The ledgers, written almost exclusively in pen - both black and red ink – with some entries and notations in pencil, enumerate the annual appropriations for:
I. Agriculture, Army, Fortifications, Pensions, Post-Office, 1870-1909.
II. Diplomatic, District of Columbia Appropriations.
III. Legislative Appropriations, 1870-1901.
IV. Military Academy, Naval Appropriations, 1870-1909.
V. Sundry Civil Appropriations, 1870-1901.
The moral of the story is that when money is appropriated it must be spent somewhere and it must be spent on something. From the beginning of the Republic Congress assumed its responsibility under Article I, section 9 of the constitution to appropriate funds. How did it accomplish this? By allocating geographic and project specific expenditures as is illustrated in these ledgers. Earmarks are not “new,” they are as old as the Republic and, practically speaking, necessary.
The “criminalization” of earmarks by groups like Taxpayers for Common Sense and the media seriously undermines what was historically a congressional power aimed at vesting the “power of the purse” in the institution most directly accountable to the people. Advocates of banning earmarks are at odds with our Republican principles and, as these documents illustrate, at odds with our history.