Grover Cleveland

Veto Message

June 12, 1888

To the Senate:

I return without approval Senate bill No. 1772, entitled "An act for the relief of John H. Marion."

It is proposed by this bill to relieve the party named therein from an indebtedness to the Government amounting to $1,042.45, arising from the nonfulfillment of a contract made by him in 1884 with the Government, by which he agreed to furnish for the use of the Quartermaster's Department a quantity of grama hay.

The contractor wholly failed to furnish the hay as agreed, and thereupon the Government, pursuant to the terms of the contract, obtained the hay in other quarters paying therefor a larger sum by $1,042.45 than it would have been obliged to pay the contractor if he had fulfilled his agreement. This amount was charged against the contractor.

It is alleged that the crop of the particular kind of hay which was to be furnished under the contract failed the season in which it was to be supplied on account of drought, and that thus performance became impossible on the part of the contractor.

Between individuals no injustice could be claimed if the contractor in such circumstances should be held to have taken the chances of the crop; and if an equitable adjustment should be suggested in such a case as is here presented it would hardly be asked that the party suffering from the default or failure of the other should sustain all the loss.

It seems that the contractor was the proprietor of a newspaper in Arizona, and that he did some printing for the Government besides agreeing to furnish hay to the Quartermaster's Department. After the ascertainment of the loss to the Government arising out of the hay transactions, certain accounts for printing presented by the contractor were credited against the amount of such loss charged against him. In this way his debt to the Government has been reduced more than $700. The proposed legislation would cause to be paid to the contractor the sums so retained for printing and to relieve him from the remainder of the Government's claims.

Inquiry at the Quartermaster-General's Office fails to substantiate the allegation that there is any understanding when such contracts are made that their performance is to be at all relaxed by the failure of the crop. There really seems to be no good reason why the contractor should not make good the entire loss consequent upon his default. If, however, strict rights are to be relinquished and the liberality of the Government invoked, it should not be taxed beyond the limit of sharing the loss with the delinquent. This result would be accomplished by discharging the remainder of the contractor's debt after crediting the bills for printing above referred to.

The Government is obliged in the transaction of its business to make numerous contracts with private parties, and if these contracts are to be of any use or protection they should not be lightly set aside on behalf of citizens who are disappointed as to their profitable nature or their ability to perform them.


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

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