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Distributive politics, the electoral connection, and the antebellum US Congress: The case of military service pensions

Charles J Finocchiaro and Jeffery A Jenkins
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Charles J Finocchiaro: Department of Political Science, University of South Carolina, USA
Jeffery A Jenkins: Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics, University of Virginia, USA

Journal of Theoretical Politics, 2016, vol. 28, issue 2, 192-224

Abstract: We investigate the rise of federal military pensions in the antebellum US Congress to examine whether key aspects of the contemporary electoral connection were present in earlier historical eras. Overall, the political responses of members of Congress to pressures for military service pensions reveal that the quest for credit-claiming opportunities significantly shaped the adoption and evolution of this type of distributive legislation. Analyzing key legislative activity from 1818 to 1832, we find that members’ electoral interests gave rise to a particularistic and often inefficient system of benefits. Specifically, what began as a relatively simple program to provide for disabled Revolutionary War veterans grew into a broader entitlement-style program based on military service that legislators carefully cultivated in order to maximize their prospects for subsequent political advantage. Our analysis thus reveals that crucial features of the electoral connection were indeed present in the antebellum-era Congress, a finding that broadens our collective understanding of the early foundations of American political development.

Keywords: Congress; elections; pensions (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2016
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