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Message to the House of Representatives Returning Without Approval "An Act to Perfect the Revision of the Statutes of the United States"

February 14, 1877

To the House of Representatives:

I return the House bill No. 3156, entitled "An act to perfect the revision of the statutes of the United States," without my approval. My objection is to the single provision which amends section 3823 of the Revised Statutes.

That section is as follows:

SEC. 3823. The Clerk of the House of Representatives shall select in Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas one or more newspapers, not exceeding the number allowed by law, in which such treaties and laws of the United States as may be ordered for publication in newspapers according to law shall be published, and in some one or more of which so selected all such advertisements as may be ordered for publication in said districts by any United States court or judge thereof, or by any officer of such courts, or by any executive officer of the United States, shall be published, the compensation for which and other terms of publication shall be fixed by said Clerk at a rate not exceeding $2 per page for the publication of treaties and laws, and not exceeding $1 per square of eight lines of space for the publication of advertisements, the accounts for which shall be adjusted by the proper accounting officers and paid in the manner now authorized by law in the like cases.

The bill proposes to amend this section as follows:

By striking out all after the word "in" in the first line to the word "one" in the third line, and inserting therefor the words "each State and Territory of the United States."

Prior to 1867 the advertising of the Executive Departments had been subject to the direction of the heads of those Departments, and had been published in newspapers selected by them and on terms fixed by them. In the year 1867 (14 U. S. Statutes at Large, pp. 466-467), when the ten States above named were yet unrestricted, and when there existed a radical difference of opinion between the executive and legislative departments as to the administration of the Government in those States, this provision was enacted. Subsequently, during the same year (15 U. S. Statutes at Large, p. 8), so much of this provision "as relates to the publication of the laws and treaties of the United States" was extended to all the States and Territories, leaving the advertisements ordered by Congress and by the Executive Departments unaffected thereby. The continuance of this provision after the reconstruction acts had taken effect and the bringing it forward into the Revised Statutes were probably through inadvertence.

The existence of this section (3823) of the Revised Statutes seems to have been ignored by Congress itself in the adoption of section 3941, authorizing the Postmaster-General to advertise in such newspapers as he may choose. But the present act, if it should go into effect, Would compel him and the other heads of the Executive Departments, as well as all the courts, to publish all their advertisements in newspapers selected by the Clerk of the House of Representatives. It would make general in its operation a provision which was exceptional and temporary in its origin and character. This, in my judgment, would be unwise, if not also an actual encroachment upon the constitutional rights of the executive branch of the Government. The person who should be appointed by law to select all the newspapers throughout the country to which the patronage of all branches of the Government of the United States should be given, if not an officer of the United States under Article II, section 2, clause 2, of the Constitution, would certainly have powers and duties which have hitherto been regarded as official.

But without reference to the question of its constitutionality, I am satisfied that this provision would not operate usefully or fairly. I am constrained, therefore, to withhold from it my approval. I regret that my objection to this one clause of the act can not be made available without withholding my approval from the entire act, which is otherwise unobjectionable.


Ulysses S. Grant, Message to the House of Representatives Returning Without Approval "An Act to Perfect the Revision of the Statutes of the United States" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/203815

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