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Determining the Facts

Reading 2: Reaction to the Endicott Board Recommendations

Alabama Congressman William H. Forney, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, argued:

The [Endicott] board have recommended that an appropriation of twenty-one and a half million dollars should be made this year....The majority of the Committee on Appropriations did not deem it practicable to enter upon this great work at this time, and they have therefore presented the bill...which merely appropriates $670,000....I, for one, Mr. Chairman, do not think it is necessary at this time to enter upon the extensive works recommended by the board. We are at peace with all the world. Our relations with foreign governments are amicable, and at this time it does not seem likely that we shall get into difficulty at an early day....There are over two thousand guns of large caliber, ranging from 8 to 20 inches, and as we have those guns, as our country is at peace with the world, and as we have the fortification which the board testify were so efficient in former years, the majority of the committee think it is not necessary for us to enter at this time upon the immense work which the board recommend.

Ohio Congressman Benjamin Butterworth, one of the leading advocates of increased appropriations, countered:

I have said that the old fortifications, as shown by competent evidence, are not only absolutely worthless they are worse than useless. And why? Because...they seem to serve as an excuse for men pretending to be economists to say to the people of this country away inland and at other places that we already have our seacoast lined with fortifications now, and thus the otherwise suspicious and impatient public are lulled into a false sense of security....Suppose war should come tomorrow, and the experience of the world teaches that this supposition is not violent, are we prepared to offer as ramparts against the enemies' shot and shell the bodies of our children? Either we will gird our lines with ramparts of steel and iron or we must offer to the enemies' shot and shell the bodies of our citizen soldiers; one or the other must be furnished to resist the assault-iron and steel or flesh and blood.

Butterworth then quoted from the section of Senator Tilden's letter which followed the claim that $5 billion in property stood exposed in America's largest harbors.

They are the centers not only of foreign commerce but of most of the internal trade and exchanges of domestic productions....The interruption of the currents of traffic by the occupation of one or more of our principal seaports by a foreign enemy or the destruction of them by bombardment or the holding over them the menace of destruction for the purposes of exacting contribution or ransom would inflict upon the property and business of the country an injury which can neither be foreseen nor measured.

Questions for Reading 2

1. What reasons did Congressman Forney give for opposing the appropriation of $21 million?

2. What did Forney mean when he said this level of spending was not "practicable"?

3. What reasons did Congressman Butterworth give for supporting the appropriation of $21 million?

4. Later in his speech, Congressman Butterworth asked not for $21 million, but only for $3 million. Considering how worried he was, why might he have lowered his request?

Reading 2 was compiled from Congressional Record volume 17, part 7, 49th Congress, 1st session (July 1886), 7097-7100.

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