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Bonus Bill: Wikis


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Two major bills of the United States Congress have been called the Bonus Bill. The first, in 1817, proposed spending proceeds from the Second Bank of the United States on an east-west road. Later, this term was applied to welfare bills for World War I veterans opposed by Franklin Roosevelt in his first two Presidential terms, eventually overcoming his presidential veto.


Bonus Bill of 1817

The Bonus Bill of 1817 was a bill introduced by John C. Calhoun to provide United States highways linking The East and South to The West using the earnings Bonus from the Second Bank of people. They feared that providing the means for settlers to travel would drain their population and create competing states in the area obtained in the Louisiana Purchase. Though he approved of the goals, President James Madison vetoed the bill as unconstitutional under strict constructionist ideals.

Bonus Bills of 1930s

Veterans of the First World War in the United States had been promised a cash bonus payable in 1945. Beginning in 1931, veterans organized to get full payment immediately. Congressman Wright Patman and Senator Huey Long were the leading proponents. Presidents Herbert Hoover and Franklin Delano Roosevelt strongly opposed the payment. 45,000 veterans calling themselves the Bonus Expeditionary Force or Bonus Army marched on Washington in 1932 and were driven out by the Army. Congress passed several bonus bills that were vetoed and finally overcame Roosevelt's veto in 1936 (Adjusted Compensation Payment Act, 1936, January 27, 1936, ch. 32, 49 Stat. 1099). The Treasury distributed $1.5 billion in cash to the 4 million veterans. The Bonus Bill replaced the 1924 Service Certificates with bonds issued by the Treasury Department in denominations of $50, in the name of the veteran only, which bore interest at the rate of 3 percent per annum from June 15, 1936, to June 15, 1945. Any excess amount not sufficient to purchase a $50 bond was paid by check. Because these bonds matured at the same time as the certificates they replaced, the veterans were no better off than before the legislation was passed, however, the bonds could be borrowed against by the veteran to whom they were issued, and so they afforded the possibility of a veteran receiving monies during the Great Depression rather than after it.




  • Paul Dickson and Thomas B. Allen. The Bonus Army: An American Epic (2004).
  • Donald Lisio. The President and Protest: Hoover, MacArthur, and the Bonus Riot (1994).

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