160 U.S. 668 (1896), United States v. Gettysburg Electric Railway Company

Citation160 U.S. 668, 16 S.Ct. 427, 40 L.Ed. 576
Party NameUnited States v. Gettysburg Electric Railway Company
Case DateJanuary 27, 1896
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 668

160 U.S. 668 (1896)

16 S.Ct. 427, 40 L.Ed. 576

United States

v.

Gettysburg Electric Railway Company

United States Supreme Court

January 27, 1896

ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA

Syllabus

An appropriation by Congress for continuing the work of surveying, locating, and preserving the lines of battle at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and for purchasing, opening, constructing, and improving avenues along the portions occupied by the various commands of the Armies of the Potomac and Northern Virginia on that field, and for fencing the same, and for the purchase at private sale or by condemnation, of such parcels of land as the Secretary of War may deem necessary for the sites of tablets, and for the construction of the said avenues; for determining the leading tactical positions and properly marking the same with tablets of batteries, regiments, brigades, divisions, corps, and other organizations, with reference to the study and correct understanding of the battle, each tablet bearing a brief historical legend, compiled without praise and without censure, is an appropriation for a public use, for which the United States may, in the exercise of its right of eminent domain, condemn and take the necessary lands of individuals and corporations situated within that state, including lands occupied by a railroad company.

Any act of Congress which plainly and directly tends to enhance the respect and love of the citizen for the institutions of his country and to quicken and strengthen his motives to defend them, and which is germane to and intimately connected with and appropriate to the exercise of some one or all of the powers granted by Congress, must be valid, and the proposed use in this case comes within such description.

Page 669

The mere fact that Congress limits the amount to be appropriated for such purpose does not render invalid the law providing for the taking of the land.

The quantity of land which should be taken for such a purpose is a legislative, and not a judicial, question.

When land of a railroad company is taken for such purpose, if the part taken by the government is essential to enable the railroad corporation to perform its functions, or if the value of the remaining property is impaired, such facts may enter into the question of the amount of the compensation to be awarded.

The court below can, before a new trial, authorize the allegation as to the decision by the Secretary of War upon the necessity of taking the land to be amended, if necessary.

[16 S.Ct. 427] These are two writs of error to the Circuit Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. They involve the same questions.

By the Act of Congress approved August 1, 1888, c. 728, entitled "An act to authorize condemnation of land for sites of public buildings and for other purposes," it is provided

that in every case in which the Secretary of the Treasury or any other officer of the government has been or hereafter shall be authorized to procure real estate for the erection of a public building or for any other public uses, he shall be and hereby is authorized to acquire the same for the United States by condemnation, under judicial process, whenever in his opinion it is necessary or advantageous to the government to do so.

By the Act of Congress approved March 3, 1893, generally called the "Sundry Civil Appropriation Act," it was provided, among other things, as follows:

Monuments and Tablets at Gettysburg. For the purpose of preserving the lines of battle at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and for properly marking with tablets the positions occupied by the various commands of the Armies of the Potomac and of Northern Virginia on that field, and for the opening and improving avenues along the positions occupied by troops upon those lines, and for fencing the same, and for determining the leading tactical positions of batteries, regiments, brigades, divisions, corps, and other organizations with reference to the study and correct understanding of the battle, and to mark the same

Page 670

with suitable tablets, each bearing a brief historical legend, compiled without praise and without censure, the sum of twenty-five thousand dollars, to be expended under the direction of the Secretary of War.

Subsequently to the passage of that act, and on the 5th of June, 1894, a joint resolution of Congress was approved by the President which, after reciting the passage of the act of 1893, and the appropriation of the sum of $25,000 thereby, contained the further recital that the sum of $50,000 was then under consideration by Congress as an additional appropriation for the same purposes, and that it had been recently decided by the United States court sitting in Pennsylvania that authority had not been distinctly given necessary to enable the War Department to necessary to enable the War Department to execute the purposes declared in the act of 1893, and that there was imminent danger that portions of the battlefield might be irreparably defaced by the construction of a railroad over the same, thereby making impracticable the execution of the provisions of the Act of March 3, 1893. It was therefore

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled that the Secretary of [16 S.Ct. 428] War is authorized to acquire by purchase (or by condemnation) pursuant to the Act of August 1, 1888, such lands, or interest in lands, upon or in the vicinity of said battlefield, as in the judgment of the Secretary of War may be necessary for the complete execution of the Act of March 3, 1893. provided that no obligation or liability upon the part of the government shall be incurred under this resolution, nor any expenditure made except out of the appropriations already made and to be made during the present session of this Congress.

A further appropriation of $50,000 was made for this purpose by the Act of August 18, 1894, the same session of Congress.

Acting under the authority of these various statutes and joint resolution, the United States District Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, by direction of the Attorney

Page 671

General, filed a petition in the name of the United States for the purpose of condemning certain lands therein described for the objects mentioned in the acts of Congress.

The petition in the first case recited the foregoing facts, and also stated the inability to agree with the owners upon the price of the land desired, and asked for the appointment of a jury, according to the law of the State of Pennsylvania in such case provided. The second section of the Act of Congress approved August 1, 1888, above mentioned, provides that the practice, pleadings, forms, and modes of proceedings are to conform so far as may be to those existing at the time in like causes in the courts of record of the state within which such circuit or district courts are held. The Gettysburg Electric Railway Company answered this petition and set up the fact that it was a corporation existing under the laws of Pennsylvania, and that by virtue of its charter, it had the power to build its road along a certain portion of the Gettysburg borough limits described in the answer; that it had acquired, as a part of a route of one of the branches of its road, and for the purpose of using the same as a part of its right of way, the tract of land particularly mentioned and described in the petition, and which is the subject of the condemnation proceedings. It alleged that the effect of the condemnation of the strip of ground would be to cut off a particular branch railway or extension belonging to it, and destroy its continuity, and prevent its construction and operation. The company further answered that the greater part of the appropriation of $25,000 under the Act of March 3, 1893, had already been expended for the purposes stated therein, and that the balance remaining to the credit of the appropriation was less than $10,000. The electric railway company afterwards filed a further or amended answer, and therein set forth that the entire balance remaining unexpended of the appropriation of $25,000, under the Act of March 3, 1893, and of $50,000, which had been appropriated by the act approved August 18, 1894, were covered by contracts already made under the authority of the Secretary of War, and that there was not, in point of fact at that time, any part of either appropriation available for the

Page 672

purpose of paying any judgment which might be recovered by the company in these condemnation proceedings.

Evidence was given on the question of the value of the land to be taken, and on the fifth of November, 1884, the jury filed a report awarding the sum of $30,000 as the value of the land proposed to be taken in the first or main proceeding. The Gettysburg Electric Railway Company duly filed exceptions to the award, and on the same day appealed therefrom. The United States also appealed. The case was argued, and in April, 1895, an order was entered that the first and second exceptions filed by the defendant be sustained, and that the petition of the United States be dismissed. 67 F. 869. Those two exceptions are as follows:

1. The act of Congress approved August 1, 1888, provides for the acquisition of real estate by the United States by condemnation only for the erection of public buildings or for other public uses. It does not appear in the petition of Ellery P. Ingham, Esq., United States...

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215 practice notes
  • 134 B.R. 81 (Bkrtcy.E.D.N.Y. 1991), 186-0067, In re Persky
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Bankruptcy Courts Second Circuit
    • December 3, 1991
    ...has been considered under many different topics: condemnation of land for historical preservation purposes, United States v. Gettysburg, 160 U.S. 668, 16 S.Ct. 427, 40 L.Ed. 576 (1896); Roe v. Kansas, 278 U.S. 191, 49 S.Ct. 160, 73 L.Ed. 259 (1929), eminent domain action for housing purpose......
  • 392 So.2d 875 (Fla. 1980), 57997, State v. Miami Beach Redevelopment Agency
    • United States
    • Florida Supreme Court of Florida
    • December 11, 1980
    ...See Luxton v. North River Bridge Co., 153 U.S. 525, 529-530, 14 S.Ct. 891, 892, 38 L.Ed. 808; United States v. Gettysburg Electric R. Co., 160 U.S. 668, 679, 16 S.Ct. 427, 429, 40 L.Ed. 576. Once the object is within the authority of Congress, the means by which it will be attained is also ......
  • 31 F.2d 617 (W.D.Wis. 1928), 190, United States v. 2,271.29 Acres, More or Less, of Land in La Crosse, Trempeleau, Vernon, and Grant Counties, Wis.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 7th Circuit Western District of Wisconsin
    • November 15, 1928
    ...domain. A similar question was involved in Shoemaker v. U.S., 147 U.S. 282, 302, 13 S.Ct. 361, 37 L.Ed. 170; U.S. v. Gettysburg Ry., 160 U.S. 668, 683, 16 S.Ct. 427, 40 L.Ed. 576, and Hanson Lumber Co. v. U.S., 261 U.S. 581, 586, 43 S.Ct. 442, 444 (67 L.Ed. 809). In the latter case it was s......
  • Endnotes.
    • United States
    • International Journal of Economic Development Vol. 8 Nbr. 1-2, April 2006
    • April 1, 2006
    ...the Necessary and Proper Clause. McCulloch v. Maryland, [17 U.S. (4 Wheat.) 316 (1819)]; United States v. Gettysburg Electric Railway Co. [160 U.S. 668 (1896)]. Under this perspective, Congress may exercise the power of eminent domain only in order to effectuate one of its delegated powers.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
199 cases
  • 134 B.R. 81 (Bkrtcy.E.D.N.Y. 1991), 186-0067, In re Persky
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Bankruptcy Courts Second Circuit
    • December 3, 1991
    ...has been considered under many different topics: condemnation of land for historical preservation purposes, United States v. Gettysburg, 160 U.S. 668, 16 S.Ct. 427, 40 L.Ed. 576 (1896); Roe v. Kansas, 278 U.S. 191, 49 S.Ct. 160, 73 L.Ed. 259 (1929), eminent domain action for housing purpose......
  • 392 So.2d 875 (Fla. 1980), 57997, State v. Miami Beach Redevelopment Agency
    • United States
    • Florida Supreme Court of Florida
    • December 11, 1980
    ...See Luxton v. North River Bridge Co., 153 U.S. 525, 529-530, 14 S.Ct. 891, 892, 38 L.Ed. 808; United States v. Gettysburg Electric R. Co., 160 U.S. 668, 679, 16 S.Ct. 427, 429, 40 L.Ed. 576. Once the object is within the authority of Congress, the means by which it will be attained is also ......
  • 31 F.2d 617 (W.D.Wis. 1928), 190, United States v. 2,271.29 Acres, More or Less, of Land in La Crosse, Trempeleau, Vernon, and Grant Counties, Wis.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 7th Circuit Western District of Wisconsin
    • November 15, 1928
    ...domain. A similar question was involved in Shoemaker v. U.S., 147 U.S. 282, 302, 13 S.Ct. 361, 37 L.Ed. 170; U.S. v. Gettysburg Ry., 160 U.S. 668, 683, 16 S.Ct. 427, 40 L.Ed. 576, and Hanson Lumber Co. v. U.S., 261 U.S. 581, 586, 43 S.Ct. 442, 444 (67 L.Ed. 809). In the latter case it was s......
  • 30 P.2d 805 (Mont. 1934), 7217, State v. Aitchison
    • United States
    • Montana Supreme Court of Montana
    • March 15, 1934
    ...determined to be a public use, the quantity which shall be taken is a legislative question. United States v. Gettysburg Elec. Ry. Co., 160 U.S. 668, 16 S.Ct. 427, 40 L.Ed. 576; Shoemaker v. United States, supra. The Legislature having failed to act on those questions, the court is powerless......
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1 firm's commentaries
  • Taken by the Fifth: The Fifth Amendment 'Taking Clause' and Intellectual Property
    • United States
    • Mondaq United States
    • March 4, 2004
    ...is merely the means to the end. See Luxton v. North River Bridge Co., 153 U.S. 525, 529-530; United States v. Gettysburg Electric R. Co., 160 U.S. 668, 679 . . . . * * * The rights of . . . property owners are satisfied when they receive that just compensation which the Fifth Amendment exac......
13 books & journal articles
  • Endnotes.
    • United States
    • International Journal of Economic Development Vol. 8 Nbr. 1-2, April 2006
    • April 1, 2006
    ...the Necessary and Proper Clause. McCulloch v. Maryland, [17 U.S. (4 Wheat.) 316 (1819)]; United States v. Gettysburg Electric Railway Co. [160 U.S. 668 (1896)]. Under this perspective, Congress may exercise the power of eminent domain only in order to effectuate one of its delegated powers.......
  • Rethinking the presumption of constitutionality.
    • United States
    • Notre Dame Law Review Vol. 85 Nbr. 4, June 2010
    • June 1, 2010
    ...within the contracts clause. See Dartmouth Coll., 17 U.S. (4 Wheat.) at 629. (54) See, e.g., United States v. Gettysburg Elec. Ry. Co., 160 U.S. 668, 680 (1896) (invoking presumption of constitutionality in rejecting challenge to the federal government's condemnation of land); Fletcher v. P......
  • Saving Private Development: Rescuing Louisiana from Its Reaction to Kelo
    • United States
    • Louisiana Law Review Nbr. 68-2, January 2008
    • January 1, 2008
    ...out in the federal courts."). [50] Id. at 232. [51] Id. at 233. [52] Id. at 241 (quoting United States v. Gettysburg Elec. R. Co., 160 U.S. 668, 680 (1896)). [53] Id. [54] See supra notes 25-26 and accompanying text; Midkiff, 467 U.S. at 239-45; Berman, 348 U.S. at 33-34. [55] Midkiff,......
  • Winding toward the heart of the takings muddle: Kelo, Lingle, and public discourse about private property.
    • United States
    • Fordham Urban Law Journal Vol. 34 Nbr. 2, March 2007
    • March 1, 2007
    ...702 F.2d 788, 789 (9th Cir. 1983). (73.) Midkiff, 467 U.S. at 231-32. (74.) Id. at 241 (quoting United States v. Gettysburg Elec. Ry. Co., 160 U.S. 668, 680 (1896)). (75.) Id. at 241-42. (76.) Id. at 242. (77.) Id. (78.) Id. at 242-43. (79.) Id. at 243-44. (80.) Id. at 244. (81.) Kelo v. Ci......
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