Grover Cleveland

Veto Message

June 01, 1896

To the Senate:

I herewith return without approval Senate bill No. 149, entitled "An act granting a pension to Helen M. Jacob."

The purpose of this bill is to grant a pension of $12 per month to "Helen M. Jacob, of Rochester, Ind., widow of Benjamin Oden West."

It appears from the records of the War Department that Benjamin O. West served in the Mexican War from January to November in the year 1847. The beneficiary named in this bill was married to him in 1850, and he died in 1856. She was pensioned as his widow, and received such pension from the date of her husband's death until April 17, 1861. On that date she was married to William W. Jacob, whereupon her pension ceased, but two minor children were awarded pensions and continued in receipt of the same until January, 1873, when the youngest child became 16 years of age.

The entire absence of any fixed or reasonable principle or rule regulating private pension legislation at this time suggests the danger of its near approach in many cases to caprice and favoritism.

Though I have in a number of instances deferred to the judgment of Congress and refrained from interposing objections to bills of this character which seemed to me to be of doubtful merit, I am unwilling to follow such a wide departure from a palpably just pension theory and assent to the establishment of such an unfortunate precedent as this bill involves.

There is no duty or obligation due from the Government to a soldier's widow except it be worked out through the deceased soldier. She is pensioned only because he served his country and because through his death she as his wife has lost his support. In other words, she becomes a beneficiary of the Government because she is a soldier's widow. When she marries again, and thus displaces the memory of her soldier husband and surrenders all that belongs to soldier widowhood, she certainly ought not on the death of her second husband to be allowed to claim that she is again the soldier's widow.


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

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