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During his life he made no application for pension on account of disabilities. It is not now claimed that he was in the least disabled as an incident of his military service, nor is it alleged that his death, which occurred nearly twenty-nine years after his discharge from the Army, was in any degree related to such service.
His widow was pensioned after his death under the statute allowing pensions to widows of soldiers of the Mexican War without reference to the cause of the death of their husbands. Her case is also indirectly, one of those provided for by the general act passed in 1890, commonly called the dependent-pension law.
It is proposed, however, by the special act under consideration to give this widow a pension of $30 a month without the least suggestion of the death or disability of her husband having been caused by his military service, and solely, as far as is discoverable, upon the ground that she is poor and needs the money.
This condition is precisely covered by existing general laws; and if a precedent is to be established by the special legislation proposed, I do not see how the same relief as is contained in this bill can be denied to the many thousand widows who in a similar situation are now on the pension rolls under general laws.
GROVER CLEVELAND. .
EXECUTIVE MANSION, April 21, 1896. To the Senate:
I return herewith without my approval Senate bill No. 249. entitled "An act granting a pension to Charles E. Jones.”
The beneficiary named in this bill was a photographer who accompanied one of the regiments of the Union Army in the War of the Rebellion. He was injured, apparently not very seriously, while taking photographs and when no battle was in actual progress. He was not enlisted, and was in no manner in the military service of the United States.
Aside from the question as to whether his present sad condition is attributable to the injury mentioned, it seems to me the extension of pensiou relief to such cases would open the door to legislation hard to justify and impossible to restrain from abuse.
EXECUTIVE MANSION, April 25, 1896. To the House of Representatives:
I herewith return without my approval House bill No. 1094. entitled **An act granting a pension to Francis E. Hoover."
It is proposed by this bill to grant a pension of $50 a month to the beneficiary named, who served as a private for about one year and nice months in the Union Army during the War of the Rebellion.
I do not understand it is claimed in any quarter that the present help less otion of this soldier is at ai: attributable to his army service
He himself never applied for a pension until afte- the passage of the law of 1890, providing for a pension for those who had served in the Army and are unable to maintain themselves by manual labor on account of disability not chargeable to army service. The committee of the House of Representatives in reporting this bill declare: “The testimony does not show the disease of the soldier to be of service origin."
The beneficiary is now receiving the largest pension permitted under the law of 1890.
His condition may well excite our sympathy, but to grant him a pension of $50 a month without the least suggestion that his pitiable disability is related to his army service, and in view of the fact that he is now receiving the highest pension allowed by a general law enacted to expressly meet such cases, it seems to me would result in an unfair discrimination as against many thousand worthy soldiers similarly situated, and would invite applications which, while difficult to refuse in the face of such a precedent, must certainly lead to the breaking down of all the limitations and restrictions provided by our laws regulating pensions.
The value of pension legislation depends as much upon fairness and justice in its administration as it does upon its liberality and generosity.
EXECUTIVE MANSION, May 19, 1896.' To the House of Representatives:
I return herewith without approval House bill No. 1139, entitled “An act granting a pension to Caroline D. Mowatt."
The beneficiary mentioned in this bill was married in 1858 to Alfred B. Soule, who served as major of a Maine regiment of volunteers in the War of the Rebellion from September 10, 1862, to July 15, 1863, when he was mustered out of the service. He died in February, 1864, and in 1866 a pension was granted to the beneficiary as his widow at the rate of $25 a month, dating from the time of her husband's death, two years before.
The widow continued to receive the pension allowed her until June 17, 1869, when she was married to Henry T. Mowatt, which under the law terminated her pensionable right. It appears, however, that a small pension was allowed two minor children of the soldier at the time of their mother's remarriage, which continued until 1876, more than seven years after such remarriage, when the youngest of said children became 16 years of age.
In 1878, nine years after he became the second husband of the beneficiary, Henry T. Mowatt died.
Though twenty-seven years have passed since the beneficiary ceased to be the widow of the deceased soldier, and though she has been the widow of Henry T. Mowatt for eighteen years, it is proposed by the bill under consideration to again place her name upon the pension roll
“as widow of Alfred B. Scule, late major of the Twenty-third Regiment Maine Volunteers."
Of course the propriety of the law which terminates the pension of a soldier's widow upon her remarriage will not be questioned. I suppose no one would suggest the renewal of such pension during the lifetime of her second husband. Her pensionable relation to the Government as the widow of her deceased soldier husband, under any reasonable pension theory, absolutely terminated with her remarriage.
If she is to be again pensioned because her second husband does not survive her, the transaction has more the complexion of an adjustment of a governmental insurance on the life of the second husband than the allowance of a pension on just and reasonable grounds.
Legislation of this description is sure to establish a precedent which it will be difficult to disclaim, and which if followed can not fail to lead to abuse.
EXECUTIVE MANSION, May 20, 1896. To the House of Representatives:
I return herewith without approval House bill No. 577, entitled “An act granting a pension to Lydia A. Taft."
In 1858 the beneficiary named in this bill became the wife of Lowell Taft, who afterwards enlisted in the Union Army as a private in a ConLiecticut regiment and served from August, 1862, until June, 1865. The records of the War Department show that he was captured by the enemy June 15, 1863, and paroled July 14, 1863.
No application for a pension was ever made by him, though he lived until 1891, when he died at a soldiers' home in Connecticut.
No suggestion is made that he incurred any disability in the service or that his death was in any manner related to such service.
In 1882, nearly twenty-four years after her marriage to the soldier and seventeen years after his discharge from the Army, the beneficiary obtained a divorce from him upon the grounds of habitual drunkenness and failure to afford her a support.
It is now proposed, five years after the soldier's death, to pension as his widow the wife who was divorced from him at her own instance four. teen years ago.
A government's generous care for widows deprived of a husband's support and companionship by the casualties or disabilities of war rests upon grounds which all must cheerfully approve; but it is difficult to place upon these grounds the case of this proposed beneficiary, who has renounced a wife's relation, with all its duties and all its rights, and who by her own act placed herself beyond the possibility of becoming the widow of her soldier husband.
If, as stated in the report of the House committee on this bill, the
beneficiary for some reason contributed something toward the soldier's support after her divorce and paid the expense of his burial, the fact still remains that this soldier died in a soldiers' home wifeless and leaving no one surviving who, claiming to be his widow, should be allowed to profit by his death.
EXECUTIVE MANSION, May 21, 1896. To the House of Representatives:
I herewith return without approval House bill No. 1185, entitled “An act granting a pension to Rachel Patton."
John H. Patton, the husband of the beneficiary, was a captain in an Illinois regiment, and was killed in action June 25, 1863.
In December, 1863, the beneficiary was pensioned as his widow at the rate of $20 a month.
She received this pension for thirteen years and until 1876, when she married one William G. Culbertson. Thereupon, because of such mar. riage, her name was dropped from the pension rolls, pursuant to law.
In 1889, thirteen years after her remarriage and the termination of her pension, she procured a decree of divorce against her second husband on the ground of desertion.
She has a small income, but it does not appear that alimony was allowed her in the divorce proceedings.
It is proposed by this bill to pension her at the same rate which was allowed her while she remained the widow of the deceased soldier.
It can not be denied that the remarriage of this beneficiary terminated her pensionable relation to the Government as completely as if it never existed. The statute which so provides simply declares what is approved by a fair and sensible consideration of pension principles. As a legal proposition, the pensionable status of a soldier's widow, lost by her remarriage, can not be recovered by the dissolution of the second marriage. Waiving, however, the application of strictly legal principles to the subject, there does not appear to be any sentiment which should restore to the pension rolls as the widow of a deceased soldier a divorced wife who has relinquished the title of soldier's widow to again become a wife, and who to secure the expected advantages and comforts of a second marriage has been quite willing to forego the provision which was made for her by the Government solely on the grounds of her soldier widowhood.
EXECUTIVE MANSION, May 23, 1896. To the House of Representatives:
I herewith return without approval House bill No. 4804, entitled "A.n act to amend subdivision 10 of section 2238 of the Revised Statutes of the Uniced States."
The subdivision of the section of the law proposed to be amended by this bill has reference to the fees allowed receivers and registers at public-land offices. This subdivision now reads as follows:
Tenth. Registers and receivers are allowed jointly at the rate of 15 cents per hun. dred words for testimony reduced by them to writing for claimants in establishing preemption and homestead rights.
The bill under consideration so amends this subdivision that in the first clause a compensation of 10 cents per hundred words is allowed to the registers and receivers for reducing to writing the testimony of claim. ants “in all cases," instead of 15 cents per hundred words for reducing to writing testimony “in establishing preemption and homestead rights," as provided in the old law.
Whether this reduction of fees preserves an adequate and just compensation to the officers affected I suppose has been duly considered by the Congress.
The bill, however, after providing for this change in compensation, contains the following words:
And in all cases where they (the registers and receivers) can secure a competent person to reduce the testimony to writing for a sum less per folio than the supe herein prescribed it shall be their duty to do so.
By the addition of these words the bill seems to give certain fees by way of official compensation to the officers named for certain services to be performed by them and at the same time to provide that if they can secure other persons willing to perform these services for a less sum than the amount allowed to them they shall forego their fees in favor of such persons.
It is very important that the fees and perquisites of public officers should be definitely and clearly fixed, so that the official may know precisely the items of his lawful compensation and the people be protected from extortion and imposition.
A public officer ought not to be expected to search very industriously for a person to underbid him for official work, and if such a person appeared the temptation to combination and conspiracy would in many cases lead to abuse.
It will be observed that the officers are not given by this amendment the option to do this work themselves at 10 cents per folio or secure a competent person to do it at a less rate, nor, if they desire, are they allowed to compete with those willing to accept a less compensation, They may charge a fixed rate for the service if performed by them, but in any event if they can procure another party to perform the services for a less sum they must do so.
I am convinced that this bill in its present form, perhaps through unfortunate phraseology, if it became a law would lead to confusion and uncertainty and would invite practices against which the public service ought to be carefully guarded.