Grover Cleveland

Veto Message

May 25, 1886

To the Senate of the United States:

I herewith return without approval Senate bill No. 1290, entitled "An act granting a pension to David W. Hamilton."

A claim for pension filed by him in November, 1879, was rejected by the Pension Bureau on the ground that his alleged disability existed prior to his enlistment.

An examination of the records in the Adjutant-General's Office and a statement from the Pension Bureau derived from the claimant's application there for pension, with a reference to the report of the committee to whom this bill was referred, disclose the following facts:

The claimant was mustered in the service as first lieutenant in September, 1861, and as captain June 12, 1862. He is reported as present with his company until the 30th of that month. For the six months immediately following the latter date he is reported as "absent sick," and for the ten months next succeeding, and until October 27, 1863, as "absent on detached service." On the day last mentioned he tendered his resignation at Camp Morton, in the State of Indiana, to enable him to accept an appointment as captain in the Invalid Corps. He was thereupon so appointed upon account of "chronic enlargement of the spermatic cord of several years' standing, consequent upon hydrocele." He remained in the Invalid Corps until July 12, 1864, when, upon the tender of his resignation, he was discharged.

Less than four months afterwards, and on the 6th day of November, 1864, he was mustered in the service as a captain in another regiment of volunteers, and on the 17th day of November, 1865, again tendered his resignation, and was finally discharged.

Upon his application for pension under the general law, fourteen years thereafter, he admitted that he suffered from hydrocele as early as 1856, but claimed that an operation then performed for the same had given him permanent relief.

It will be seen that the claimant's term of service was liberally interspersed with sick leave, detached service, resignations, and membership in the Invalid Corps. He admits having the trouble which would naturally result in his alleged disability long before he entered the service. The surgeon upon whose certificate he was appointed to the Invalid Corps must have stated to him the character of his difficulty and that it was chronic. No application for pension was made until fourteen years after his discharge and just prior to the expiration of the time within which large arrearages might have been claimed. There is no hint of any medical testimony at all contradicting the certificate of the army surgeon made in 1863, but it is stated in the report of the committee that he can not procure medical testimony as to his soundness before entering the service because his family physician is dead. If he had filed his application earlier, it would have appeared in better faith, and it may be that he could have secured the evidence of his family physician if it was of the character he desired.

After the Pension Bureau has been in operation for a score of years since the late civil war, equipped with thousands of employees charged with no other duty except the ascertainment and adjustment of the claims of our discharged soldiers and their surviving relatives, it seems to me that a stronger case than this should be presented to justify the passage of a special act, twenty-three years after an alleged disability, granting a pension which has been refused by the Bureau especially organized for the purpose of allowing the same under just and liberal laws.

I am by no means insensible to that influence which leads the judgment toward the allowance of every claim alleged to be founded upon patriotic service in the nation's cause; and yet I neither believe it to be a duty nor a kindness to the worthy citizens for whose benefit our scheme of pensions was provided to permit the diversion of the nation's bounty to objects not within its scope and purpose.


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

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