To the Senate of the United States:
I nominate Passed Midshipmen Samuel Pearce and Nathaniel T. West, now on the retired list, to be ensigns in the Navy on the retired list.
These nominations are made in conformity with the fourth section of the act to amend an act entitled "An act to promote the efficiency of the Navy," approved 16th January, 1857, and are induced by the following considerations:
The pay, of a passed midshipman on the retired list as fixed by the "Act for the better organization of the military establishment," approved 3d August, 1861, amounted, including rations, to $788 per annum. By the "Act to establish and equalize the grade of line officers of the United States Navy," approved 16th July, 1862, the grade or rank of passed midshipman, which was the next below that of master, was discontinued and that of ensign was established, being now the next grade below that of master and the only grade in the line list between those of master and midshipman. The same act fixes the pay of officers on the retired list, omitting the grade of passed midshipman, and prohibits the allowance of rations to retired officers. The effect of this was to reduce the pay of a passed midshipman on the retired list from $788 to $350 per annum, or less than half of previous rate.
This was no doubt an unintended result of the law, operating exclusively on the two passed midshipmen then on the retired list, and their promotion or transfer to the equivalent grade of ensgn would not completely indemnify them, the pay of an ensign on the retired list being only $500 per annum. It is the only relief, however. which is deemed within the intention of the existing laws. and it is the more willingly recommended in this case, as there is nothing in the character of the officers to be relieved which would make it objectionable. These are the only cases of the kind.
Abraham Lincoln, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/203022