Grover Cleveland

Veto Message

April 16, 1888

To the House of Representatives:

I return herewith without approval House bill No. 445, entitled act granting a pension to Laura A. Wright."

The beneficiary named in this bill is the widow of Charles H. Wright, who was pensioned for a gunshot wound received in the military service of the United States on the 19th day of September, 1864. He continued in the receipt of such pension until June 25, 1884, when he committed suicide by hanging.

It is alleged on behalf of his widow that the pain caused by his wound was so great that it caused temporary insanity, under the influence of which he destroyed himself.

There is not a particle of proof that I can discover tending to show an unsound mind, unless it be the fact of his suicide. He suffered much pain at intervals. He was a farmer in comfortable circumstances, and according to the testimony of one of the physicians, filed in support of the widow's claim, his health was good up to the time of his death, except for the wound and its results. The day before his death he was engaged in work connected with his farming occupation, though he complained of pain from his wound. Early the next morning, still complaining, as it is alleged, of his wound, he went out, declaring he was going out to milk, and not returning in due time, upon search his body was found and his self-destruction discovered. This was nearly twenty years after the deceased received his wound, and there is not a suggestion of any act or word of his in all that time indicating insanity. It seems to me it can hardly be assumed in such circumstances that the insanity and death of the soldier resulted from pain arising from his wound, merely because no other explanation can be given. In numerous cases of suicide no cause or motive for self-destruction is discovered.

We have within our borders thousands of widows living in poverty, and some of them in need, whose dead husbands fought bravely and well in defense of the Government, but whose deaths were not occasioned by any incident of military service. In these cases the wife's long vigil at the bed of wasting disease, the poverty that came before the death, and the distressing doubt and uncertainty which darkened the future have not secured to such widows the aid of our pension laws.

With these in sight the bounty of the Government may without injustice be withheld from one whose soldier husband received a pension for nearly twenty years, though all that time able to labor, and who, having reached a stage of comfortable living, made his wife a widow by destroying his own life.


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

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