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Veto Message

May 23, 1896

To the House of Representatives:

I herewith return without approval House bill No. 4804, entitled "An act to amend subdivision 10 of section 2238 of the Revised Statutes of the United States.

The subdivision of the section of the law proposed to be amended by this bill has reference to the fees allowed receivers and registers at public-land offices. This subdivision now reads as follows:

Tenth. Registers and receivers are allowed jointly at the rate of 15 cents per hundred words for testimony reduced by them to writing for claimants in establishing preemption and homestead rights.

The bill under consideration so amends this subdivision that in the first clause a compensation of 10 cents per hundred words is allowed to the registers and receivers for reducing to writing the testimony of claimants "in all cases," instead of 15 cents per hundred words for reducing to writing testimony "in establishing preemption and homestead rights," as provided in the old law.

Whether this reduction of fees preserves an adequate and just compensation to the officers affected I suppose has been duly considered by the Congress.

The bill, however, after providing for this change in compensation, contains the following words:

And in all eases where they (the registers and receivers) can secure a competent person to reduce the testimony to writing for a sum less per folio than the sum herein prescribed it shall be their duty to do so.

By the addition of these words the bill seems to give certain fees by way of official compensation to the officers named for certain services to be performed by them and at the same time to provide that if they can secure other persons willing to perform these services for a less sum than the amount allowed to them they shall forego their fees in favor of such persons.

It is very important that the fees and perquisites of public officers should be definitely and clearly fixed, so that the official may know precisely the items of his lawful compensation and the people be protected from extortion and imposition.

A public officer ought not to be expected to search very industriously for a person to underbid him for official work, and if such a person appeared the temptation to combination and conspiracy would in many cases lead to abuse.

It will be observed that the officers are not given by this amendment the option to do this work themselves at 10 cents per folio or secure a competent person to do it at a less rate, nor, if they desire, are they allowed to compete with those willing to accept a less compensation. They may charge a fixed rate for the service if performed by them, but in any event if they can procure another party to perform the services for a less sum they must do so.

I am convinced that this bill in its present form, perhaps through unfortunate phraseology, if it became a law would lead to confusion and uncertainty and would invite practices against which the public service ought to be carefully guarded.

GROVER CLEVELAND.

Grover Cleveland, Veto Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/205492

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