Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 8: No 2) >> Tiger's Meat: William Gilmore Simms and the History of the Revolution >> Page 29

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Secondary Scholarship | 2000
Transcription lost, some said, because of the Yankee general sent by the Continental Congress.
Contrary to the New England mythology, slavery did not weaken the South in war,
but was a source of strength, as the War of Southern Independence would later prove.
But the biggest part of the lie rested on the numbers of troops in the
Continental Line, in which New England was indeed overrepresented. The catch is
that most of these troops were organized after the war had moved southward and saw
little active service. They contributed little to the final victory in the Revolution which,
as Macon pointed out and Simms substantiated, was won in the South by the partisans
and Continental troops and militia from Delaware southward.14
In writing history Simms wanted to celebrate the republican United States and
promote civic virtue. The purpose of the New Englanders was quite different: power.
Simms was well aware of this and he was well aware, as was everyone at the
time, of the pension question. Though they had received cash bonuses and large land
bounties for their service, New Englanders were the main beneficiaries and promoters
of the pension system established in the early 1800s. Pensions were at first thought
of as being for disabled and impoverished veterans. By stages they were extended to
all veterans and to their dependents and survivors. In 1830 there were more people
on the pension rolls than had ever been in the Revolutionary army---the first great
entitlement program. Pensions were one of the biggest items in the federal budget and
most of it went to New Englanders, some of whom had had only brief desultory
service, while many of Marion's men could not document their much more hazardous
and valuable services, or refused reward for their exercises of republican virtue.15


14 Simms's essays in Southern Quarterly Review. In The Life of Francis Marion (New York: George
F. Cooledge & Brother, 1844), p. 306, Simms recounts events in the latter part of the war: "The
armies led by Gates and Greene to the defence of Carolina, were truly from States north of her, but
they were not the Northern States. Two fine bodies of troops came from Maryland and Delaware, but
the rest were from Virginia and North Carolina—with the exception of the Pennsylvania Line which
harbored mutineers and traitors."
15 Marcus Norton, a Democrat, one of the few truly national-minded governors of Massachusetts
after the Revolution, writes to Secretary of War John C. Calhoun on May 6, 1818:
"But a sense of duty to my Country and its Government constrains me to make known to
you some of the abuses of the Law for the relief of some of the soldiers of the Revolutionary Army,
which are attempted to be practised and which, I trust you have the power to prevent. I learn, since
my return to Massachusetts, that the applications for pensions under this law, are numerous beyond
the expectations of any one; and that there are among the Applicants a very great number, who do
not come within the literal or equitable provisions of the Act.
I have no doubt that the officers of your department will exercise due vigilence (and no
small share will be necessary) in preventing Militia and State troops from placing themselves upon
the 'Continental Establishment.'
The great abuses to which I wish to call your attention, consist in the applications of men
who are not in 'need of assistance from their Country for a support.' Your directions allowing this
fact to be proved by the oath of the applicant while it promotes and encourages perjury and gives the



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