Veto Message

February 21, 1903

To the Senate:

I return herewith, without approval, Senate bill 1115, entitled "An act for the relief of Francis S. Davidson, late first lieutenant, Ninth United States Cavalry."

The beneficiary of this bill was in the service for about nine years ending in December, 1875. He has not been in the service for the past twenty-seven years.

When in the service he appears to have been an insubordinate and unprofitable officer. He was at one time a cadet at the West Point Academy, and was discharged January 31, 1865, by reason of deficiency in study and conduct. The Academic board remarked of him at that time:

"This is the second deficiency of Cadet Davidson in conduct, and he having shown himself regardless of the leniency heretofore extended to him, the board recommends that he be discharged."

From June 9 to October 31, 1865, after the end of active hostilities of the civil war, he was a lieutenant of volunteers. He was appointed second lieutenant in the Regular Army March 7, 1867; promoted to be first lieutenant July 31, 1867.

On the 20th of June, 1868, he was tried by court-martial for "Neglect of duty, disobedience of orders, and conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline," and acquitted. The finding of acquittal was disapproved by the reviewing authority, with the remark that the conduct of the accused "was not only irregular, but insubordinate and disrespectful to his commanding officer."

On the 4th of January, 1872, he was again tried by court-martial and found guilty of disobedience of orders and violation of the sixth article of war, and was suspended from rank and pay for one month and reprimanded in general orders.

On November 15, 1875, he was again tried by court-martial and found guilty of "conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman," consisting of breach of arrest and gambling with enlisted men. Upon this he was dismissed the service, from which he has remained separated for now more than twenty-seven years.

No act of special gallantry or conspicuous service marked the short period during which he was an officer of the Army. He is 56 years of age. This bill proposes to put him upon the retired list, where he would be supported for the remainder of his life at public expense without rendering any return. It does not appear that he is subject to any physical disability incurred in the line of duty or otherwise. The treatment thus proposed is denied by law to all the officers whose service has been continuous and faithful, for they are not entitled to the benefits of the retired list until after forty years' service, or reaching the age of 64, or being physically disabled.

That an officer with this record should be rewarded is wholly without justification, and if that should be done it would involve a confusion between the treatment accorded to loyal and faithful service and that accorded to insubordination and unfaithful service, which could not fail to be most prejudicial to the morale and efficiency of the Army.


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

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