Valley Spirit: February 23, 1870Go To Page : 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |
The Border Claims Bill
(Column 01)Summary: Gives a long, passionate argument in favor of the Border Claims Bill. Answers all the objections made against it and denounces the people who made those objections. Urges the Legislature to pass the bill for the good of the people of the border counties and the pride of the state.
Full Text of Article:
On Monday night of last week, a bill was introduced in the House of Representatives at Harrisburg, providing for the payment of the losses sustained by the people of the border counties. It was referred to the Committee of Ways and Means, and will, no doubt, soon be brought before the House again for its consideration. Hardly had the fact of the introduction of this bill been flashed across the telegraphic wires throughout the State, before a few editors seized their pens and wrote vehement articles against the proposition. Misrepresenting the nature of the bill, and willfully coining the most unmitigated falsehoods in regard to our people, they sought to excite the public mind in relation to this measure, and convince it that one of the greatest outrages in the history of Pennsylvania legislation was about to be committed. Never was a more complete misrepresentation of facts given to the people.
The men who ask for payment of their losses are stigmatized as "thieves and robbers" and the bill itself is characterized as "a swindle." Our readers can examine the provisions of the bill, as published in another column, for themselves. It is a proposition as candid and fair as any ever made in a legislative body. There is no "snake" in it. The several adjudications, made by men who received their appointments from persons high in authority and of honorable repute, are on file, and may be examined by any one who desires so to do. There is no desire for, and no attempt at concealment. The claim of the people of these counties for payment has too much intrinsic merit to cause us to resort to any subterfuges, or chicanery, to secure its recognition by the Legislature.
But it is charged that these "claims for several years have been objects of speculation in the border counties, and have gradually drifted into the hands of a few speculators at a nominal price, or at a valuation contingent on the passage of the bill." This is simply not true. There is not even a grain of truth in it. There has been no speculation in these claims. There has not been an assignment of a single claim in Franklin county, and Franklin county sustained two-thirds of all the losses of the border counties. We desire to nail this lie right here and now. We defy the author of this libelous article, or any other enemy of the bill, to point out one person in this county who has assigned, or sold his claim.
No, the men whose property was taken by impressment, or carried away by the hands of military robbers, or destroyed by the torch of the rebel incendiary, still bear upon their own shoulders the burden of their heavy losses.
The farmers whose horses were stolen, and whose granaries were emptied of their precious stores, are in a state of despondency on account of the debts that are pressing on them for payment. Many of the citizens of Chambersburg, who saw the flames consume all that they owned in the world except the clothing which they wore, are deep down in the slough of despair, on account of the difficulty of providing even the necessaries of life for themselves and families. Bankrupt in property, some of them have been compelled to eat the bitter bread of charity. Sitting by their firesides, memory recalls the dear face of a beloved son whom they sent forth with their blessing to support the starry flag of their country, but alas! their desolation is the more heart-rending, and the cloud which lowers upon their home the blacker, because the fortune of war struck down their darling and their pride. And this is not a supposititious, nor yet a single case. The inquiring mind can find that such cases are stern realities in our midst and that they are many. Our people gave their fathers, brethren and sons to the war. Many of them went down amid the smoke of the battle, or died in the camp, and whilst they were rallying around and dying beneath the flag, their loved ones at home were given over to the ravages of the enemy. And they are the "thieves and robbers" who are asking a rich Commonwealth to reimburse them for their losses. This proposition to shift the burden of these great losses from the few of the border, upon whom it is resting with such crushing force, to the many citizens of the State whose property was saved from spoliation and destruction by the very sacrifices which these few made, and losses which they incurred--this it is which is denounced as "the greatest swindle of the year." Surely, no honest man can thus add insult to the injury which our people have suffered.
Our own eloquent townsman, J. McDowell Sharpe, Esq., in a speech in the Legislature, on the 24th day of February A. D. 1864, on this very subject, pressed this point in the following glowing language:--"Is there still some gentleman upon this floor whose heart prompts him to ask why do your constituents demand this relief? I answer because there is no reason founded in either justice or right, why they should be compelled to carry heavier burdens than other portions of the State, more fortunately located. Look at this question, Mr. Speaker, in a spirit of candor and fair dealing. We are all sons of Pennsylvania alike. The aegis of the same Constitution protects us all alike. We have a common heritage of State glory and renown, we have a common duty of allegiance to bear toward our government, we have common burdens to bear, and common aspirations and common hopes. The golden thread that links us in a common state brotherhood, begins on the shores of Lake Erie, and runs over mountains, through valleys and across rivers, until it gathers within its links, us who dwell near the banks of the Potomac. If all things else be common, why should our misfortunes be peculiar? If we have a joint tenancy of everything else, why should we suffer the fortunes of war in severalty? There can be no answer adverse to my cause, unless it be spoken by the voice of that selfish parsimony, which, wrapping itself in the mantle of its own affluence and contentment, can shut its heart against the pleadings of justice, and turn a deaf ear to the tale of sorrow. There is no use in mincing words about this matter. Cold, calculating selfishness can alone deny the provisions of this bill. No higher impulse will, or can have aught to say, in making such a decision."
It is said, too, that the Commissioners, provided in the bill, will not "audit the claims according to any settled principles of law," and that, "in their adjudication, they will be governed by the rule that whatever helps Number Two will be a good thing for Number One." It is apparent that the writer of this stuff, either did not read the bill, or, if he did, resolved deliberately to misrepresent the facts so as to excite the hostility of his readers towards the measure. These claims were adjudicated, as we have already said, by persons appointed by authority of the Legislature, and these persons were not residents of the border counties and had no interest, direct or indirect, in the claims. The people of the border counties might have asked for payment of these claims according to the valuation fixed by these Commissioners. They preferred, however, to ask for nothing by what was justly due to them. And, inasmuch as there were three different Boards of Commissioners which adjudicated these claims, and in some instances, the same claims were presented before, and allowed by, more than one Board of Commissioners, it became necessary, as an act of justice to the Commonwealth, that measures should be taken to prevent these claims from being duplicated in payment. For this purpose, it is provided in the bill, that two gentlemen in each county, of respectability and integrity, should examine these claims, and further power is given them to diminish, but not to increase, any claim as it now stands adjudicated. How does this give the claimant an opportunity to "walk into the Treasury and help himself?" What becomes of the principle, in the light of these facts, that "whatever helps Number Two will be a good thing for Number One?" If the men who have hastily attacked this bill, were moved by the candor and sense of justice that have prompted the action of the sufferers who are asking for relief, they would, at least, have refrained from indulging in reckless misstatements and fabricating gross falsehoods.
But it is said that the amount is large. Is that any reason why these claims should not be paid? Is it not rather a stronger reason why they should be paid? Mr. Lincoln said, "it is easier to pay a small debt than a large one," and he might have added, that it is easiest for many people to pay a large debt than for a few to pay it. The magnitude of the losses makes the injustice of compelling the people of a few counties to bear them, more enormous and apparent.
It is hardly necessary to say that this claim is based upon the strongest foundations. It springs from the elementary principles on which all government must rest. The citizen owes allegiance to the State, and the State in return owes protection to the citizen. Their duties are reciprocal. When the citizen acts in good faith, pays the taxes imposed by the State, answers the call of the State for men to defend her borders, or fight her battles, and is always ready to discharge the duties devolving upon him by reason of his citizenship, the State in turn must protect him, or, failing to protect, must make good the losses which he incurs by reason of that failure. We throw down the gauntlet, and challenge our enemies to give a single instance in which the people of the border counties have failed to discharge their whole duty to the State; nay, more, we dare them to point to a single instance in which they ever faltered, or hesitated, in the performance of their duty. On the clear, broad ground of right, the Legislature owes it to our people to pass this bill
And, although, editors may write abusive articles, and try to terrify honest men from the performance of this plain duty, the members of the Legislature should laugh them to scorn and reply, 'we dare to do right, and we trust to the sense of justice of our respective constituencies to approve our action.' To cast a vote for the payment of these losses, thus relieving the pressing necessities of a people who have borne their terrible sufferings without a murmur, is an act that the Gods might envy. And the storm of indignation that a few sordid souls, in their selfish parsimony, are raising, will be turned upon their own heads as a perfect whirlwind of wrath, when the real facts about this business become generally known. The people of this great Commonwealth will yet come to think it due to the maintenance of her own dignity, and proud and honorable position in the Union, that the damages sustained and the losses incurred by her own citizens in the late war, in which she bore such a distinguished part, should be paid to the uttermost farthing.
In view of all these facts, instead of the taunts, and sneers, and misrepresentations, and threats, to which certain mean scribblers have resorted to defeat this measure, they ought rather to address their representatives in language like that in which Mr. Sharpe closed the model speech to which we have before referred, and which reads as follows: "Mr. Speaker, and gentlemen representatives, go home to your constituents if you can. Go home if you dare and tell them you voted against this bill. Go home to your constituents if you can, go home to them if you dare, and tell them that Pennsylvania, the brightest star in the galaxy of States, the cradle of American freedom, the nursing mother of the Declaration of Independence, rich in the hallowed memories of Valley Forge and Germantown, having within its limits the birth-place of our nation, and the grave of treason close by the consecrated sepulchres of Gettysburg's heroes--an empire of three millions of people, whose mountains milk the clouds, and whose valleys run with fatness, having within her bowels coal enough to warm all her friends, and iron enough to cool all her foes--a Commonwealth abounding in prosperity, intelligence and civilization unknown elsewhere--tell your constituents, I repeat it, that this State, such as I have described it, through you as her representatives on this floor, has refused to be just to her citizens, and has declared herself to be too weak and poor to protect them."
If the present Legislature passes this bill now before them, its members may congratulate themselves that they have performed an act of justice which former Legislatures have refused to do--an act of justice, not only to the people who are praying for its passage, but to the people of the State also, who desire to preserve the fair fame of the Commonwealth for discharging its just obligations.
(Column 01)Summary: The "Life Believers" of Franklin County elected the Rev. J. G. Schaff as their pastor.Central Presbyterian Church
(Names in announcement: Rev. J. G. Schaff)
(Column 01)Summary: The Central Presbyterian Church administered the sacrament of the Lord's Supper and admitted 8 new persons to membership.[No Title]
(Column 01)Summary: The Rev. B. T. Roberts of Rochester, New York, will preach in the second M. E. Church in Chambersburg on the 26th.Temperance
(Column 01)Summary: Crescent Division No. 148, Sons and Daughters of Temperance, organized in Greenvillage on December 31st. Officers were elected.Blitz at Repository Hall
(Names in announcement: Charles T. Maclay, F. D. Ditzler, Sue Williams, T. H. Wallace, Sallie Howe, A. K. McNair, J. H. Hoover, Jacob Glass, William Ott, Annie Maclay, Sue Embich, John Glass)
(Column 01)Summary: Eugene Blitz, son and pupil of the famous Jerome Blitz, will perform at Repository Hall. The Blitzes are well-known mimics, magicians, and ventriloquists. He has a repertoire of 25 different characters including "the Old Maid, the Frisky Lawyer, the Grecian Bender, the Country Lover and a variety of Dutch, Irish, and French characters." He acts out the parts with his "family" of wooden dolls. Admission is 25 cents.Cumb. Valley Conference
(Column 02)Summary: The Lutheran Conference of the Cumberland Valley met in Orrstown on February 14th. The ministers prayed, discussed doctrine, and settled district matters.Married
(Names in announcement: Rev. Swartz, Rev. Sherts, Rev. Anthony, Rev. Jones, Rev. Lloyd, Rev. McKnight, Rev. Dutt, Rev. T. C. Billheimer, Rev. Roth, Rev. Keedy, Rev. Felker, Rev. L. A. Gotwald)
(Column 04)Summary: Josiah D. Schlessman and Miss Annie M. Hiester, both of Orrstown, were married on February 15th by the Rev. A. H. Sherts.Died
(Names in announcement: Josiah D. Schlessman, Annie M. Hiester, Rev. A. H. Sherts)
(Column 04)Summary: Miss Mary Ann Myers died near Orrstown on February 16th. She was 28 years old.
(Names in announcement: Mary Ann Myers)