To the House of Representatives:
I return without approval House bill No. 8164, entitled "An act granting a pension to William H. Hester."
It is claimed that the beneficiary named in this bill was injured by sand blowing in his eyes during a sand storm while in the service in the year 1869, resulting in nearly if not quite total blindness.
It is conceded in the report of the committee to which this bill was referred in the House that the claim for pension made by this man to the Pension Bureau was largely supported by perjury and forgery; but the criminality of these methods is made to rest upon three rogues and scoundrels who undertook to obtain a pension for the soldier, and it is stated by the committee as their opinion that the claimant himself was innocent of any complicity in the crimes committed and attempted.
I have quite a full report of the papers filed and proceedings taken in relation to the claim presented to the Pension Bureau, and I am sorry that I can not agree with the committee of the House as to the merits of the application now made or the good faith and honesty of the beneficiary named in the bill herewith returned.
Among the facts presented I shall refer to but one or two touching the conduct of the claimant himself.
Upon his examination, under oath, by a special examiner, he stated that he was brought to Washington to further his claim by a man named Miller, one of the rascally attorneys spoken of in the committee's report; that Miller was to pay his expenses while in Washington., and was to receive one-third of the money paid upon the claim.
This is not the conduct of a man claiming in good faith a pension from the Government.
He further stated under oath that his eyes became affected about January 15, 1869, by reason of a sand storm; that the sand blew into them and cut them all to pieces; that he was thereafter hardly able to see or get around and wait on himself, and that Edward N. Baldwin took care of him in his tent.
This Mr. Baldwin was found by the special examiner and testified that he knew the claimant and served in same regiment and bunked with him; that he never knew of the sand storm spoken of by Hester; that he never knew that he had sore eyes in the service; that he (Baldwin) did not take care of him when he was suffering with sore eyes, and that he never knew of Hester being sick but once, and that was when he had eaten too much. He was shown an affidavit purporting to be made by him and declared the entire thing to be false and a forgery.
I believe this claim for pension to be a fraud from beginning to end, and the effrontery with which it has been pushed shows the necessity of a careful examination of these cases.
Grover Cleveland, Veto Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/204938