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The writings and speeches of Grover Cleveland; (Volume 1) online

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fact. But much of the risk, expense, and burden attending the
maintenance of these roads are yet unknown and threatening.
In the meantime, the people of the city of New York are re-
ceiving the full benefit of their construction, a great enhance-
ment of the value of the taxable property of the city has re-
sulted, and, in addition to taxes, more than $120,000, being
five per cent, in increase, pursuant to the law of 1868, has been
paid by the companies into the city treasury, on the faith that
the rate of fare agreed upon was secured to them. I am not
aware that the corporations have, by any default, forfeited any
of their rights ; and if they have, the remedy is at hand under
existing laws. Their stock and their bonds are held by a large



446 SOME NOTABLE VETOES.

number of citizens, and the income of these roads depends en-
tirely upon fares received from passengers. The reduction
proposed is a large one, and it is claimed will permit no divi-
dends to investors. This may not be true, but we should be
satisfied it is not, before the proposed law takes effect.

It is manifestly important that invested capital should be
protected, and that its necessity and usefulness in the devel-
opment of enterprises valuable to the people should be
recognized by conservative conduct on the part of the State
government.

But we have especially in our keeping the honor and good
faith of a great State, and we should see to it that no suspicion
attaches, through any act of ours, to the fair fame of the common-
wealth. The State should not only be strictly just, but scrupu-
lously fair, and in its relations to the citizen every legal and
moral obligation should be recognized. This can only be done
by legislating without vindictiveness or prejudice, and with a
firm determination to deal justly and fairly with those from
whom we exact obedience.

I am not unmindful of the fact that this bill originated in
response to the demand of a large portion of the people of
New York for cheaper rates of fare between their places of
employment and their homes, and I realize fully the desirabil-
ity of securing to them all the privileges possible, but the
experience of other States teaches that we must keep within
t he limits of law and good faith, lest in the end we bring upon
the very people whom we seek to benefit and protect, a hard-
ship which must surely follow when these limits are ignored.

(1 rover Cleveland,

Governor.



SOME NOTABLE VETOES 447



Of the Amendments to the Charter of Buffalo.

Executive Chamber,

Albany, April 9, 1883.
To the Assembly :

Assembly bill No. 553, entitled " An Aet to amend chapter
five hundred and nineteen of the laws of eighteen hundred
and seventy, entitled ' An Act to amend the charter of the city
of Buffalo,' passed April twenty-eight, eighteen hundred and
seventy," is herewith returned without approval.

The object of this bill is to reorganize entirely the fire de-
partment of the city of Buffalo.

The present department was established in 1880, under
chapter 271 of the laws of that year, and its management and
control are vested in three commissioners, who, pursuant to
said law, were appointed by the mayor of the city.

The gentlemen thus appointed are citizens of unquestioned
probity, intelligence, and executive ability, and enjoy and de-
serve the respect and confidence of all their fellow-townsmen.

Having very recently had official relations with this depart-
ment, I cannot but testify to its efficiency and good manage-
ment, and the economy with which its affairs are conducted..
And yet, before it has been three years in operation, it is pro-
posed, bythe bill under consideration, to uproot and sweep
away the present administration of this important department,
and venture upon another experiment. This new scheme pro-
vides for the appointment, by the mayor, on the first Monday
in May, 1883, of a chief of the fire department, one assistant
chief, and two district chiefs ; the city is divided into two fire
districts, and it is made the duty of the district chiefs to take
the charge and management of all fires in their respective dis-
tricts until the arrival of the chief or assistant chiefs.

I can see no reason for dividing, by law, the city into fire
districts, unless it be to make new places to be filled by the
city executive.



44§ SOME NOTABLE VETOES.

The provision that the district chief shall have charge and
management of a fire in his district, until the arrival of his
superior, gives excuse for the chief of another district, though
first on the ground, to refrain from interference.

A fire department should be organized with a view to prompt
and effective action upon a sudden emergency. Every mem-
ber of the department should be, at all times, ready for service,
and there should be no mischief invited, by rules too inflexible,
as to who should have charge and management in time of dan-
ger to life and property.

Although the mayor of the city, under the provisions of the
bill, has the absolute power of appointment to these offices, he
may, in case of vacancy by death, resignation, removal, qr other-
wise, make special appointments, until permanent appoint-
ments are made. This was evidently copied from the charter
of 1870, which allowed the mayor to appoint fire superintend-
ents, by and with the advice and consent of the common coun-
cil. It was intended to permit the filling of a vacancy by the
mayor during the time which should elapse before a successor
could be confirmed by the council. But in a case where no
confirmation is necessary, such a provision is needless, incon-
gruous, and mischievous. The mayor should be as well pre-
pared to make a permanent appointment under this bill, in
case of a vacancy, as a temporary one. This provision would
seem to give him the power, by calling an appointment a tem-
porary one, to retain the appointee as long as he sees fit,
and, under the pretext of a permanent appointment, displace
him by another without charges or an opportunity to be
heard.

By section six of the bill an appeal is permitted from the
decision of the mayor, upon the trial of any of these officers, to
the Supreme Court of Buffalo. There is no such court in
existence.

But waiving further criticism of details, my attention is
directed to section twenty of the bill, which, to the promoters
of this measure, is undoubtedly its most important feature.



SOME NOTABLE VETOES. 449

It provides that immediately upon the appointment and quali-
fication of the chief, the terms of the present commissioners
shall cease and determine, and that the terms of office of all
the other officers, firemen, and employees shall also cease and
determine ten days thereafter. Great care is exercised to
provide that the chiefs and all the firemen and employees, ap-
pointed under the new scheme, shall be discharged only for
cause, and after due hearing and an opportunity for defense ;
but to those now in the service, numbering about two hundred
drilled and experienced men, no such privileges are accorded.

The purpose of the bill is too apparent to be mistaken. A
tried, economical, and efficient administration of an important
department in a large city is to be destroyed, upon partisan
grounds or to satisfy personal animosities, in order that the
places and patronage attached thereto may be used for party
advancement.

I believe in an open and sturdy partisanship, which secures
the legitimate advantages of party supremacy ; but parties
were made for the people, and 1 am unwilling, knowingly, to
give my assent to measures purely partisan, which will sacrifice
or endanger their interests.

G rover Cleveland.



VI.
Of the Texas Seed Bill.

Executive Mansion,
Washington, February 16, 1887.
To the House of Representatives :

I return without my approval House bill number ten thou-
sand two hundred and three, entitled " An Act to enable the
Commissioner of Agriculture to make a special distribution of
seeds in drought-stricken counties of Texas, and making an
appropriation therefor."

It is represented that a long-continued and extensive drought



45° SOME NOTABLE VETOES.

has existed in certain portions of the State of Texas, resulting
in a failure of crops and consequent distress and destitution.

Though there has been some difference in statements con-
cerning the extent of the people's needs in the localities thus
affected, there seems to be no doubt that there has existed
a condition calling for relief ; and I am willing to believe that,
notwithstanding the aid already furnished, a donation of seed-
grain to the farmers located in this region, to enable them to
put in new crops, would serve to avert a continuance or return
of an unfortunate blight.

And yet I feel obliged to withhold my approval of the plan
as proposed by this bill, to indulge a benevolent and chari-
table sentiment through the appropriation of public funds for
that purpose.

I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Con-
stitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the
general government ought to be extended to the relief of in-
dividual suffering which is in no manner properly related to
the public service or benefit. A prevalent tendency to disre-
gard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I
think, be steadfastly resisted, to the end that the lesson should
be constantly enforced that, though the people support the
government, the government should not support the people.

The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always
be relied upon to relieve their fellow-citizens in misfortune.
This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated.
Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of pater-
nal care on the part of the government and weakens the stur-
diness of our national character, while it prevents the in-
dulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and
conduct which strengthen the bonds of a common brother-
hood.

It is within my personal knowledge that individual aid has, to
some extent, already been extended to the sufferers mentioned
in this bill. The failure of the proposed appropriation of ten
thousand dollars additional, to meet their remaining wants, will



SOME NOTABLE I A TOES. 45 l

not necessarily result in continued distress if the emergency is
fully made known to the people of the country.

It is here suggested that the Commissioner of Agriculture is
annually directed to expend a large sum of money for the pur-
chase, propagation, and distribution of seeds and other things
of this description, two-thirds of which are, upon the request
of senators, representatives, and delegates in Congress, sup-
plied to them for distribution among their constituents.

The appropriation of the current year for this purpose is
one hundred thousand dollars, and it will probably be no less
in the appropriation for the ensuing year. I understand that
a large quantity of grain is furnished for such distribution,
and it is supposed that this free apportionment among their
neighbors is a privilege which may be waived by our senators
and representatives.

If sufficient of them should request the Commissioner of
Agriculture to send their shares of the grain thus allowed them,
to the suffering farmers of Texas, they might be enabled to
sow their crops ; the constituents, for whom in theory this grain
is intended, could well bear the temporary deprivation, and the
donors would experience the satisfaction attending deeds of
charity.

Grover Cleveland.



VII.

Of the Direct Tax Bill.

Executive Mansion,
Washington, March 2, 1889.
To the Senate :

I herewith return without approval Senate bill number one
hundred and thirty-nine, entitled " An Act to credit and pay
to the several States and Territories and the District of Col-
umbia all moneys collected under the direct tax levied by the
Act of Congress approved August fifth, eighteen hundred and
sixty-one."



45 2 SOME NOTABLE VETOES.

The object of this bill is quite clearly indicated in its title.
Its provisions have been much discussed in both branches of
Congress and have received emphatic legislative sanction. I
fully appreciate the interest which it has excited, and have
by no means failed to recognize the persuasive presentation
made in its favor. I know, too, that the interposition of Exec-
utive disapproval in this case is likely to arouse irritation
and cause complaint and earnest criticism. Since, however,
my judgment will not permit me to assent to the legislation
proposed, I can find no way of turning aside from what appears
to be the plain course of official duty.

On the 5th day of August, 1861, a Federal statute was passed
entitled '' An Act to provide increased revenue from imports,
to pay interest on the public debt, and for other purposes."

This law was passed at a time when immense sums of money
were needed by the government for the prosecution of a war
for the Union ; and the purpose of the law Avas to increase in
almost every possible way the Federal revenues. The first
seven sections of the statute were devoted to advancing very
largely the rates of duties on imports ; and to supplement this
the eighth section provided that a direct tax of twenty millions
of dollars should be annually laid, and that certain amounts
therein specified should be apportioned to the respective
States. The remainder of the law, consisting of fifty sections,
contained the most particular and detailed provisions for the
collection of the tax through Federal machinery.

It was declared, among other things, that the tax should be
assessed and laid on all lands and lots of ground with their
improvements and dwelling-houses ; that the annual amount
of said taxes should be a lien upon all lands and real estate of
the individuals assessed for the same, and that, in default of
payment, the said taxes might be collected by distraint and sale
of the goods, chattels, and effects of the delinquent persons.

This tax was laid in execution of the power conferred upon
the general government for that purpose by the Constitution.
It was an exercise of the right of the government to tax its



SOME NOTABLE VETOES. 453

citizens. It dealt with individuals, and the strong arm of Fed-
eral power was stretched out to exact from those who owed it
support and allegiance their just share of the sum it had de-
creed should be raised by direct taxation for the general good.
The lien created by this tax was upon the land and real estate
of the " individuals assessed for the same," and for its collection
the distraint and sale of personal property of the " persons
delinquent " were permitted.

But, while the direct relationship and responsibility between
the individuals taxed and the Federal government were thus
created by the exercise of the highest attribute of sovereignty,
it was provided in the statute that any State or Territory and
the District of Columbia might lawfully " assume, assess,
collect, and [pay into the Treasury of the United States " its
quota of said tax in its own way and manner, and by and
through its own officers, assessors, and collectors ; and it was
further provided that such States or Territories as should give
notice of their intention to thus assume and pay, or to assess,
collect, and pay, into the Treasury of the United States such
direct tax, should be entitled, in lieu of the compensation, pay,
per diem, and percentage in said act prescribed and allowed to
assessors, assistant assessors, and collectors of the United
States, to a deduction of fifteen per centum of the quota of
direct tax apportioned to such States or Territories and levied
and collected through their officers.

It was also provided by this law and another passed the
next year that certain claims of the States and Territories
against the United States might be applied in payment of such
quotas. Whatever may be said as to the effect of these pro-
visions of the law, it can hardly be claimed that, by virtue
thereof or any proceedings under them, the apportioned
quotas of this tax became debts against the several States and
Territories, or that they were liable to the general government
therefor, in every event, and as principal debtors bound by an
enforceable obligation.

In the forty-sixth section of the law it is provided that in



454 SOME NOTABLE VETOES.

case any State, Territory, or the District of Columbia, after
notice given of its intention to assume and pay, or to levy,
collect and pay said direct tax apportioned to it, should fail
to pay the amount of said direct tax, or any part thereof, it
should be lawful for the Secretary of the Treasury to appoint
United States officers as in the act provided, whose duty it
should be to proceed forthwith to collect all or any part of
said direct tax, " the same as though said State, Territory, or
District had not given notice nor assumed to levy, collect, and
pay said taxes or any part thereof."

A majority of the States undertook the collection of their
quotas and accounted for the amount thereof to the general
government, by the payment of money or by setting off claims
in their favor, against the tax. Fifteen per cent, of the amount
of their respective quotas was retained as the allowance for
collection and payment. In the Northern, or such as were then
called the loyal States, nearly the entire quotas were collected
and paid through the State agencies. The money necessary
for this purpose was generally collected from the citizens of
the States with their other taxes, and in whatever manner their
quotas may have been cancelled, whether by the payment of
money or setting off claims against the government, it is safe
to say, as a general proposition, that the people of these States
have individually been obliged to pay the assessments made
upon them on account of this direct tax, and have intrusted it to
their several States to be transmitted to the Federal Treasury.

In the Southern States, then in insurrection, whatever
was actually realized in money upon this tax was collected
directly by Federal officers without the interposition of State
machinery ; and a part of its quota has been credited to each
of these States.

The entire amount applied upon this tax, including the
fifteen per cent, for collection, was credited to the several
States and Territories upon the books of the Treasury, whether
collected through their instrumentality or by Federal officers.

The sum credited to all the States was $17,359,685.51, which



SOME NOTABLE VETOES. 455

includes more than two millions of dollars on account ot tin-
fifteen per cent, allowed for collecting. Of the amount cred-
ited, only about two millions and three hundred thousand
dollars is credited to the insurrectionary States. The amount
uncollected, of the twenty millions directed to be raised by this
tax, was $2,646,314.49, and nearly this entire sum remained
due upon the quotas apportioned to these States.

In this condition of affairs the bill under consideration
directs the Secretary of the Treasury " to credit to each State
and Territory of the United States and the District of Columbia
a sum equal to all collections, by set-off or otherwise, made
from said States and Territories and the District of Columbia,
or from any of the citizens or inhabitants thereof or other per-
sons, under the act of Congress approved August fifth, eighteen
hundred and sixty-one, and the amendatory acts thereto."
An appropriation is also made of such a sum as may be neces-
sary to reimburse each State, Territory, and the District of
Columbia for all money found due to it under the provisions
of the bill, and it is provided that all money, still due to the
United States on said direct tax, shall be remitted and relin-
quished.

The conceded effect of this bill is to take from the money
now in the Treasury the sum of more than seventeen millions
of dollars, or if the percentage allowed is not included, more
than fifteen millions of dollars, and pay back to the respective
States and Territories the sums they or their citizens paid more
than twenty-five years ago upon a direct tax levied by the
government of the United States for its defense and safety.

It is my belief that this appropriation of the public funds is
not within the constitutional power of the Congress. Under
the limited and delegated authority, conferred by the Constitu-
tion upon the general government, the statement of the pur-
poses for which money may be lawfully raised, by taxation in
any form, declares also the limit of the objects for which it
may be expended.

AH must agree that the direct tax was lawfully and constitu-



45 6 SOME NOTABLE VETOES.

tionally laid, and that it was rightfully and correctly collected.
It cannot be claimed, therefore, nor is it pretended, that any
debt arose against the government and in favor of any State or
individual by the exaction of this tax. Surely, then, the ap-
propriation directed by this bill cannot be justified as a pay-
ment of a debt of the United States.

The disbursement of this money clearly has no relation to
the common defense. On the contrary, it is the repayment of
money raised and long ago expended by the government to pro-
vide for the common defense.

The expenditure can not properly be advocated on the
ground that the general welfare of the United States is thereby
provided for or promoted. This " general welfare of the
United States," as used in the Constitution, can only justify
appropriations for national objects and for purposes which
have to do with the prosperity, the growth, the honor, or the
peace and dignity of the nation.

A sheer, bald gratuity bestowed either upon States or indi-
viduals, based upon no better reason than supports the gift
proposed in this bill, has never been claimed to be a provision
for the general welfare. More than fifty years ago a surplus of
public money in the Treasury was distributed among the
States ; but the unconstitutionality of such distribution, con-
sidered as a gift of money, appears to have been conceded, for
it was put into the State treasuries under the guise of a de-
posit or loan, subject to the demand of the government.

If it was proposed to raise by assessment upon the people the
sum necessary to refund the money collected upon this direct
tax, I am sure many who are now silent would insist upon the
limitations of the Constitution in opposition to such a scheme.
A large surplus in the Treasury is the parent of many ills, and
among them is found a tendency to an extremely liberal, if not
loose, construction of the Constitution. It also attracts the gaze
of States and individuals with a kind of fascination, and gives
rise to plans and pretensions that an uncongested Treasury
never could excite.



SOME NOTABLE VETOES. 457

But, if the constitutional question involved in the considera-
tion of this bill should be determined in its favor, there are
other objections remaining which prevent my assent to its pro-
visions.

There should be a certainty and stability about the enforce-
ment of taxation which should teach the citizen that the govern-
ment will only use the power to tax in cases where its necessity
and justice are not doubtful, and which should also discourage
the disturbing idea that the exercise of this power may be re-
voked by reimbursement of taxes once collected. Any other
theory cheapens and in a measure discredits a process which
more than any other is a manifestation of sovereign author-
ity.

A government is not only kind, but performs its highest duty,
when it restores to the citizen taxes unlawfully collected or
which have been erroneously or oppressively extorted by its
agents or officers ; but aside from these incidents, the people
should not be familiarized with the spectacle of their govern-
ment repenting the collection of taxes and restoring them.

The direct tax levied in 1S61 is not even suspected of in-
validity ; there never was a tax levied which was more needed,
and its justice cannot be questioned. Why, then, should it be
returned ?

The fact that the entire tax was not paid furnishes no reason
that would not apply to nearly every case where taxes are laid.
There are always delinquents, and while the more thorough and
complete collection of taxes is a troublesome problem of
government, the failure to solve the problem has never been
held to call for the return of taxes actually collected.

The deficiency in the collection of this tax is found almost
entirely in the insurrectionary States, while the quotas appor-
tioned to the other States were, as a general rule, fully paid ;



Online LibraryGrover ClevelandThe writings and speeches of Grover Cleveland; (Volume 1) → online text (page 38 of 48)