Grover Cleveland

Veto Message

January 31, 1887

To the Senate:

I hereby return without approval Senate bill No. 2167, entitled "An act granting a pension to Mrs. Margaret Dunlap."

By this bill it is proposed to grant a pension to the beneficiary therein named as the mother of James F. Dunlap, who enlisted in the Seventh Missouri State Militia Cavalry in 1862 and died in July, 1864, of wounds received at the hand of a comrade.

The favorable action of the Senate upon this bill appears to be based, so far as the cause of death is concerned, upon an affidavit contained in the report of the committee to which the bill was referred, made by one G. Will Houts, second lieutenant in the company to which the deceased soldier belonged, in which the affiant deposes that some of the comrades of the deceased being engaged in an affray he attempted to separate the combatants, whereupon one of them, without cause or provocation, stabbed the deceased in the breast, from which, in a few days thereafter, he died; to which affidavit is added the finding of a court-martial that the party inflicting the wound was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to five years' imprisonment.

Upon this showing it might be difficult to spell out the facts that the injury to the soldier was received in the line of duty or that any theory of granting pensions covered the case.

But the weak features of this application are not alluded to in the committee's report.

The record of the soldier's death states that he was "killed by one of his comrades in a difficulty."

The same Lieutenant Houts who in 1872 made oath that the soldier was wounded while attempting to separate comrades who were fighting testified in 1864 before the court-martial upon the trial of the man who did the wounding, and whose name was Capehart, that Dunlap, the deceased, stated to him "that he was more to blaim than Capehart, and that they had been scuffling, at first good-naturedly, and then both got angry; that he was rougher with Capehart than he ought to have been."

Another witness testified that the affray took place between Dunlap and Capehart; that Dunlap handled Capehart very roughly, kicking him, etc., and that finally Capehart stabbed Dunlap, upon which the latter attempted to get his gun, but was prevented from doing so by the witness.

Of course there call be no pretense of any kind of claim against the Government arising from these facts.

It is quite evident that the affidavit presented to the Senate committee was contrived to deceive, and it is to be feared that it is but a sample of many that are made in support of claims for pensions.


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

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