Lincoln had trouble financing the Civil War. Most northerners disliked slavery, but they generally disliked black people even more, and they liked taxes least of all. Lincoln’s administration tried twice to levy taxes to finance the war, with insufficient results. It also encouraged citizens to buy government bonds, but ond sales had also realized less than hoped. Further taxing the Union to raise money looked like a sure political mistake. So in 1862 the federal government authorized the Treasury to print and release “legal tender” paper money. The words “legal tender” meant no one could legally refuse to take the green-backed bills in payment—if you sold gunpowder or pickled beef to the government, you took your pay greenbacks. If you offered a supplier greenbacks in return, he took greenbacks and liked it. Soldiers took their pay in greenbacks as well. By 1865, 450 million dollars worth of “greenbacks” passed for “real money” throughout the North. Putting it over simply, the greenbacks let Lincoln finance the unpopular war
The documents below look at some of the popular responses to Lincoln's greenback issues
E.B Bowers and Chas. Glover, How Are you Greenbacks (1863)
How are you Green-backs ten or twenty!
Four forty on the turnpike gate;
How are you Father Abra'm?
From one to five, I have got plenty!
Then while we sing, the heel tap ring
And the banjo sounds like a jim-jam.
Five dollars now is quite a sum, too,
Four forty on the turnpike gate,
How are you Father Abra'm?
Gold is worth more than what it comes to!
Then while we sing the heel-tap ring,
And the banjo sounds like a jim-jam.
Look to the East, look to the west,
Look way over dar,
The railroad leads to the cookoo's nest,
Then jump on board the car;
So good bye to the fair sex
And the thing call'd a green back
"Over the left" we're a coming
Three hundred million more!
Government wheels scream out, while turning,
"More soap! to keep the "Ex" from burning!"
Now Chase he is a clever laddy,
But Father Abra'm is his daddy.
If you've sore eyes and can't endure 'em,
Look at the "Greenbacks:" that will cure 'em;
Hard times is nothing but a scare-crow,
For Greenback "money makes the mare go!"
Wall Street is but a small plantation,
Too small to ever rule the nation;
Old Father Abe dont care about it,
He gets on very well without it.
Three hundred dollars is a "clean" tax,
When one has pockets lined with Greenbacks;
But when this war comes to an ending,
Some characters will need some mending!!
Dan Emmet, Greenbacks (1863)
We’re coming Father A-bram, one hundred thousand more
Five hundred presses printing us from morn till night is o’er
Like Maggie you will see us start and scatter thro’ the land
To pay the soldiers or release the border contraband
With our promise to pay, "How are you Secretary Chase?"
Promise to pay: "oh dat's what de matter!"
“We're coming, Father Abram, One hundred thousand more
And cash was ne'er so easily evok'd from rags before
To line the fat contractor’s purse, or purchase transport craft/whose rotten hulks shall sink before the winds begin to waft.
With our promise to pay, How are you Gideon Welles, Esquire?"
Promise to pay: "Oh! Can't you fix the date?"
We’re willing, Father A-bram, one hundred thousand more
Should help our Uncle Samuel to Prosecute the war
But then we want a chieftan true, one who can lead the van
Geo. B McClellan, you all know, he is the very man
With his Potomac Army grand, Peace once more will smile on us
With his Potomac Army grand, three cheers for little Mac
We’re coming, Father A-bram, One hundred thousand more
To march with gleaming bayonets upon the traitor’s shore
But you must give us generals on whom we can depend
And not let paper generals, drive off our faithful men
With our promise to pay, How are you "Bull Run Russell?"
Promise to pay--"Pop goes the weasel"
We’re coming, Father A-bram, Nine hundred thousand strong
With nine hundred thousand darkies, sure the traitors can’t last long
With Corporal Cuff, and Sergeant Pomp, to lead us in the melee
And at their head, without a red, Our Brigadier General Greely
With our promise to pay, How are you "Greely's subscription list?"
Promise to pay--"Nip up de dooden do"
We’re coming, Father A-bram, Nine hundred thousand more
With the greatest fighting hero, that lives upon our shore
He fought in all the battle won, and shed his blood most freely
But he’s fought them all with the Tribune, and his name in Gen’l Greely
With our promise to pay, How are you "Black Brigade?"
Promise to pay--three cheers for Father Abe!
Running the Machine (1864)
W.A. Croffut, Bourbon Ballads (Songs for the Stump)
RESUMPTION--GREENBACKS AT PAR.
December 18, 1878.
O, Greenback, veteran of the years!
Thou crippled soldier of the war!
Baptized with blood and wet with
To-day thou art without a scar.
Thou stood upon the picket line
Wherever hissing bullets flew;
Thou whispered freedom's countersign
Wherever marched the Boys in Blue!
Thou stormed the forts; thou sped the ships;
Thou dealt the gunboat's timely blow;
Thou forged the cannon angry lips
That screamed a welcome to the foe.
Thanks, Greenback! Veteran of the years!
Thou crippled hero of the war!
To-day thy last wound disappears--
Thou standest forth without a scar!
"Editor's Table," The Old Guard, March 1864
Dr. Didymus Shoddy, L. G. S. O. T. R. A. O. A. T. F., begs leave to inform the citizens of the happy United States, that he has made the most valuable and astonishing discoveries in medical science, which enable him to be very useful to his fellow-men in this new and improved condition of society. His Grand Reducing Plaster, if applied to the feet, hands, or ears, will, in a short time, reduce the size of those organs, as if by magic. The benign effects of the new dispensation are seen in the sudden elevation to places of wealth and power of thousands who were born, under the providence of Almighty God, in the lower ranks of life, and who are forced, by that same Divine Providence, to take the evidences of their low origin along with them into their new and elevated spheres. Dr. Shoddy's wonderful Plaster entirely overcomes the effects of low birth and of Divine Providence in a few hours, and leaves the patient rejoicing in the possession of these sure signs of good blood-small feet, hands and ears. Ladies, especially the wives of contractors, who find it impossible to get diamond rings over the joints of their fingers, will find this a safe and invaluable remedy. Price $100 in greenbacks, or $200 in gold. Dr. Shoddy is permitted to refer to Abra. ham Lincoln, who is now under treatment, to ex-Mayor Oydyke, Park Godwin, Gen. Butler, and Judge Busteed. POSTSCRIPT 1. Presuming that the unlearned may not be able to understand Dr. Shoddy's titles, he begs to say that they mean, Late Grand Surgeon of the Army of Abraham The First. POSTSCrIPT 2. Dr. Shoddy's motives for charging $100 more in gold than in greenbacks are purely patriotic, to encourage the Government currency.
McClellan campaign song. Air- "Wait for the wagon." Composed by John A. McSorley of New York City, and dedicated to Horatio Seymour. (1864)
I AM FIGHTING FOR
Air: Wait for the Wagon. -- By Wm. Kiernan.
I calculate of niggers we soon shall have our fill,
Wiuh Abe's proclamation and the nigger army bill.
Who would not be a soldier for the Union to fight?
For, Abe's made the nigger the equal of the white.
Chorus: Go in for the nigger,
The sweet scented nigger,
The woolly-headed nigger,
And cream colored moke.
Each soldier must be loyal, and his officers obey,
Though he lives on mouldy biscuit, and fights without his pay;
If his wife at home is starving, he must be content,
Though he waits six months for Green-Backs, worth forty-five per cent.
If ordered into battle, go in without delay;
Though slaughtered just like cattle, it is your duty to obey;
And, when old Jeff Davis is captured, paid up you may be:
If you do not mind the money, don't you set the nigger free.
Moreover, if you're drafted, don't refuse to go,
You are equal to the nigger and can make as good show:
And when in the battle. to the Union prove true:
But don't, the nigger is as good a man as you.
Three for Honest Abe, he will be a great man yet,
Though he has loaded us with taxes, and burdened us with debt;
He often tells us little jokes, when pocketing our pelf,
And, at last, has made the nigger the equal of himself.
Guard well the Constitution, the Government and laws:
To every act of Congress don't forget to give applause:
And, when you meet the Rebels, be sure, and drive 'em back:
No matter if you do enslave the white man, you liberate the black.
Halpine, Charles, The life and adventures, songs, services, and speeches of Private Miles O'Reilly [pseud.] (864)
Salmon hath a paper mill,
Which night and day pursues its journey;
Soon with greenbacks he will fill The land from Maine to Califurny.
Oh, the vanished days of gold!
The vanished, halcyon days of specie!
Bullion's dead, and coin has fled
On paper winglets to Helvetia.
Oh, my Chase, my Salmon dear
My greenly gleaming, gorgeous Salmon,
Down paper's tide serene you glide
A tide that hasn't got a dam on!
Grand and grim is Salmon's face
While on financial themes he ponders;
Clear his eye, his bearing high,
As in his greenback dreams he wanders.
The Abolition Catastrophe
Sidonia, "Abraham's Vision," in The Old Guard (November 1864)
High on a throne, tremendous to behold,
Built up with "greenbacks," burnished with gold,
Sat Chase. A golden zone was roll'd
Around him, as on greenbacks of old.*
Pale, hovering ghosts surround his awful throne,
Demanding back what they had lost-their own
Hard cash, which was for greenbacks paid,
And payment back on which the banks had stay'd.
Abraham looked--in fact old Abe was pleased
Thomas Nast, "Milk Tickets for Babies" in David A. Welles, Robinson Crusoe's Money (1876)