To the House of Representatives:
I have the honor to herewith return to you without my approval House bill No. 1224, entitled "An act for the relief of William H. Denniston, late an acting second lieutenant, Seventieth New York Volunteers," for the reasons set forth in the accompanying letter of the Secretary of War.
U. S. GRANT
SIR: I have the honor to return House bill No. 1224, "for the relief of William H. Denniston, late an acting second lieutenant, Seventieth New York Volunteers," with the remark that the name of William H. Denniston, as an officer or private, is not borne on any rolls of the Seventieth New York Volunteers on file in the Department. Of this fact the Committee on Military Affairs of the House of Representatives was informed by letter from the Adjutant-General's Office dated December 19, 1873.
No vacancy existed in Company D (the company claimed) of this regiment for a second lieutenant during the period claimed, Second Lieutenant J. B. Zeigler having filled that position to May 6, 1862, and Second Lieutenant James Stevenson from that date to June 25, 1862. On regimental return for July, 1862, Edward Shields is reported promoted second lieutenant June 15, 1862.
There is no evidence in the Department that he actually served as a second lieutenant for the time covered by the bill herewith, and it is therefore respectfully recommended that the bill be returned to the House of Representatives without approval.
When the records of the War Department, prepared under laws and regulations having in view the establishment and preservation of data necessary to the protection of the public interests as well as that of the claimants, fail to show service, it is a subject of importance to legalize a claim wherein the military department of the Government has not seen the order under which the alleged service may have been claimed. A precedent of the kind is beyond doubt an injury to the public interest, and will tend to other special acts of relief under which thousands of muster rolls certified at the date, under the Articles of War, as exhibiting the true state of the command will be invalidated, and large appropriations of money will be required to settle claims the justness of which can not always be determined at a date so remote from their origin.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
WM. W. BELKNAP,
Secretary of War.
Ulysses S. Grant, Veto Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/203978