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Law School Case Brief

United States v. Gettysburg E. R. Co. - 160 U.S. 668, 16 S. Ct. 427 (1896)

Rule:

The United States has authority to do so whenever it is necessary or appropriate to use the land in the execution of any of the powers granted to it by the Constitution.

Facts:

The Sundry Civil Appropriation Act provided, among other things, for monuments and tablets at historic Gettysburg. An amendment was authorized to allow a sum to be used for condemnation to avoid defacement by the construction of the railroad. The Gettysburg Electronic Railway Co. challenged the Government's constitutional taking for the purposes explicated in the Act. A jury awarded the sum of $30,000 as the value of the land proposed to be taken in the first or main proceeding, to which the railroad excepted. A circuit court allowed the railroad's exceptions that the intended use of the land was not that kind of a public use for which the United States had the constitutional power to condemn land. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari review.

Issue:

Did the United States Government have the constitutional power to condemn the land for the proposed use where the end to be attained was legitimate and was within the scope of the Constitution?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The Government had the constitutional power to condemn the land for the proposed use where the end to be attained was legitimate and was within the scope of the Constitution. By that use, the Government manifested for the benefit of all its citizens the value put upon the services and exertions of the citizen soldiers of that period. Hence, the use intended was of a public nature that came within the constitutional power of Congress to provide for by the condemnation of land.

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