bounty until the money could be realized from the tax and the only possible way in which it could be raised was by borrowing money on the bonds of the State.  The Senate passed an act authorizing an issue of bonds to the amount of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and sent it to the Assembly.  In the Assembly the bill was deliberately defeated by the democratic members.  Every democrat present, with one honorable exception—HOLLIS LATAAM [sic: Latham], of Walworth county—voting to indefinitely postpone the bill, and every republican present voting against postponement, except Leonard.

The following is the vote on the question of indefinite postponement.  Democrats in italics, members elected as Union men, in SMALL CAPITALS [the blog only allows for full capitals].

AYES—Messrs. Abert, Berry, Basset, Boyd, G. W. Brown, Butler, Cotes, DUTCHER, Elliott, Ellis, Finger, Gage, Gifford, Grifen, Hatcher, Hogan, Goppock, Jenkins, Kirchloff, Leonard, McCollum, McLean, Maloy, Mayer, Morrow, Platto, Rogan, Salter, Sanborn, Semmen, Shletz, Shumway, Stamn, Stowell, J. E. Thomag, TRIPP, Vanderpool, Wadsworth, Wilson and Mr. Speaker, Palmer—40.

NOES.—Messrs. Adams, Arnold, Bannister, BARNES, Beau, Beyoe, Brandon, Chandler, Combs, Crosby, Docksader, Field, Guernsey, Hammond, S. Hanson, Johnson, Latham, McDill, Miller, Mills, MOORE, Newick, E. Palmer, Pope, Rounseville, Stevens, Stoddard, Stantz, Taylor, Thompson, Upham, Vivian, Webb and Williams—34.

The vote taken on the afternoon of the day before the final adjournment.  Bear in mind there was no other way in which the money could be raised so as to continue the payment during the winter months, except in the manner proposed in this bill.  To have voted an additional tax would have been of no avail as the money could not have been collected in time.  And yet, the Democratic members of the Assembly deliberately refused to authorize the money to be raised in the only way in which it could be raised, and not only so, but they made no proposal or attempt to raise it in any other way.  Such are the facts.  They cannot be denied or explained away.  I do not speak of the motives that influenced their action.  Possibly they may have acted from pure motives.  If so, let them make them known, but not attempt to deny the facts.

About 10 o’clock on the last day of the session, a vote having been previously taken to adjourn at 11 o’clock, a message was received by both Houses of the Legislature, from Acting Governor Lewis, calling attention to the fact, that the money in the volunteer aid fund would last only to about to about [sic] the first of November ;  that no benefit could accrue from the tax which had been voted until February, and that as a consequence, no relief from this source could be had by the families of the volunteers during the winter months at the time of all others when they most needed it.  He called attention to the injustices of holding out hopes to these families which could not be realized, and urged the Legislature to replenish the fund in some way before they adjourned.  The message was referred and a report speedily made, but nothing was accomplished because a portion of the Democratic members refused to allow anything to be done.  They commenced with making motions for the purpose of delay, and continued this action until within a few minutes of the hour fixed for adjournment, when, on motion being made to extend the session for a few hours, for the purpose of acting upon this matter, they finally defeated everything by enough of them retiring from the Hall to leave the Assembly without a quorum.  Soldiers !  when your families are suffering for the want of the aid pledged to you by the state, remember who it was that prevented them from receiving it.  Mothers !  when your children are suffering for want of food and comfortable clothing, remember whose action it was that deprived you of what was promised by the state when you consented that your husband should leave his family to fight the battles of our common country, and see if they can give you a satisfactory reason for the course they have pursued.

SAM’L D. HASTINGS.1

1.  Samuel Dexter Hastings (1816-1903) was state treasurer from 1858 to 1866. Born in Massachusetts, he moved to Philadelphia at an early age. In 1838 he founded the Union Anti-slavery Society and later was an organizer of the Liberty Party in Pennsylvania. In 1846 he moved to Wisconsin and was state assemblyman from Geneva (1849) and from Trempealeau (1857). In 1882 he was the unsuccessful Prohibition candidate for Congress, and in 1884 was again unsuccessful in his bid for the governorship. For more details see Hastings’ entry in the Dictionary of Wisconsin History.

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