Grover Cleveland

Veto Message

February 26, 1887

To the House of Representatives:

I herewith return without approval House bill No. 6976, entitled "An act to erect a public building at Portsmouth, Ohio."

It is represented in support of this bill that Portsmouth by its last census had a population of 11,321, and that it contains at present not less than 15,000 inhabitants; that it is a place of considerable manufacturing and commercial importance, and that there is no public building for the transaction of the business of the General Government nearer than Columbus or Cincinnati, both about 100 miles distant.

It is further stated in a communication from the promoter of this bill that--

There is not a Federal public building in the State of Ohio east of the line drawn on the accompanying map from Cleveland through Columbus to Cincinnati; and when wealth and population and the needs of the public service are considered, the distribution of public buildings in the State is an unfair one.

Here is disclosed a theory of expenditure for public buildings which I can hardly think should be adopted. If an application for the erection of such a building is to be determined by the distance between its proposed location and another public building, or upon the allegation that a certain division of a State is without a Government building, or that the distribution of these buildings in a particular State is unfair, we shall rapidly be led to an entire disregard of the considerations of necessity and public need which it seems to me should alone justify the expenditure of public funds for such a purpose.

The care and protection which the Government owes to the people do not embrace the grant of public buildings to decorate thriving and prosperous cities and villages, nor should such buildings be erected upon any principle of fair distribution among localities.

The Government is not an almoner of gifts among the people, but an instrumentality by which the people's affairs should be conducted upon business principles, regulated by the public needs.

Applying these principles to the case embraced in the bill under consideration, we find that at Portsmouth there is a post-office and an internal-revenue collector's office for which the Government should provide.

It is represented that the quarters now furnished for these offices are inadequate and that more spacious rooms are desirable. In the post-office there are six employees, and the collector of internal revenue has five assistants. The annual rent paid for both these offices is $600.

Upon these facts the proposition is to expend $60,000 for a building to accommodate these offices, entailing after its completion quite a large sum annually for its care and superintendence.

Though the sum of $60,000 is the limit fixed for the cost of this building, if it should be completed for this sum it would be an exception to the rule in such cases; and if it is absolutely impossible to do the public business in the quarters now occupied by these offices, which does not appear to be claimed, there can be no difficulty in securing in this enterprising city adequate accommodations at a rent not largely in excess of that at present paid.

Upon the whole it does not appear, as a business proposition, that the building proposed should be undertaken.


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

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