Grover Cleveland

Veto Message

February 23, 1887

To the House of Representatives:

I herewith return without approval House bill No. 8002, entitled "An act to increase the pension of Loren Burritt."

The beneficiary named in this bill enlisted in October, 1863, and in December of that year was mustered in as major of the Eighth Regiment United States Colored Troops; was promoted to lieutenant-colonel and very badly wounded in February, 1864, and was mustered out with his regiment November 10, 1865.

His condition at the present time is most pitiable, and his helplessness is such that he needs the constant care and assistance of others. He was obliged to give up business about the year 1873.

In 1866 he was pensioned for his wound, which was in the right leg; and such pension has been increased from time to time until he is now in the receipt of $72 per month, the highest pension allowed under general laws. This rate was awarded him under a law passed in 1880, increasing from $50 to $72 per month the pensions of those who were rendered permanently and totally helpless, so that they required the regular and personal attendance of another.

On the 30th day of June, 1886, there were 1,009 persons on the rolls receiving this rate of pension.

This bill was reported upon adversely by the House Committee on Pensions, and they, while fully acknowledging the distressing circumstances surrounding the case, felt constrained to adverse action on the ground, as stated in the language of their report, that "there are many cases just as helpless and requiring as much attention as this one, and were the relief asked for granted in this instance it might reasonably be looked for in all."

No man can check, if he would, the feeling of sympathy and pity aroused by the contemplation of utter helplessness as the result of patriotic and faithful military service; but in the midst of all this I can not put out of mind the soldiers in this condition who were privates in the ranks, who sustained the utmost hardships of war, but who, because they were privates and in the humble walks of life, are not so apt to share in special favors of Congressional action. I find no reason why this beneficiary should be singled out from his class, except it be that he was a lieutenant-colonel instead of a private.

I am aware of a precedent for the legislation proposed, which is furnished by an enactment of the last session of Congress, to which I assented, as I think improvidently; but I am certain that exact equality and fairness in the treatment of our veterans is, after all, more just, beneficent, and useful than unfair discrimination in favor of officers or the special benefit born of sympathy in individual cases.

I am constrained, therefore, to agree with the House Committee on Pensions in their views of this bill.


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

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