Grover Cleveland

Veto Message

June 10, 1896

To the House of Representatives:

I herewith return without my approval House bill No. 225, entitled "An act to provide for the lease of Fort Omaha Military Reservation to the State of Nebraska."

This bill authorizes and directs the Secretary of War, when Fort Crook, near the city of Omaha, is ready for occupancy, to lease for a nominal rent to the State of Nebraska the possession of Fort Omaha Military Reservation, containing about 80 acres, with all the buildings, appurtenances, and improvements thereof. It is declared that the lease shall be conditional upon the use of said reservation by the State of Nebraska as a place of rendezvous and school of instruction for the National Guard of said State; that the State of Nebraska shall while it is in possession of said reservation keep the buildings and improvements thereon in as good condition and repair as at the date it shall enter into possession thereof, and that at any time when, in the judgment of the Secretary of War, the interests of the United States shall require such action he shall take possession of said military reservation for the use of the Government, together with all the buildings, appurtenances, and improvements thereon.

On the 23d day of July, 1888, an act was passed authorizing the Secretary of War to purchase suitable grounds, of not less than 640 acres in extent, to be situate within 10 miles of the city of Omaha, and to construct the necessary buildings thereon for a ten-company military post, to be known as Fort Omaha, and a necessary sum, not exceeding $200,000, was appropriated to enable the Secretary of War to carry out the provisions of said act.

The said act also authorized the Secretary of War, when the purchase of the new site should be effected, to sell the military reservation known as Fort Omaha and such of the buildings and improvements thereon as could not be economically removed to the new site, and to cause the said reservation, for the purposes of said sale, to be platted in blocks, streets, and alleys, if in his judgment it would inure to the benefit of the Government in making a sale of such site.

The new site provided for by this act has been purchased, a large sum of money has been spent by the Government in preparing it for use, and I understand it will soon be ready for occupancy. The authority to sell the old site has not been exercised. This may be accounted for by the fact that the Government has not thus far been able to dispense with its use or because the depression in land values at Omaha has rendered it unadvisable.

The authority to sell and to remove any of the buildings from the old reservation to the new site still remains, however, unimpaired. In this condition of affairs it is now proposed to lease this land and these buildings to the State of Nebraska at a nominal rent, allowing the Government to repossess it only "when the interests of the United States shall require such action."

Of course it would be claimed that this language, in view of the statute of 1888, should not be construed as permitting the Government to retake the property for the purpose of selling it, because that is not stipulated in the bill. For that reason it would be plausibly urged that the lease was paramount to the power of sale contained in the law of 1888 and that the omission of any provision that possession might be resumed for the purpose of sale plainly indicated that "the interests of the United States" which allow such resumption contemplate some other and different emergency.

As a practical question, we all know that transactions of this character relating to Government property amount to a permanent alienation, or certainly pave the way for an absolute grant.

I do not think there should be anything done with this valuable property which will in the least embarrass the Government in its sale, and to that extent reimbursing itself for the cost of the new military post, which was plainly contemplated in the law of 1888.


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

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