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UNITED STATES V. GETTYSBURG ELEC. RY. CO., 160 U. S. 668 (1896)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Gettysburg Elec. Ry. Co., 160 U.S. 668 (1896)

United States v. Gettysburg Electric Railway Company

Nos. 599, 629

Argued January 8-9, 1896

Decided January 24, 1896

160 U.S. 668

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. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 160 U. S. 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.

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 160 U. S. 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 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 chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 160 U. S. 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 G