Grover Cleveland

Veto Message

May 18, 1888

To the Senate:

I return without approval Senate bill No. 1064, entitled "An act for the relief of L.J. Worden."

This bill directs the Postmaster-General to allow to L.J. Worden, recently the postmaster at Lawrence, Kans., the sum of $625 paid out by him as such postmaster for clerk hire during the period from July 1, 1882, to June 30, 1883.

The allowances to these officers for clerk hire and other like expenses are fixed in each case by the Post-Office Department and are paid out of an appropriation made in gross to cover them all. The excess of receipts for box rents and commissions over and above the salary of the postmaster is adopted by law as the maximum amount of such allowances in each case, and within that limit the amount appropriated is apportioned by the Post-Office Department to the different offices according to their needs.

The allowances to the Lawrence post-office for the year ending June 30, 1883, was $3,100. This was fully its proportion of the appropriation made by Congress for that year, and as much as was in most cases given to other offices of the same grade. In September, 1882, during the first quarter of the year in question, the postmaster made application for an increase of his allowances, which was declined, and a similar application in December of the same year was also declined. The reason given for noncompliance with this request in both cases was a lack of funds. It is the rule to make only such allowances in any year as can be paid from the appropriation made for that period.

No further application for increase of allowances was made by Mr. Worden until March, 1884, when the same were increased $300 for the year, to date from the 1st day of January preceding.

It was found at that time, after a full and fair investigation by the Department, which had in hand abundant funds for an increase of these allowances, that notwithstanding the increase of business at this post-office, $300 added to the allowances for the year from July 1, 1882, to June 30, 1883, was sufficient; and yet more than twice that sum is added by the bill under consideration to the allowances for the year last named.

Forty-four postmasters have submitted vouchers, amounting to nearly $9,000, for clerk hire during that year in excess of allowances; but they were all rejected, and I understand have not been insisted upon.

I assume that the Post-Office Department in 1884 dealt justly and fairly by the postmaster at Lawrence, and upon this theory, if he should be reimbursed any expenditure for a previous year, the demand he now makes is excessive.

But the cases should be exceedingly rare in which postmasters are awarded any more than the allowances made by the Department officers. They have the very best means of ascertaining the amount necessary to meet the demands of the service in any particular case, and it certainly may be assumed that they desire to properly accommodate the public in the matter of postal facilities. When the appropriation is sufficient, the decision of the Department should be final; and when the money in hand does not admit of adequate allowances, postmasters should only be reimbursed money voluntarily expended by them when recommended by the postmaster-General.

Any other course leads to the expenditure of money by postmasters for work which they should do themselves and to the employment of clerks which are unnecessary. The least encouragement that they may be repaid such expenditure by a special appropriation would dangerously tend to the substitution of their judgment for that of the Department and to the relaxation of wholesome discipline.

I think, when the application of Mr. Worden for an increase in his allowances was twice declined for any cause during the year covering his present demand, that if he made personal expenditures for clerk hire, and especially if he did so without the encouragement of the Department, they were made at his own risk. It appears, too, that the amount of his claim is larger than can be justified in any event.


The time allowed the Executive by the Constitution for the examination of bills presented to him by Congress for his action expired in the case of the bill herewith returned on Saturday, May 19. The Senate adjourned or took a recess on Thursday afternoon, May 17, until to-day, the 21st of May.

On the day of said recess or adjournment the above message, disapproving said bill and accompanying its return to the Senate, where it originated, was drawn, and on May 18 was engrossed and signed. On Saturday, the 19th of May, the Senate not being in session, the message and the bill were tendered to the Secretary of the Senate, who declined to receive them, and thereupon they were on the same day tendered to the President of the Senate, who also declined to receive the same, both of these officials claiming that the return of said bill and the delivery of said message could only properly be made to the Senate when in actual session.

They are therefore transmitted as soon as the Senate reconvenes after its recess, with this explanation.


(May 22 the Senate proceeded, as the Constitution prescribes, to reconsider the said bill returned by the President of the United States with his objections, pending which it was ordered that the said bill and message be referred to the Committee on Privileges and Elections. No action was taken.)

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

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