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EXECUTIVE MANSION, May 26, 1896. To Me House of Representatives:
I return herewith without approval House bill No. 7161, entitled "An act for the relief of Benjamin F. Jones."
This bill directs the payment to the beneficiary, late postmaster at Beauregard, Miss., or to his order, of the sum of $50, in full compensation for services and expenses in carrying and distributing the mails between Wesson and Beauregard, in the State of Mississippi, in 1883.
It appears from the report of the House committee recommending the passage of this bill that on April 22, 1883, while Mr. Jones was postmaster at Beauregard, a cyclone destroyed every building in the place, including that in which the post-office was kept; that in consequence of this disaster the mails for Beauregard were for a period of thirty-five days, and until May 27, 1883, deposited at Wesson, i mile distant; that during that time it became necessary to transport such mails from Wesson to Beauregard, and that the postmaster caused this to be done, at an expense
A report from the Postmaster-General discloses the fact that this claim was presented to the Department in 1884 and was rejected on the ground that if the service was performed as alleged it was not authorized or directed by the Department.
In 1885 a suit was instituted against this postmaster and his sureties for a balance due the Government from him on his official accounts for the quarter ending June 30, 1883.
It will be observed that this quarter covered the period within which the alleged services were performed.
In the suit referred to a judgment was recovered by the Government against the postmaster for $190.45, being the balance found due from him. This judgment still remains unpaid.
In this condition of affairs it is quite plain that in fairness and justice no appropriation should be made in favor of the claimant.
It is the opinion of the Auditor of the Post-Office Department that even if this bill becomes a law payment of the money appropriated should be withheld under a section of the Revised Statutes which provides:
No money shall be paid to any person for his compensation who is in arrears to the United States until he has accounted for and paid into the Treasury all sums for which he may be liable.
EXECUTIVE MANSION, May 29, 1896. To the House of Representatives:
I return herewith without approval House bill No. 7977, entitled "An act making appropriations for the construction, repair, and preservation of certain public works on rivers and harbors, and for other purposes."
There are 417 items of appropriation contained in this bill, and every part of the country is represented in the distribution of its favors.
It directly appropriates or provides for the immediate expenditure of nearly $14,000,000 for river and harbor work. This sum is in addition to appropriations contained in another bill for similar purposes amounting to a little more than $3,000,000, which have already been favorably considered at the present session of Congress.
The result is that the contemplated immediate expenditures for the objects mentioned amount to about $17,000,000.
A more startling feature of this bill is its authorization of contracts for river and harbor work amounting to more than $62,000,000. Though the payments on these contracts are in most cases so distributed that they are to be met by future appropriations, more than $3,000,000 on their account are included in the direct appropriations above mentioned. Of the remainder, nearly $20,000,000 will fall due during the fiscal year ending June 30, 1898, and amounts somewhat less in the years immediately succeeding. A few contracts of a like character authorized under previous statutes are still outstanding, and to meet payments on these more than $4,000,000 must be appropriated in the immediate future.
If, therefore, this bill becomes a law, the obligations which will be im. posed on the Government, together with the appropriations made for immediate expenditure on account of rivers and harbors, will amount to about $80,000,000. Nor is this all. The bill directs numerous surveys and examinations which contemplate new work and further contracts and which portend largely increased expenditures and obligations.
There is no ground to hope that in the face of persistent and growing demands the aggregate of appropriations for the smaller schemes, not covered by contracts, will be reduced or even remain stationary. For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1898, such appropriations, together with the installments on contracts which will fall due in that year, can hardly be less than $30,000,000; and it may reasonably be apprehended that the prevalent tendency toward increased expenditures of this sort and the concealment which postponed payments afford for extravagance will increase the burdens chargeable to this account in succeeding years.
In view of the obligation imposed upon me by the Constitution, it seems to me quite clear that I only discharge a duty to our people when I interpose my disapproval of the legislation proposed.
Many of the objects for which it appropriates public money are not related to the public welfare, and many of them are palpably for the benefit of limited localities or in aid of individual interests.
On the face of the bill it appears that not a few of these alleged improvements have been so improvidently planned and prosecuted that after an unwise expenditure of millions of dollars new experiments for their accomplishment have been entered upon.
While those intrusted with the management of public funds in the
interest of all the people can hardly justify questionable expenditures for public work by pleading the opinions of engineers or others as to the practicability of such work, it appears that some of the projects for which appropriations are proposed in this bill have been entered upon without the approval or against the objections of the examining engineers.
I learn from official sources that there are appropriations contained in the bill to pay for work which private parties have actually agreed with the Government to do in consideration of their occupancy of public property.
Whatever items of doubtful propriety may have escaped observation or may have been tolerated in previous Executive approvals of similar bills, I am convinced that the bill now under consideration opens the way to insidious and increasing abuses and is in itself so extravagant as to be especially unsuited to these times of depressed business and resulting disappointment in Government revenue. This consideration is emphasized by the prospect that the public Treasury will be confronted with other appropriations made at the present session of Congress amounting to more than $500,000,000.
Individual economy and careful expenditure are sterling virtues which lead to thrift and comfort. Economy and the exaction of clear justification for the appropriation of public moneys by the servants of the people are not only virtues, but solemn obligations.
To the extent that the appropriations contained in this bill are instigated by private interests and promote local or individual projects their allowance can not fail to stimulate a vicious paternalism and encourage a sentiment among our people, already too prevalent, that their attachment to our Government may properly rest upon the hope and expectation of direct and especial favors and that the extent to which they are realized may furnish an estimate of the value of governmental care.
I believe no greater danger confronts us as a nation than the unhappy decadence among our people of genuine and trustworthy love and affection for our Government as the embodiment of the highest and best aspirations of humanity, and not as the giver of gifts, and because its mission is the enforcement of exact justice and equality, and not the allowance of unfair favoritism.
I hope I may be permitted to suggest, at a time when the issue of Government bonds to maintain the credit and financial standing of the country is a subject of criticism, that the contracts provided for in this bill would create obligations of the United States amounting to $62,000,000 no less binding than its bonds for that sum.
EXECUTIVE MANSION, May 29, 1896. To the Senate:
I herewith return without approval Senate bill No. 147, entitled "An act granting a pension to Elvira Bachelder,"
This bill provides for a pension to the beneficiary as dependent mother of "J. K. P. Bachelder, late a private in Company D, Seventh New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry."
On the merits of the case I am satisfied this mother deserves a pension, I withhold my approval of the bill intended to grant her this relief solely because I am advised that the law would be inoperative for the reason that the deceased soldier never served in the Seventh New Hampshire Infantry, and should have been described in the bill as a member of Company D, First New Hampshire Heavy Artillery.
EXECUTIVE MANSION, May 29, 1896. To the House of Representatives:
I herewith return without approval House bill No. 900, entitled "An act to provide for the payment of the claim of William H. Mahoney."
This bill directs the Secretary of the Treasury to receive and pay to W. H. Mahoney, without the indorsement of N. A. Rogers, a certain bond issued by the United States in 1861 for the sum of $500, such pay. ment to be made upon the giving by said Mahoney of a bond to hold harmless the United States against repayment of said bond.
The bond mentioned is one of a large issue which was authorized under an act passed March 2, 1861, and known as Oregon war-debt bonds. They were made payable in 1881.
In 1864 an act was passed directing the Secretary of the Treasury to issue or cause to be issued to E. F. and Samuel A. Ward duplicates of nineteen of these bonds, particularly described by their numbers and otherwise. Among others are mentioned “Nos. 1352 to 1359, inclusive.” This of course includes the bond numbered 1358, which is directed to be paid in the bill under consideration. Nothing can now be discovered to indicate the occasion for the issuance of these duplicates, but from the fact that a bond of indemnity was required it is inferred that they were issued because of the loss or destruction of the original bonds.
Pursuant to this act a duplicate of the bond in question, among others, was issued and made payable to the order of Thomas Pritchard, attorney, who was the payee in the original bond.
In 1881 this duplicate was paid by the Treasury Department and is now in possession of the Government. The indorsement of the payee, “Thomas Pritchard, attorney," appears thereon and all other proper indorsements to show title in the party to whom the payment was made.
The Government has therefore once paid the amount of this bond to the party apparently entitled to it. If the beneficiary named in this bill has a better right to the money, the Government, not being in default, should be protected against double payment. I suppose to sustain a
claim upon the indemnity bond given when the duplicate was issued in 1864 we should be prepared to show that the second payment on the original bond was made upon such a state of facts as compelled or at least justified it. The passage of an act simply directing such payment would alone not be sufficient. The bond directed to be given by this bill would afford the Government no protection, since it only provides against repayment of the bond in the future, whereas the payment we should suffer from has already been made.
I suggest that an act be passed directing the Secretary of the Treasury to investigate the entire subject with a view of determining to whom this money should be paid, in a manner to bind, if possible, by the results of the examination the party to whom it has already been paid, and who should refund if another has a better right.
EXECUTIVE MANSION, May 30, 1896. To the House of Representatives:
I return without approval House bill No. 6037, entitled "An act granting a pension to Mrs. Amanda Woodcock.”
The bill provides for the granting of a pension to the beneficiary therein named, describing her as the "widow of Robert Woodcock, deceased, late a private in the Fourth United States Volunteer Infantry in the Mexican
My action in this case is based upon the following statement concerning the bill from the Pension Bureau:
The bill, if approved, would be inoperative, inasmuch as there was no such organization in the Mexican War as named in the bill (Fourth United States Volunteer Infantry), and the service alleged by the soldier having been in the Fourth Kentucky Volunteer Infantry.
EXECUTIVE MANSION, May 30, 1896. To the House of Representatives:
I herewith return without approval House bill No. 4526, entitled "An act granting a pension to Jonathan Scott."
This bill directs that the Secretary of the Interior place upon the pension roll, at the rate of $72 per month, subject to the provisions and limitations of the pension laws, the name of Jonathan Scott, late of Company M, Sixth Regiment Iowa Volunteer Cavalry.
The beneficiary was dropped from the pension roll in October, 1895, after a very thorough examination, for fraud, it appearing to the satisfaction of the Pension Bureau that the disability for which he was pensioned was not due to his army service. There certainly ought to be a strong presumption that the case was fairly and justly determined by the Bureau,