ccording to his 1999 obituary in The New York Times, Woodberry alumnus Lewis JeffersonGorin, Jr. ’ 32, was briefly “the most famous collegian in America who did not actually playfootball.” His fame began on March 14, 1936, when the Daily Princetonian published Gorin’smanifesto of the Veterans of Future Wars, inspiring a satirical anti-war movement that within amatter of weeks spread to more than five hundred college campuses and enlisted more than sixtythousand members. The Veterans of Future Wars, known as the VFW, was reviled by the real VFW, the Veteransof Foreign Wars, who characterized Gorin’s satire as a heartless and vicious attack on America’s veterans, whohad just lobbied Congress into giving them $2 billion in bonus payments over President Franklin Roosevelt’s veto.
The antecedents of the bonus payments andpotent political lobbying by veterans extend back to1890 when Congress granted pensions to veterans,widows, and orphans of the victorious Unionarmies, known collectively as the Grand Army ofthe Republic. Confederate veterans, widows, andorphans were excluded. In 1913 veterans of theSpanish-American War formed the Veterans ofForeign Wars, and in 1919 World War I veteransformed the American Legion. The two groupstogether boasted over two million members andwielded considerable political clout at the polls.
In 1922 they helped win passage of the AdjustedWar Compensation Act, also known as the BonusBill, which required the federal government toissue to each veteran who had served at least sixtydays an adjusted compensation certificate worth$1.00 per day for service within the United Statesand $1.25 a day for service abroad. The certificateswere to accrue interest until payable in 1945. Theidea of the Bonus Bill was to make up the gapbetween what the veterans were paid as soldiersand what they would have been paid as civilianworkers. Fiscal conservatives, advocates of limitedfederal government, and tax hawks opposed to anyredistribution of the wealth to pay for the nascentwelfare state were adamantly against the BonusBill, just as they were against the Social SecurityAct that eventually became law in 1935. Membersof Congress, however, felt that they could placatethe powerful veterans’ lobby at a cost not due fortwenty years.
But the Great Depression changed everything. In1932, with mounting national distress, Texas Rep.John W. Patman, himself a veteran, introduced a billauthorizing the immediate payment of the bonusesdue in 1945. More than forty thousand veteranscalling themselves the Bonus Expeditionary Force,but also known as the Bonus Army, marched onWashington in support of the bill. The bill passedthe House but was defeated in the Senate, afterwhich disturbances in the veterans’ encampmentled to their forceful ejection by troops commandedby Douglas MacArthur.
The veterans did not give up. They marched onWashington again in 1933 and kept the pressure onlawmakers until both houses of Congress passedthe Patman Bill in late 1935. President Rooseveltvetoed the bill, but Congress overrode his veto inJanuary 1936 and initiated more than $2 billionin bonus payments to more than three millionveterans. Although a Gallup poll in November 1935
according to the new york times,
lewis gorin was briefly "the most
famous collegian in america who did
not actually play football."
1890 1913 1919 1922