Grover Cleveland

Veto Message

May 01, 1888

To the House of Representatives:

I return without approval House bill No. 19, entitled "An act for the relief of H. B. Wilson, administrator of the estate of William Tinder, deceased."

The purpose of this bill is to refund to the estate of William Tinder the sum of $5,000, which was paid to the Government by his administrator in June, 1880, upon the following facts:

In 1876 two indictments were found against one Evans, charging him with passing counterfeit money. In May, 1878, he was tried upon one of said indictments and the jury failed to agree. Thereupon the prisoner entered into two recognizances in the sum of $5,000 each, with W. R. Evans and William Tinder as sureties, conditioned for the appearance of the prisoner Evans at the next term of the court, in November, 1878, for trial upon said indictment. Before that date, however, the prisoner fled the country and failed to appear according to the condition of his bond. In the meantime William Tinder died and H. B. Wilson was appointed his administrator.

Suits were brought upon the two bail bonds, and, the liability of the sureties not being admitted, the suits were tried in March, 1880, resulting in two judgments in favor of the United States and against the surety Evans and the estate of Tinder for $5,000 each and the costs.

Soon thereafter an application was made by the administrator of the estate of William Tinder for relief, and an offer was made by him to pay $5,000 and the costs in compromise and settlement of the liability of said estate upon said two judgments.

These judgments were a preferred claim against the estate, which was represented to be worth sixteen or eighteen thousand dollars. The other surety, Evans, was alleged to be worthless, and it was claimed that neither the administrator of the Tinder estate nor his attorneys had known the whereabouts of the indicted party since his flight, and that some time would elapse before certain litigation in which the estate was involved could be settled and the claims against it paid.

It was considered best by the officers of the Government to accept the proposition of the administrator, which was done in June, 1880. The sum of $5,099.06, the amount of one of said judgments, with interest and costs, was paid into the United States Treasury, and the estate of Tinder was in consideration thereof released and discharged from all liability upon both of said judgments.

Thus was the transaction closed, in exact accordance with the wishes and the prayer of the representative of this estate and by the favor and indulgence of the Government upon his application. There was, so far as I can learn, no condition attached, and no understanding or agreement that any future occurrence would affect the finality of the compromise by which the Government had accepted one-half of its claim in full settlement.

It appears that in 1881 the party indicted was arrested and brought to trial, which resulted in his conviction; and apparently for this reason alone it is proposed by the bill under consideration to open the settlement made at the request of the administrator and refund to him the sum which he paid on such settlement pursuant to his own offer.

I can see no fairness or justice to the Government in such a proposition. I do not find any statement that the administrator delivered the prisoner to the United States authorities for trial. On the contrary, it appears from an examination made in the First Comptroller's Office that he was arrested by the marshal on the 25th day of May, 1881, who charged and was paid his fees therefor. And if the administrator had surrendered the prisoner to justice it would not entitle him to the repayment of the money he has paid to compromise the two judgments against him.

The temptation to relieve from contracts with the Government upon plausible application is, in my opinion, not sufficiently resisted; but to refund money paid into the public Treasury upon such a liberal compromise as is exhibited in this case seems like a departure from all business principles and an unsafe concession that the interests of the Government are to be easily surrendered.


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

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