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James Russell Lowell: Uncle Sam presents his bill for war


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

James Russell Lowell: Selections on war and peace


James Russell Lowell
From The Biglow Papers

If, by means of direct taxation, the bills for every extraordinary outlay were brought under our immediate eye, so that, like thrifty housekeepers, we could see where and how fast the money was going, we should be less likely to commit extravagances. At present, these things are managed in such a hugger-mugger way, that we know not what we pay for; the poor man is charged as much as the rich; and, while we are saving and scrimping at the spigot, the government is drawing off at the bung. If we could know that a part of the money we expend for tea and coffee goes to buy powder and ball, and that it is Mexican blood which makes the clothes on our backs more costly, it would set some of us a-thinking. During the present fall, I have often pictured to myself a government official entering my study, and handing me the following bill: –

Washington, Sept. 30, 1848.

Rev. Homer Wilbur to Uncle Samuel

To his share of work done in Mexico on partnership account, sundry jobs, as below.

“killing, maiming, and wounding about 5,000 Mexicans $2.00
“slaughtering one woman carrying water to wounded .10
“extra work on two different Sabbaths (one bombardment and one assault) whereby the Mexicans were prevented from defiling themselves with the idolatries of high mass 3.50
“throwing an especially fortunate and Protestant bomb-shell into the Cathedral at Vera Cruz, whereby several female Papists were slain at the altar .50
“his proportion of cash paid for conquered territory 1.75
“do. do. for conquering do. 1.50
“manuring do. with new superior compost called “American Citizen” .50
“extending the area of freedom and Protestantism .01
“glory .01

Immediate payment is requested.

N.B. Thankful for former favours, U. S. requests a continuance of patronage. Orders executed with neatness and despatch. Terms as low as those of any other contractor for the same kind and style of work.

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