Grover Cleveland

Veto Message

May 18, 1888

To the House of Representatives:

I return without approval House bill No. 2282, entitled "An act to pension Mrs. Theodora M. Piatt."

The deceased husband of the beneficiary named in this bill served faithfully and well in the volunteer service, and after his discharge as major entered the Regular Army and was on the retired list at the time of his death, which occurred on the 17th day of April, 1885. At that time he seems to have been engaged in the practice of the law at Covington, Ky.

He does not appear to have contracted any distinct and definite disability in his army service, though his health and strength were doubtless somewhat impaired by hardship and exposure.

It is conceded that he committed suicide by shooting himself with a pistol.

A coroner's inquest was held and the following verdict was returned:

Benjamin M. Piatt came to his death from a pistol bullet through the brain, fired from a pistol in his own hand, with suicidal intent, while laboring under a fit of temporary insanity, caused by morbid sensitiveness of wasted opportunities and constantly brooding over imaginary troubles and financial difficulties.

It is said in support of his widow's claim for pension that, being lame as a result, in part at least, of his military service, he, by reason of such lameness, fell from a staircase a few months before his death, the injury from which affected his mind, causing insanity, which in its turn resulted in his suicide.

Much interest is manifested in this case, based upon former friendship and intimacy with the deceased and kind feeling and sympathy for his widow. I should be glad to respond to these sentiments to the extent of approving this bill, but it is one of the misfortunes of public life and official responsibility that a sense of duty frequently stands between a conception of right and a sympathetic inclination.

The verdict returned upon the coroner's inquest, rounded upon a friendly examination of all the facts surrounding the melancholy death of this soldier, made at the time of death and in the midst of his neighbors and friends, both by what it contains and by what is omitted, together with the other facts developed, leads me to the conclusion that if a pension is granted in this case no soldier's widow's application based upon suicide can be consistently rejected.


Grover Cleveland, Veto Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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