To the Senate:
I herewith return without approval Senate bill No. 127, entitled "An act for the relief of H. K. Belding."
This bill directs the sum of $1,566 to be paid to the said H. K. Belding "for carrying the mails of the United States between the years 1858 and 1862."
In April, 1858, a contract was awarded to the said Belding for carrying the mails from Brownsville, Minn., to Carimona, in the same State, a distance of 63 miles, and return, three times a week, for the sum of $1,800 per annum, said service to begin on the 1st day of July, 1858, and to terminate on the 30th day of June, 1862. This contract contained a provision that the Post-Office Department might discontinue the service in whole or in part, allowing to the contractor one month's extra pay therefor.
On May 9, 1859, in consequence of a failure on the part of the Congress to make the necessary appropriation, a general reduction of mail service was ordered, and the service under the contract with the claimant was reduced to two trips per week from May 10, 1859, instead of three, as stipulated in the contract, and a deduction of one-third of the annual sum to be paid by the contract was made for such reduced service; and thereupon one month's extra pay was allowed and paid the contractor on account of said reduction.
It is conceded that payment was made in full according to the terms of the contract up to the 10th day of May, 1859, but it is claimed that notwithstanding the reduction of the service to two trips per week and the receipt by the contractor of one month's extra pay by reason thereof, he continued to perform the full service of three trips per week from the 10th day of May, 1859, to the 30th day of September, 1860, being seventeen months.
Of the sum directed to be paid to him in the bill under consideration, $850 is allowed him on account of this service, he having been paid for the period stated at the rate of $1,200 per annum. The contractor claims that this full service was performed after the reduction by the Post-Office Department because he had received an intimation from the Postmaster-General that if the full service was continued after such reduction there was no doubt that the Congress would at its next session make provision for the payment of the sum deducted.
Of course no legal claim in favor of the contractor can be predicated upon the facts which he alleges; and if he did continue full service under the circumstances stated, it must be conceded that his conduct was hardly in accordance with the rules which regulate transactions of this kind.
But a thorough search of the correspondence and records in the Post-Office Department fails to disclose any letter, document, or record giving the least support to the allegation that any such intimation or assurance as is claimed was given; nor is there the least evidence in the Department that the full service was actually performed. There is, however, on the files of the Department a letter from the claimant, dated August 25,1860, containing the following statement:
When I received official information of the curtailing service, the reasons why, I wrote to the Department that I would, if allowed, continue service three times a week and take certificates, if I could be allowed to connect with La Crosse at pro rata rates. That letter was never answered and I continued service three times a week till 3d of September following, then run twice a week.
Thus it appears that this contractor, who in August, 1860, claimed that he continued full service upon the invitation of his own unanswered letter for less than four months, insists twenty-seven years after the date of the alleged service that he performed such service for seventeen months, and up to October, 1860. Not only has he himself in this manner almost conclusively shown that the claim now made and allowed is exorbitant, but the evidence gives rise to a strong presumption that it is entirely fictitious.
The remainder of the amount allowed to the claimant in this bill is based upon an alleged performance by the contractor of the same mail service which has been referred to from October 1, 1860, to February 14, 1861, a period of four months and fourteen days.
Prior to October 1, 1860, the claimant's contract was annulled and a new or more extended route established, entirely covering that upon which he had carried the mails. Thereupon a month's extra pay was allowed to him, and new contractors undertook the service and were paid therefor by the Government for the period covered by the claimant's alleged service. From the 14th day of February, 1861, Mr. Belding's contract with the Government was reinstated; but if he performed the service alleged during the period of four months and fourteen days immediately prior to that date, it is quite clear that he did so under an arrangement with the new contractors, and not under circumstances creating any legal or equitable claim against the Government.
Grover Cleveland, Veto Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/204050