Grover Cleveland

Veto Message

July 05, 1886

To the House of Representatives:

I herewith return without approval House bill No. 4782, entitled "An act granting a pension to Elizabeth McKay."

The beneficiary named is the widow of Rowley S. McKay, who in 1862 seems to have been employed as pilot on the ram Switzerland . He seems to have been upon the rolls of two other vessels of the United States, the Covington and General Price , but was discharged by Admiral Porter in June, 1864, with loss of all pay and emoluments.

He filed an application for pension in 1870, alleging that while on duty as pilot and in action with the rebel ram Arkansas his hearing became affected by heavy firing. He also claimed that in February, 1863, while on the vessel Queen of the West, she grounded, and to escape capture he got off and floated down the river on a cotton bale, and, being in the water about three hours, the exposure caused a disease of the urinary organs; and that a few days after, while coming up the river on a transport, the boat was fired into and several balls passed through his left thigh. It seems that this claim was not definitely passed upon, but it is stated that the records failed to show that McKay was in the service of the United States at the time he alleged the contraction of disease of the urinary organs and was wounded in the thigh.

The beneficiary named in this bill never made application for pension to the Pension Bureau, but it appears that she bases her claims to consideration by Congress upon the allegation that in 1862, while her husband was acting as pilot of the ram or gunboat Switzerland, he contracted chronic diarrhea, from which he never recovered, and that he died from the effects of said disease in May, 1874.

It will be observed that among the various causes which the soldier or sailor himself alleged as the grounds of his application for pension chronic diarrhea is not mentioned.

There does not appear to be any medical testimony to support the claim thus made by the widow, and the cause of death is not definitely stated.

Taking all together, it has the appearance of a case, by no means rare, where chronic diarrhea or rheumatism are appealed to as a basis for a pension claim in the absence of something more substantial and definite.

The fact that the claim of the beneficiary has never been presented to the pension Bureau influences in some degree my action in withholding my approval of this bill.


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

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