Spanish American War Congressional Record Speech
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Congressional Record
Seventy-Third Congress, First Session

"The Veterans of 1898"
Extension of Remarks
Hon. Ernest Lundeen
of Minnesota
in the House of Representatives

Saturday, June 10, 1933

Mr. LUNDEEN. Mr. Speaker, it was my pleasure to hear a speech delivered in the House of Representatives by the gentleman from Alabama, my Spanish-American War comrade, Congressman GEORGE HUDDLESTON. It was one of the most thrilling, eloquent speeches I have heard in many a day, spoken with great feeling and sincerity, and by a very able and distinguished soldier and gentleman. I had the pleasure of serving with Congressman HUDDLESTON during the war days in the Sixty-fifth Congress. I know him as fearless and unafraid, and I am glad to find him still in Congress, and I hope that he will stay here for many a day. I know, those of you who have not seen it, want to read that speech, and we now read his words as follows:

Mr. HUDDLESTON. Mr. Speaker, the measure which we are considering and which is offered as a substitute for the Connally amendment, is said to represent a " compromise " agreed upon by the President and the unofficial committee which waited upon him. I agree that this substitute secures for World War veterans benefits comparable to the Connally amendment; but, as far as Spanish War veterans and their dependents are concerned, they have been tossed overboard; there is nothing for them.

Today 35 years ago my division was marching and drilling at Camp Coppinger, some miles out from Mobile. Within a few days we were transferred to Miami, then a mere village alongside a swamp. There, bitten by swarms of insects and under unspeakable sanitary conditions, we remained throughout the tropical summer. Our food was scanty and unwholesome. Our hospital was little more than a name, medicines and supplies almost wholly lacking, and medical attention largely a pretense. There were no nurses and no suitable food for the sick. I lay for 30 hours, after admission to the hospital, upon a bare board, with my blouse folded under my head for a pillow, without seeing a doctor or receiving the slightest attention.

Our sick list mounted at terrific pace, until scarcely 50 percent were fit for duty. Wracked by malaria, typhoid, and other diseases of the semitropics, within 60 days there was scarcely a sound man in the pestilential camp, and deaths were rising to an appalling figure. When the armistice was signed these men came away to be discharged without a medical examination, and without any adequate record having been made of their disabilities.

I saw these men as they went into camp-gay and patriotic boys, eager to serve their country. Then I saw them as they were discharged to their home-gaunt and fever-stricken, and bearing the seeds of disease to plague them throughout their lives.

Never have veterans of any of our wars received so little attention and such small evidence of appreciation of their sufferings as have those who served in the War with Spain. For more than 20 years no special provision whatever was made for those who were disabled. They received neither bounty nor bonus, and yet there was not a conscript among them. Now, 35 years have gone. Half of these veterans have passed into the great beyond, many of them hastened to their graves by their sufferings in service. The others, now in their old age and, their gray hairs, enfeebled by disease incurred in the service of their country, or broken by the casualties of industry, now find themselves, in their declining years, the " forgotten men "-discriminated against, dishonored, and disowned by the Government for which they offered their lives. [Applause.]

What have they done to receive such treatment-that they should be denied the pittance by which they might eat honest bread? Did you not call them to the service of your country? Did they not follow your flag? Did they not suffer in your stead? Why should you disown them now. [Applause.]

I marched with these men in '98. They have been my friends and intimates through all the intervening years. I know how poor they are-how little they have to show for a life of service. I know that a large majority of them will be destitute if robbed of their pensions. I know that many are merely being transferred from the pension list to the mercies of charity or to the shoulders of sympathetic friends.

Oh, the ingratitude of republics! You are tossing them overboard, these veterans of '98. I marched with them then, and I can do no better now than share their fate. You toss them overboard and, if need be, I am willing to go overboard with them. [Applause.]

The Spanish-American War is one war which gained great wealth for Uncle Sam. The cost is estimated at a trifle over $1,000,000,000, and the property gained at about $10,000,000,000. This property has earned for us more than twenty billion since we acquired the same. If Uncle Sam were to pay out the money he made on the Spanish-American War to the veterans and widows and orphans of that war, we would be drawing 10 times the pensions we are drawing today, every one of us, and more besides, and our widows and orphans after us.

Why those in authority should strike so viciously at so brave a volunteer army as that which marched in 1898 is beyond my comprehension, and I say men who so voted and who so struck are not well informed and do not understand. They should see Puerto Rico and its great wealth. They should see Cuba, because under the Platt amendment it is ours whenever we so desire. Its resources are always at our command and has greatly enriched the continental United States. The Philippine Islands are most valuable and have untold resources.

Half of our men are dead and gone. For a score of years we asked nothing. We were then in our prime, and we fought through our manhood in civilian life without asking a cent from Uncle Sam. Now, when our regiments and battalions are drifting into old age and over the horizon into death, we have asked for a few dollars for our disabled veterans and for our widows and orphans, and I say that any man who votes against a fair and just compensation for these men, these volunteers, these heroes of 1898, is unpatriotic and un-American and fails to understand his country and its institutions.

Is it serving your country to vote against the defenders of the Nation in time of war? Is that a patriotic thing to do, to cut their little pensions down in order that taxes may be saved upon fortunes of the superrich? Here is the House of J. Pierpont Morgan & Co., paying no income taxes for more than 3 years, paying huge taxes to the British Empire. There are other huge fortunes unlevied upon. I say, before I am willing to cut the Spanish War veterans' pensions I will vote to take one half of every million and billion inheritance in this country. I am willing to vote huge levies upon incomes in the higher brackets of our superrich and their great fortunes. I am willing to levy gift taxes upon those who seek to evade the law. Let the war profiteers pay. The widow, the orphan, the service man must be protected.

Now, I want to say to you, my comrades of 1898, the enemy is upon us. They have already struck down the pension structure built up after many years of effort. We should have had the so-called " 50-50 " pension law years ago, but we were not even granted that. Now, our enemies are cutting and slashing our forces in every direction.

There is but one remedy to this situation, and that is politics, political action in political campaigns, and I predict that when the elections of 1934 and 1936 roll around, even though one half of our armies may have disappeared over the horizon into the land beyond, those who fought us will think the woods are full of Spanish-Americans, for we will be up and fighting them.

We know now who our enemies are. They have recorded their names upon the roll calls. They have shown just where they stand. We have been betrayed by fair words. It was the kiss of Judas, and we did not understand; but we understand now. Let it be understood by all men that the Spanish-American soldiers never lost a battle, never lost a prisoner, and won a war in record time. We are not going to lose this battle with our enemies for justice for the disabled, and we mean to let the world know that we will not submit to any pauper clauses and any degrading papers which we are asked to sign. We stand today erect in the sunlight of God under the flag we carried in war time and unafraid we look the world in the face, American citizens and soldiers-and we demand that we be treated as such.

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