Grover Cleveland

Veto Message

April 30, 1888

To the Senate:

I return without approval Senate bill No. 465, entitled "An act granting a pension to William Sackman, sr."

The beneficiary named in this bill served from December 24, 1861, to February 29, 1864, in the Fifth Regiment of the Missouri Militia Cavalry.

He was discharged on the day last named for disability. His certificate of discharge states his disability as follows:

Palpitation of the heart and defective lungs, the disability caused by falling off his horse near Fredericktown, Mo., while intoxicated, on detached service, in the month of September, 1862. Not having done any duty since, a discharge would benefit the Government and himself.

It appears that a claim for pension was filed in the year 1881, in which the claimant alleged that--

At Fredericktown, Mo., about the 10th or 12th of April, 1863, he had three ribs broken by falling from his horse while surrounded by guerrillas.

It will be seen that while the certificate of discharge mentions a fall in September, 1862, no allusion is made to any fracture of ribs, while the claimant alleges such an injury occurred in April, 1863.

In 1885 the surgeon who made the medical certificate attached to the discharge, in answer to an inquiry made by the Commissioner of Pensions, says:

I have to state that I remember the case very distinctly. I made the examination in person, and was thoroughly acquainted with the case. I read the statement on which the application for discharge was based to the man, and he consented to have the papers forwarded as they read. The application for pension is fraudulent and should not be allowed.

I have omitted references made to the habits of the soldier by this medical officer.

Of course much reliance should be placed upon these statements made by an officer whose business it was to know the exact facts, and who made his certificate at a time when such facts were fresh in his mind. There is no intimation that the surgeon who made the statement referred to was inimical to the soldier or influenced by any unjust motive.

The attempt to impeach the record thus made is based upon affidavits made by a number of the soldier's comrades, who testify to his character and habits, and only three of whom speak of an injury to the soldier caused by falling from his horse. Two of these affiants allege that they were with the claimant on detached duty when his horse took fright and ran away with him, injuring him so that he could not rise and get on his horse without assistance. So far as these affidavits are before me, no date of this occurrence is given, nothing is said as to the character of the injuries, and no reference is made to the condition of the soldier at the time. The third affiant, who speaks of an injury, says that it occurred while on duty on the march from Pilot Knob to Cape Girardeau, in the year 1862 or 1863, and that it was caused by the soldier's being thrown from his horse. He says further that the soldier was not intoxicated at that time.

No mention is made that I can discover of any fracture of the ribs except in the claimant' s application for pension made in 1881, seventeen years after his discharge, and in a report of an examining surgeon made in 1882.

With no denial of the soldier's condition, as stated by the surgeon, on the part of the only parties who claim to have been present at the time of the injury, I can not satisfy myself, in view of the other circumstances surrounding this case, that the allegations contained in the claimant's discharge are discredited.


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

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