Grover Cleveland

Veto Message

August 10, 1888

To the House of Representatives:

I return without approval House bill No. 9126, entitled "An act granting a pension to Mrs. Caroline G. Seyfforth."

The husband of this beneficiary served as contract surgeon in the United States Army from September 12, 1862, to August 17, 1865, and was stationed at Portsmouth Grove Hospital, in Rhode Island.

He never filed a claim for pension, and died July 21, 1874, of congestion of the liver. His widow filed an application for pension in 1882, alleging that her husband's death was caused by blood poisoning contracted while dressing the wound of a patient in January, 1863. There is proof that he suffered from blood poisoning.

The record of death states its cause as congestion of the liver, but the certificate was not signed. A young doctor named Adams, a friend and pupil of the deceased, seems to have been more than any other the attendant physician, but he appeared to think that one of three other doctors had actual charge of the case. These physicians, named, respectively, Sullivan, Dana, and Sargent, agreed that Adams had charge of the case and that they were consulting surgeons in the last illness.

Dr. Adams testified before a special examiner that from intimate association he knew that the deceased was subject to kidney disease and other symptoms of bad health from discharge to his death; that as he had lost a part of one hand from blood poisoning in the Army, he always supposed his subsequent troubles were referable to that cause; that he believed the cause of death was albuminuria, and that his liver was also affected. He further expresses the opinion that the death was the culmination of the disorders which affected him from the time of his discharge from the service.

Dr. Sullivan deposed that he knew the deceased well from about 1869, and never had any reason to think him the subject of blood poisoning or its results. He further says that he was called in consultation at the last illness of the deceased and diagnosed his trouble as liver disease, due to the patient's habits of intemperance.

Dr. Dana testified that he knew the deceased well from the time of his discharge; that he was called to consult in his case with young Dr. Adams a few days before the death occurred; that he took a general view of the case and considered that the trouble was due to habits of intemperance.

Dr. Sargent deposed that he knew the deceased well and knew that he had lost a part of his hand, as alleged, from septic poisoning in the Army, though he was not aware that the poisoning had left any other effect; that the deceased had several spells of alcoholism after the war; that he had heard him complain of his kidneys, but attributed his troubles to his excesses.

Other evidence suggested the same cause for sickness and death spoken of by these physicians, but there seems to be an almost entire absence of evidence connecting the death with service in the Army.

I am of the opinion that a case is not presented in any of its aspects justifying a pension.


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

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