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Message to the Senate Returning Without Approval An Act Granting Pensions to Certain Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines of the Civil War

January 03, 1923

To the Senate:

I am returning herewith Senate bill 3275, "An act granting pensions to certain soldiers, sailors, and marines of the Civil War, etc.," without my approval.

If the act were limited to its provisions in behalf of the surviving participants in the Mexican and Civil Wars and widows of the War of 1812, it would still be without ample justification. The Commissioner of Pensions estimates its additional cost to the Treasury to be about $108,000,000 annually, and I venture the prediction that with such a precedent established the ultimate pension outlay in the half century before us will exceed $50,000,000,000. The act makes no pretense of new consideration for the needy or dependent, no new generosity for the veteran wards of the nation; it is an outright bestowal upon the Government's pension roll, with a heedlessness for the Government's financial problems which is a discouragement to every effort to reduce expenditure and thereby relieve the federal burdens of taxation.

The more particular objection to this act, however, lies in its loose provision for pensioning widows. The existing law makes the widow of a Civil War veteran eligible to a pension if she married him prior to June 27, 1905. In other words, marriage within 40 years of the end of the Civil War gives a veteran's widow a good title to a pension. The. act returned herewith extends the marriage period specifically to June 27, 1915, and provides that after that date any marriage or cohabitation for two years prior to a veteran's death shall make the widow the beneficiary of a pension at $50 per month for the remainder of her life. In view of the fact that this same bill makes provision for pensions for widows of the veterans of the War of 1812, the possible burden of this sweeping provision seems worthy of serious consideration.

Frankly, I do not recognize any public obligation to pension women who now, nearly 60 years after the Civil War, became the wives of veterans of that war.

The Government has so many defenders to whom generous treatment is due that Congress will find it necessary to consider all phases of our obligations when making provision for any one group.

The compensation paid to the widows of World War veterans, those who shared the shock and sorrows of the conflict, amounts to $24 per month. It would be indefensible to insist on that limitation upon actual war widows if we are to pay $600 per year to widows who marry veterans 60 years after the Civil War.


THE WHITE HOUSE, January 3, 1923.

Warren G. Harding, Message to the Senate Returning Without Approval An Act Granting Pensions to Certain Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines of the Civil War Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/329331

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