Grover Cleveland

Veto Message

February 19, 1895

To the House of Representatives:

I return herewith without approval House bill No. 6244, entitled "An act to remove the charge of desertion from the military record of Jacob Eckert."

This bill directs the Secretary of War "to cause the records of the War Department to be so amended as to remove the charge of desertion from the service record of Jacob Eckert, of New Philadelphia, Ohio, late a private in Company B, Sixty-first Ohio Volunteer Infantry, and to grant an honorable discharge to said Jacob Eckert from the service of the United States Army as of date when said company was mustered out of service."

The regiment and company to which this soldier belonged, except such members as reenlisted as veterans, were mustered out of the service October 17, 1864.

Jacob Eckert did not reenlist and was not mustered out with his comrades for the reason that he was then under arrest on a charge of desertion. In November, 1864, he was tried by a general court-martial and convicted of having deserted on the 1st of September, 1864, and again on the 2d day of September, 1864, and upon such conviction he was sentenced to forfeit all pay due him from September 1, the date of his first desertion, until the expiration of his term of service, to be dishonorably discharged and confined at hard labor for twelve months.

This sentence was approved by the reviewing authority, and I assume the convicted soldier served his term of imprisonment, since the statement contained in the report of the House committee to whom this bill was referred that he was dishonorably discharged in 1865 can be accounted for in no other way.

It seems to me that the provisions of this bill amount to a legislative reversal of the judgment of a regularly constituted court and a legislative pardon of the offense of which this soldier was convicted. If this doubtful authority is to be exercised by Congress, it should be done in such a manner as not to restore a man properly convicted and sentenced as a deserter, without even the allegation of injustice, to the rights of pay, allowance, and pension belonging to those who faithfully and honorably served in the military service of their country according to the terms of their enlistment.


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

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