Message to the Senate Returning Without Approval a Bill to Establish the Record and Pension Office of the War Department, and for Other Purposes
To the Senate:
I return to the Senate without my approval the bill (S. 4620) "to establish the Record and Pension Office of the War Department, and for other purposes."
This bill proposes to change the designation of one of the divisions of the War Department. It is now the "Record and Pension Division," and it is proposed that it shall hereafter be the "Record and Pension Office" of the War Department. The scope of the work assigned to this division or office is not changed, but the organization now existing under a classification made by the Secretary of War is by the bill made permanent and put beyond the control of the Secretary. The change of designation seems to have been intended to add dignity to the position, and the effect of the bill is probably to require that the chief of this office shall hereafter be appointed only by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, though it is not clear that any provision is made for a chief after the particular person designated in the bill has been separated from the place or in case he is not appointed.
The real object of the bill is disclosed in the following clause:
The President is hereby authorized to nominate and, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to appoint the officer now in charge of said Record and Pension Division to be a colonel in the Army and chief of said office.
It is fairly to be implied from the bill that in the opinion of Congress the public interests would be promoted by making the contemplated change in the grade of this office and by giving the rank and pay of a colonel in the Army to the chief. A new and rather anomalous office is therefore created--that of "colonel in the Army and chief of the Record and Pension Office of the War Department"--but upon the condition that the President shall nominate a particular person to fill it. I do not think it is competent for Congress to designate the person who shall fill an office created by law, and practically nothing remains of the bill under consideration if this person is not to be appointed. The office is an important one, connected with the active civil administration of the War Department. I can not agree that the selection of the officer shall be taken out of the discretion of the Executive, where the responsibility for good administration necessarily rests. It is probably true that the officer intended to be benefited is peculiarly deserving and has had remarkable success in the discharge of the duties of the office; but these are considerations for the appointing power, and might safely have been left there.
If this particular appointment was backed by reasons so obvious as to secure the support of both Houses of Congress, it should have been assumed that these reasons could have been made obvious to the Executive by the ordinary methods. In connection with the Army and Navy retired lists, legislation akin to this has become quite frequent, too frequent in my opinion; but these laws have been regarded as grants of pensions rather than of offices.
If it is to be allowed that active places connected with the Executive Departments can be created upon condition that particular persons are or are not to be designated to fill them, the power of appointment might be wholly diverted from the Executive to the Congress.
APP Note: Title devised by Gerhard Peters
Benjamin Harrison, Message to the Senate Returning Without Approval a Bill to Establish the Record and Pension Office of the War Department, and for Other Purposes Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/205569