Grover Cleveland

Veto Message

March 10, 1886

To the Senate of the United States:

I have carefully considered Senate bill No. 193, entitled "An act for the relief of John Hollins McBlair," and hereby return the same without approval to the Senate, where it originated, with my objections to the same.

The object of this bill is to suspend the provisions of law regulating appointments in the Army by promotion so far as they affect John Hollins McBlair, and to authorize the President to nominate and, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoint said McBlair a first lieutenant in the Army and to place him upon the retired list as of the date of April 8, 1864, With the pay of his rank from April 30, 1884.

The beneficiary named in this bill was appointed a first lieutenant in the Army, from civil life, in June, 1861, with rank from May 14, 1861.

It appears from his own testimony, afterwards taken before a retiring board, that at the time he was commissioned he was but 17 years of age.

In October, 1861, he was in the field for five days with his regiment, within which time he participated in no battle, skirmish, or engagement of any kind.

After five days spent in marching and camping he was taken sick, and after remaining in camp six or seven weeks, his illness still continuing, he was granted sick leave and came to Washington.

In June, 1862, he was put on duty in the Commissary Department at Washington and remained there until August, 1863, when he was summoned before a retiring board convened for the purpose of retiring disabled officers.

From testimony before this board it appears that the illness which caused him to leave his regiment was one not uncommon in the Army, and yielded to treatment, so that in April or May, 1862, he was completely cured.

About this time, however, he was attacked with convulsions, which were pronounced by the physicians examined before the board to be a form of epilepsy, and for this cause he was found to be incapacitated for active service.

The medical testimony, while it suggested various causes for this epileptic condition, negatives entirely any claim that these attacks were at all related to the illness which obliged this officer to abandon service with his regiment. He testified himself that he had been told he had one or two convulsions in childhood, but there is no direct testimony that he was subject to epileptic attacks before he entered the Army.

The retiring board determined upon the proof that this incapacity did not result from any incident of military service, and therefore Lieutenant McBlair was in October, 1863, retired wholly from the service with one year's pay and allowances, which is the usual action in such cases, and which was approved by the President.

But in April, 1864, the President, in a review of the case, made an order that instead of this officer being wholly retired he should be placed upon the retired list as of the date when the action of the retiring board was originally approved.

For about twenty years, and up to April 30, 1884, he remained upon the retired list and received the pay to which this position entitled him. Quite recently, in consequence of a claim of additional pay which he made upon the Government, his status was examined by the Court of Claims, which decided that the action of the President in April, 1864, by which he sought to change the original disposition of the case upon the findings of the retiring board, was nugatory, and that ever since October, 1863, this officer had not been connected with the Army and had been receiving from the Government money to which he was not entitled.

If the bill herewith returned becomes a law, it makes valid all payments made, and if its purpose is carried out causes such payments to be resumed.

The finding of the retiring board seems so satisfactory and the merits of this case so slight in the light of the large sum already paid to the applicant, while the claims of thousands of wounded and disabled soldiers wait for justice at the hands of the Government, that I am constrained to interpose an objection to a measure which proposes to suspend general and wholesome laws for the purpose of granting what appears to me to be an undeserved gratuity.


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

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