The following is my “Letter to the Editor” published in this month’s Civil War News.
As the Sesquicentennial of Reconstruction progresses and the popular press debates whether slavery merits reparations, few students of the era realize that Southerners have already paid a form of reparations; if not for slavery, then as a penalty for the war.
As the table below illustrates, for at least twenty-five years after the war three items represented more than half of the federal budget: (1) budget surpluses to repay federal war debt, (2) interest on federal war debt, and (3) Union veterans pensions. Former Confederates derived no benefit from such items, yet they had to pay their share of federal taxes to fund them. If the Confederacy had been an independent defeated foe such payments would have been reparations.
But the table does not tell the whole story.
First, four years after the war in…
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