Social Studies 5: Cough it Up: How America (Didn't Really) Pay Its Revolutionary War Soldiers
Turns out that if you fought to liberate the United States back in the day you may have been paid $96 a year for your troubles. And that's just if you were lucky. Yikes. But yay liberty?
|5th Grade||Social Studies|
|Elementary and Middle School||5th Grade|
… where they got an education that allowed them to find good jobs.
After Vietnam however, soldiers were scorned and criticized for fighting in an unpopular war.
And many Vietnam vets had trouble re-adjusting to society.
But surely America’s first veterans – soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War for our [Soldiers fighting in Revolutionary War]
nation’s independence – were treated with the respect and gratitude they deserved, right?
…Um, turns out, not so much. [Men in costume on stage with no audience]
See, even though England had lost, it was a country with a strong central government
and colonies, as well as a known and trusted currency.
This allowed Great Britain to trade and collect taxes and pay off the debts it had incurred [King George holding a bag of money]
in the war.
The new U.S., on the other hand, had, well, none of that.
And when Revolutionary War veterans – including soldiers, officers, and the women who had [Officers and veterans walk up to army payment desk]
followed the army as cooks, seamstresses, and nurses – came a-knocking to collect
the pay they’d been promised, Congress suddenly got a serious case of alligator arms. [Man's arms transform into alligators and closes army payment desk]
How’s that for a “thank you for your service”?
With no money to give, Congress offered some veterans land in place of pay.
But it rarely worked in the veteran’s favor. [Veteran holding a land deed]
Even the ones who did actually get some land often had to sell it to predatory speculators
in order to pay off their debts, or to just get some spending cash.
The Federal Pension Act of 1818 promised to give war veterans a pension of $96 a year.
But the Act didn’t provide payments to women or African Americans who had served in the army. [Women and African American appear at payment desk and man disappears]
Everyone who's surprised by that fact, raise your hands!
…Oh look, no hands.
And even soldiers who did receive this pension felt that they’d done more for their country [Soldier empties pension bag]
than their country was doing for them.
Like this guy.
This guy is Joseph Plumb Martin.
He served seven years in the Continental Army.
In 1830 he published a memoir titled, “A Narrative of [Joseph Martin picks up his book]
a Revolutionary Soldier."
Try saying that five times fast…or just five times without needing a nap in between…
In it, Martin took the government to task for failing to take care of its veterans. [Joseph selling his narrative book]
Unfortunately, the book didn’t sell in his lifetime.
Though it did do well when it was eventually republished.
We’re sure that shortening the title to “Private Yankee Doodle” didn’t have
anything to do with that…
Anyway, the nation heeded Martin’s words and today’s veterans face none of the problems
Martin and his fellow soldiers did 200 years ago. [Joseph looks at newspaper article of iraq/afghanistan war veterans]