Message to the Senate Returning Without Approval a Bill for the Relief of the Portland Company, of Portland, Maine
To the Senate:
I return to the Senate without my approval the bill (S. 473) "for the relief of the Portland Company, of Portland, Me."
This bill confers upon the Court of Claims jurisdiction to inquire into and determine how much certain steam machinery built for the United States under contract, and to be used in the vessels Agawam and Pantoosuc , cost the contractors over and above the contract price and any allowances for extra work which have been made, and requires the court to enter judgment in favor of the claimant for the excess of cost above such contract price and allowances.
The bill differs from others which have been presented to me, and one of which I have approved, in that it does not make the further allowance to the contractors contingent upon the fact that the additional expense was the result of the acts of the Government through its officers' causing delays and increased cost in the construction of the work.
The bill in effect directs the court to ignore the contract entirely, except as payments under it are to be treated as credits, and to allow the contractors the cost of the work, and that without reference to their own negligence or want of skill in executing the work. There would seem to be no object in the Government's making a contract for work if the contract is only to be binding upon the parties in the event that the contractor realizes a profit.
I can not give my approval to the proposition applied here, which if allowed here should be given general application, that every contractor with the Government who during the early days of the war failed to realize, by reason of increase in the cost of labor and materials, a profit upon the contract shall now have access to the Court of Claims to recover upon the quantum meruit the cost of the work.
APP Note: Title devised by Gerhard Peters
Benjamin Harrison, Message to the Senate Returning Without Approval a Bill for the Relief of the Portland Company, of Portland, Maine Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/205197