Grover Cleveland

Veto Message

February 22, 1897

To the Senate:

I return herewith without approval Senate bill No. 1323, entitled "An act granting a pension to Maria Somerlat, widow of Valentine Somerlat." This beneficiary, under the name of Maria Somerlat, was pensioned in 1867 as the widow of Valentine Somerlat, a volunteer soldier, dating from his death, in 1864. She continued to draw the pension allowed her as such widow until 1881, when she married one Hiram Smith. Subsequently, but at what time does not appear, she was divorced from Smith in a suit that seems to have been begun by him, but in which she interposed a cross bill and obtained judgment in her favor. Notwithstanding her remarriage, through which she ceased to be the widow of the dead soldier, it is proposed to pension her again on account of his death.

The rule governing the operation of general pension laws which forfeits a widow's pension on her remarriage seems so reasonable and just and its relaxation must necessarily lead to such a departure from just principles and to such vexations pension administration that I am convinced it ought to be strictly maintained.

I hope I may be permitted to call the attention of the Senate to the increasing latitude clearly discernible in special pension legislation. It has seemed to me so useless to attempt to stem the tide of this legislation by Executive interference that I have contented myself with nonacquiescence in numerous cases where I could not approve.

There have been already presented to me for Executive action during the present session of the Congress 206 special pension bills, of which I have actually examined 115. The entire number of such bills that have become laws during the four sessions of the Congress since March 4, 1893, is 391. Some of those presented at the present session are not based upon the least pretext that the death or disability involved is related to army service, while in numerous other cases it is extremely difficult to satisfactorily discover such relationship.

There is one feature of this legislation which I am sure deserves attention. I refer to the great number of special bills passed for the purpose of increasing the pensions of those already on the rolls. Of the 115 special pension bills which I have examined since the beginning of the present session of the Congress, 58 granted or restored pensions and 57 increased those already existing, and the appropriation of money necessary to meet these increases exceeds considerably the amount required to pay the original pensions granted or restored by the remaining 58 bills.

I can not discover that these increases are regulated by any rule or principle, and when we remember that there are nearly a million pensioners on our rolls and consider the importunity for such increase that must follow the precedents already made, the relation of the subject to a justifiable increase of our national revenues can not escape attention.


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

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