It has been seen that, through our years of peaceful development, the outlay for the instruments of war gradually increased. When the Civil War was precipitated upon the nation, however, the costs leaped to sums which would have been looked upon as impossible a few years before. The expenditures for the war are given in the following table. Pensions, an item of comparatively small importance at this time, are included in the miscellaneous item.
Expenditures During the Civil War
No comment is necessary upon these figures. The enormity of the burden as the war proceeded, when compared with that borne at the beginning, is evident. Yet the fiscal burden as represented by the expenditures of the Federal government is not the only one to be considered. The increased burdens which were imposed by the minor political divisions must be added. Increased fiscal burdens had to be borne, moreover, because of the effects of currency inflation. The issue of greenbacks furnishes an excellent example of the added sacrifice a state may impose upon its subjects. That the issue of the fiat money actually increased the fiscal burdens is evident when consideration is given to the fact that the government was a purchaser in the market at the prevailing prices. The rapid advance in prices due to greenback inflation caused an increase in Federal expenditure which has been estimated at from $500,000,000 to $900,000,000.
The inflated prices, moreover, imposed a direct burden upon the citizenship. Between 1860 and 1865 prices increased something like 115 per cent, while wages were increased less than 50 per cent. Many other incomes were fixed, so that real hardship was felt because of the falling off in purchasing power. Labor disturbances resulted, the effects of which upon industry cannot be overlooked. The payment of standing indebtedness in the depreciated currency imposed a burden upon the creditor class which was not insignificant. It need not be said that the burden caused by the loss of life, the derangement of industry, and the destruction of goods was also great. While most of these aspects cannot be measured in terms of money, yet the sacrifices which they caused were no less real than if a money measure could be assigned to each.
Post-war Costs. - The cost of the Civil War has not yet been paid. This is evident to everyone who has heard an "old soldier" speak of his pension, or who has seen or visited a soldiers' home. While the immediate direct costs were enormous, the costs for decades following, in the form of interest and pensions, which can be directly attributed to this war, have not been inconsiderable. The maintenance and enlargement of the army and navy, and the building of fortifications and defenses continued, so that war has not ceased to claim the lion's share of the expenditures of the Federal government.
While no proof is needed to convince the student that the costs of a war as long ago as the Civil War are still with us, yet a few figures will illustrate the part that the demands of war have made upon our treasury. It will be unnecessary to enter into such detail as in the preceding period, because it has already been established that the burden of war is a continuous one. Professor Bullock has made some calculations which will serve our purposes as well as any others which might be given.1 These figures more accurately portray the war costs than those given above, because the river and harbor expenditures have been deducted from the expenditures of the War Department.
War Expenditures of the United States
Total for War
Per Cent for War
1870 1880 1890 1897 1900 1902
$28,340,000 56,777,000 106,936,000 141,053,000 140,877,000 138,488,000
$129,235,000 95,757,000 36,099,000 37,791,000 40,160,000 29,108,000
$237,010,000 196,174,000 197,886,000 248,673,000 353,046,000 332,724,000
$293,565,000 264,847,000 297,736,000 365,774,000 487,713,000 471,190,000
66.4 68.0 72.4 70.6
1 "The Growth of Federal Expenditures," in Political Science Quarterly, vol. xviii, p. 97,
Per Capita Cost. - The total costs, however, are only one aspect of the situation. It is of much concern whether a burden can be divided among many, or whether it must be borne by comparatively few. It might be true that a continually increasing expenditure for war would entail a smaller individual burden if the population were increasing more rapidly than the increase in expenditure. The following table will illustrate the relation the per capita expenditures for civil and military affairs have borne to each other at various times in our history, as well as the increase in the per capita burden. The table clearly portrays how exceptionally low the civil expenditures have been in comparison with the others. Even these figures do not show the annual exactions which have been made, because the sums which had to be raised to cancel war indebtedness, both at home and abroad, have not been included in the figures.
Per Capita Expenditures of the United States
It is evident from these figures that the business of war and the maintenance of the machinery for war have been the one overwhelming item of expense to the Federal government. This becomes all the more significant, too, when it is remembered that our country has not been considered militaristic to any appreciable extent. The negative burden appears when one stops to consider what might have been done in a positive and constructive way with the funds which have been thus expended.
No attempt will be made to show the past burden of war to other countries, although more startling figures would appear, in many cases, than are those for the United States. It would be superfluous, moreover, to compile figures for the United States for the first years of the present century. The results would simply show an increasing proportion of expenditures for army and navy. A great amount of interest will be found, however, in noticing some of the burdens, directly or indirectly attributable to the recent conflict, which have been placed upon the principal nations of the world.