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Veto Message

April 17, 1860

To the Senate of the United States:

I return with my objections to the Senate, for their reconsideration, the bill entitled "An act for the relief of Arthur Edwards and his associates," presented to me on the 10th instant.

This bill directs the Postmaster-General "to audit and settle the accounts of Arthur Edwards and his associates for transporting the United States through mail on their steamers during the years 1849 and 1853 and intervening years" between Cleveland and Detroit, between Sandusky and Detroit, and between Toledo and Detroit, and "to allow and pay them not less than $28.60 for each and every passage of said steamers between said places during the aforementioned time when the mails were on board.

I have caused a statement to be made at the Post-Office Department of the least sum which can be paid to Mr. Edwards and his associates under the bill should it become a law, and from this it appears the amount will be $80,405.23.

Mr. Edwards and his associates, in 1854, a short time after the alleged Services had been rendered, presented a claim to the Postmaster-General for $25,180 as compensation for these services. This claim consisted of nine items, setting forth specifically all the services embraced by the present bill. It is fair to presume that the parties best knew the value of their own services and that they would not by an underestimate do themselves injustice. The whole claim of $25,180 was rejected by the Postmaster-General for reasons which it is no part of my present purpose to discuss.

The claimants next presented a petition to the Court of Claims in June, 1855, "for a reasonable compensation" for these services, and "pray the judgment of your honorable court for the actual value of the service rendered by them and received by the United States, which amounts to the sum of $50,000." Thus the estimate which they placed upon their services had nearly doubled between 1854 and 1855--had risen from $25,180 to $50,000. On the , after a full hearing, the court decided against the claim, and delivered an opinion in support of this decision which can not, I think, be contested on legal principles. But they state in the conclusion of the opinion that "for any compensation for their services beyond what they have received they must depend upon the discretion of Congress."

This decision of the Court of Claims was reported to Congress on the 1st of April, 1858, and from it the present bill has originated. The amount granted by it is more by upward of $55,000 than the parties themselves demanded from the Postmaster-General in 1854, and is more by upward of $30,000 than they demanded when before the Court of Claims. The enormous difference in their favor between their own original demand and the amount granted by the present bill constitutes my chief objection to it. In presenting this objection I do not propose to enter into the question whether the claimants are entitled in equity to any compensation for their services beyond that which it is alleged they have already received, or, if so, what would be "a reasonable and fair compensation." My sole purpose is to afford Congress an opportunity of reconsidering this case on account of its peculiar circumstances. I transmit to the Senate the reports of Horatio King, Acting Postmaster-General, and of A. N. Zevely, Third Assistant Postmaster-General, both dated on the 14th of April, 1860, on the subject of this claim.


James Buchanan, Veto Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/201902

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