Bernie Moreno’s Reparations Proposal Is Another GOP Dog Whistle By C. Ellen Connally!



During the Civil War the Ohio Legislature set up the Soldiers and Sailors Relief Fund to assist returning veterans. That fund evolved into today’s Ohio Veterans Service Commission, which by state law has a branch in every county; is funded with public funds and is an advocacy group for veterans. The Commission also provides emergency relief to all veterans and is a well-operated and very helpful public service — a great asset to Ohio veterans and their families.

In the 1880s Cuyahoga County Civil War veterans came together under the leadership of Civil War General and Cleveland architect Levi Schofield to plan and build the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Cleveland’s Public Square. Its purpose is to honor the more than 9000 residents of Cuyahoga County that served in the war. In 2019 the Monument added the names of 107 members of the United States Colored Troops that were previously omitted. It stands on Public Square as a monument to Ohio’s Civil War veterans.

But sometime in the 21st century, this rich legacy of Ohio’s involvement in the Civil War has been apparently lost. A classic example is Trump-endorsed Republican candidate for the United States Senate, Cleveland businessman Bernie Moreno. Last week, Moreno, who abandoned his bid to run for the Senate in 2022 after huddling with the former President, proposed that descendants of Civil War Veterans receive reparations for the services rendered by their ancestors.


According to Moreno, these heirs should be paid since their ancestors fought to free enslaved Africans — what he described as an unprecedented feat in world history.  “Where are the reparations for the people in the North who died to save the lives of Black people?” Moreno asked his supports at a campaign event this week.

It is obvious that Moreno is unaware of the fact that Union soldiers and sailors, who also fought to preserve the Union, were paid for their service, often received sign-up bonuses and were entitled to pensions for themselves as well as their widows and orphans. American taxpayer provided pensions to at least four widows of Civil War veterans who survived to the 21st century.

Those asking for reparations for formerly enslaved Africans have a legitimate claim. They base their demands on the fact that their ancestors were kidnapped, enslaved, brought to North America, forced to worked for generations without pay, sexually abused, mistreated, underfed, separated from their families and subject to brutal forms of punishment, including being subject to the Fugitive Slave Laws that allowed them to be arrested in any state and forced back into bondage.

When Blacks served in the Union army, they were paid less than White troops and had great difficulties obtaining pensions, like Union veteran Harriet Tubman. Famous for her work on the Underground Railroad, Tubman was the first woman to organize and lead a U.S. military operation when she served as a scout for the Union. After years of battling the federal government, finally in 1899 — thirty-four years after the war’s end — she was awarded a pension of $20 a month. She died in 1913.

In Moreno’s speech announcing his candidacy against incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown, Moreno said “We stand on the shoulders of giants, don’t we? We stand on the shoulders of people like John Adams, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, George Washington.” Really — did he forget that all these men were slave owners?

I guess Moreno never read about the white Ohioans who risked their life and property when they became integral parts of the Underground Railroad that ran through Ohio to help escaped slaves seek freedom in the North or on to Canada. Or what about abolitionist John Brown, who lived for a time in Akron, Ohio? He died for the cause of freeing the slaves. Or how about Ohio’s Salmon P. Chase — later Chief Justice of the United States — who as a Cincinnati lawyer represented so many escaped slaves that he was known as the “Attorney General of Fugitive Slaves”?  Ohio, especially northern Ohio, was a hotbed of abolitionism prior to the Civil War. Should the descendants of all these folks get reparations also. Their efforts freed many slaves.


Moreno’s suggestion is so absurd and blatantly racist that it is hardly worth repeating. It’s on a par with the comments recently voiced by his fellow Republican and another great scholar of American history, Marjorie Taylor Green (R- Ga.)  She believes that a “national divorce” had already happened. National divorce? That sounds like secession to me.

Republicans wants to cut Social Security, aid to dependent children, Medicaid and every other so-called entitlement program that helps the needy, disabled and homeless in our society. But I guess it’s ok when the money is going to their own constituents.

The only positive thing about Moreno is that he was born in Bogota, Columbia, and is a naturalized citizen. That means that he is ineligible to run for President. Thank God for small clauses in the Constitution. Ohio may be the “Mother of Presidents” but a pregnancy with the likes of Moreno would call for drastic measures to compel termination.

Recently announced Republican candidate for president, Nikki Haley, recommended that anyone seeking office over the age of 75 take a mental competency test. What about requiring anyone running for the Senate to take an American History test? Here’s one for Bernie Moreno: Who’s buried in Grant’s tomb?

C. Ellen Connally is a retired judge of the Cleveland Municipal Court. From 2010 to 2014 she served as the President of the Cuyahoga County Council. An avid reader and student of American history, she serves on the Board of the Ohio History Connection, is currently vice president of the Cuyahoga County Soldiers and Sailors Monument Commission and president of the Cleveland Civil War Round Table. She holds degrees from BGSU, CSU and is all but dissertation for a PhD from the University of Akron.

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