Grover Cleveland

Veto Message

February 20, 1895

To the Senate:

I return herewith without approval Senate bill No. 1526, entitled "An act for the relief of Henry Halteman."

This bill directs the Secretary of War "to grant an honorable discharge from the United States service to Henry Halteman, late of Company F, Second United States Artillery."

It is conceded that this soldier enlisted in the Regular Army on the 18th day of December, 1860, for the term of five years and that he deserted on the 18th day of August, 1865. The only excuse or palliation offered for his offense is found in the statement that his desertion was provoked by his company's being ordered to California so near the termination of his enlistment that his term would have expired before or soon after his company could have reached California, and" that his return would have been both tedious and somewhat perilous, if not expensive."

The fact must not be overlooked that this soldier enlisted in the Regular Army and that his term had no relation to the duration of the war or the immediate need of the Government for troops at the time of his desertion. The morale and discipline of the Regular Army are therefore directly involved in the proposed legislation.

The soldier's name remained on the records of the War Department as a deserter at large for twenty-three years, and until the year 1888. In August of that year application was made to the Department for the removal of the charge of desertion against him, which was refused on the ground that it was not shown that such charge was founded in error. Thereupon he applied for a discharge without character, as it is called, as of the date of his desertion. This was granted on the 21st day of September, 1888. Such discharges, which were not uncommon at that time, omitted the certificate of character which entitled the soldier to reenlistment.

In 1892 a bill similar to that now under consideration was referred to the Adjutant-General of the Army and was returned with an adverse report.

The record of the War Department on the subject of this soldier's separation from the Army is absolutely correct as it stands, and no sufficient reason is apparent why another record should be substituted. If this deserter is to be allowed an honorable discharge, I do not see why every deserter should not be absolved from the consequences of his unfaithfulness.

The effect of this bill if it should become a law would be to allow the beneficiary not only a pensionable status, but arrears of pay and clothing allowances up to the date of his desertion and travel allowance from the place of his desertion to the place of his enlistment.

It is not denied that all these things have been justly forfeited by deliberate and inexcusable desertion. In the case presented it seems to me that the laws and regulations adopted for the purpose of maintaining the discipline and efficiency of the Army ought not to be set aside.


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

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