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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 decad 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 payment 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, inciusive.” 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 defauit. 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 War."
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,
and the evidence strongly tends to support the conclusion ieached. If restored to the rolls, such restoration would still be "subject to the provisions and limitations of the pension laws,'' and he would not be exempt from further investigation if circumstances or newly developed facts justified such a course.
Whatever may be the merits of the case, however, I am advised by the Pension Bureau that the bill, if it becomes a law in its present form, would be inoperative for the reason that the beneficiary is therein described as having been a member of the Sixth Regiment of Iowa Volunteer Cavalry, whereas he actually served in the Fifth Regiment of the Volunteer Cavalry of that State.
ExecutiVE MANSION, June 1, 1896. To the Senate:
I herewith return without approval Senate bill No. 149, entitled "An act granting a pension to Helen M. Jacob."
The purpose of this bill is to grant a pension of $12 per month to “Helen M. Jacob, of Rochester, Ind., widow of Benjamin Oden West."
It appears from the records of the War Department that Benjamin O. West served in the Mexican War from January to November in the year 1847. The beneficiary named in this bill was married to him in 1850, and he died in 1856. She was pensioned as his widow, and received such pension from the date of her husband's death until April 17, 1861. On that date she was married to William W. Jacob, whereupon her pension ceased, but two minor children were awarded pensions and continued in receipt of the same until January, 1873, when the youngest child became 16 years of age.
The entire absence of any fixed or reasonable principle or rule regulating private pension legislation at this time suggests the danger of its near approach in many cases to caprice and favoritism.
Though I have in a number of instances deferred to the judgment of Congress and refrained from interposing objections to bills of this character which seemed to me to be of doubtful merit, I am unwilling to follow such a wide departure from a palpably just pension theory and assent to the establishment of such an unfortunate precedent as this bill involves.
There is no duty or obligation due from the Government to a soldier's widow except it be worked out through the deceased soldier. pensioned only because he served his country and because through his death she as his wife has lost his support. In other words, she becomes a beneficiary of the Government because she is a soldier's widow. When she marries again, and thus displaces the memory of her soldier husband and surrenders all that belongs to soldier widowhood, she certainly ought not on the death of her second husband to be allowed to claim that she is again the soldier's widow.
EXECUTIVE MANSION, June 6, 1896. To the House of Representatives:
I hereby return without my approval House bill No. 8293, entitled "An act making appropriations to supply deficiencies in the appropriarions for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1896, and for prior years, and for other purposes."
To the extent that the Constitution has devolved upon the President a participation in legislation I suppose his action on bills presented to him for approval involves a duty to be performed, like others pertaining to his office, with care and circumspection and in full view of his responsibility to the people and his obligation to subserve the public welfare. It is difficult to understand why under the Constitution it should be necessary to submit proposed legislation to Executive scrutiny and approval except to invoke the exercise of Executive judgment and invite independent Executive action.
The unpleasant incidents which accompany the use of the veto power would tempt its avoidance if such a course did not involve an abandonment of constitutional duty and an assent to legislation for which the Executive is not willing to share the responsibility.
I regret that I am constrained to disapprove an important appropriation bill so near the close of the present session of Congress. I have, however, by immediate action after the receipt of the bill, endeavored to delay as little as possible a reconsideration of this proposed legislation. though I am thus obliged to content myself with a less complete explanation of my objections than would otherwise be submitted.
This bill is in many of its features far removed from a legitimate deficiency bill, and it contains a number of appropriations which seem to me to be exceedingly questionable. Without noticing in detail many of these items, I shall refer to two of them which, in my judgment, justify my action in the premises.
The bill appropriates $1,027,314.09 for a partial payment upon claims which originated in depredations upon our commerce by French cruisers and vessels during the closing years of the last century. They have become quite familiar to those having Congressional experience, as they have been pressed for recognition and payment, with occasional intervals of repose, for nearly one hundred years.
These claims are based upon the allegations that France, being at war with England, seized and condemned many American vessels and cargoes in violation of the rules of international law and treaty provisions and contrary to the duty she owed to our country as a neutral power and to our citizens; that by reason of these acts claims arose in favor of such of our citizens as were damnified against the French nation, which claims our Government attempted to enforce, and that in concluding a treaty with France in the year 1800 these claims were abandoned or relinquished in consideration of the relinquishment of certain claims which France charged against us.