January 27, 1896.
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, Pa., 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 with suitable tablets, each bearing a brief historical legend, compiled without praise and without censure, the sum of $25,000 to be expended under the direction of the secretary of war.'
On the 6th of June, 1894, a joint resolution of congress was approved by the president, which, after reciting the passage of the act of 1893, contained the further recital 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...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...
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 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 Gettysburg Electric Railway Company...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....
Evidence was given on the question of the value of the land to be taken, and on the 5th 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....
Mr. Justice PECKHAM, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the court.
The really important question to be determined in these proceedings is whether the use to which the petitioner desires to put the land described in the petitions is of that kind of public use for which the government of the United States is authorized to condemn land.
It 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.
Is the proposed use to which this land is to be put a public use, within this limitation? The purpose of the use is stated in the first act of congress, passed on the 3d day of March, 1893, and is quoted in the above statement of facts. The appropriation act of August 18, 1894, also contained the following: 'For continuing the work of surveying, locating and preserving the lines of battle at Gettysburg, Pa., 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 sec retary 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; fifty thousand dollars, to be expended under the direction of the secretary of war.'
When the legislature has declared the use or purpose to be a public one, its judgment will be respected by the courts, unless the use be palpably without reasonable foundation. Many authorities are cited in the note, and, indeed, the rule commends itself as a rational and proper one....
In examining an act of congress, it has been frequently said that every intendment is in favor of its constitutionality. Such act is presumed to be valid unless its invalidity is plain and apparent. No presumption of invalidity can be indulged in. It must be shown clearly and unmistakably. This rule has been stated and followed by this court from the foundation of the government.
Upon the question whether the proposed use of this land is public one, we think there can be no well-founded doubt. And also, in our judgment, the government has the constitutional power to condemn the land for the proposed use. It is, of course, not necessary that the power of condemnation for such purpose be expressly given by the constitution. The right to condemn at all is not so given. It results from the powers that are given, and it is implied because of its necessity, or because it is appropriate in exercising those powers. Congress has power to declare war, and to create and equip armies and navies. It has the great power of taxation, to be exercised for the common defense and general welfare. Having such powers, it has such other and implied ones as are necessary and appropriate for the purpose of carrying the powers expressly given into effect. 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. This proposed use comes within such description. The provision comes within the rule laid down by Chief Justice Marshall in McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. 421, in these words: 'Let the end be legitimate, let it be within the scope of the constitution, and all means which are appropriate, which are plainly adequate to that end, which are not prohibited but consistent with the letter and spirit of the constitution, are constitutional.'
The end to be attained, by this proposed use, as provided for by the act of congress, is legitimate, and lies within the scope of the constitution. The battle of Gettysburg was one of the great battles of the world. The numbers contained in the opposing armies were great; the sacrifice of life was dreadful; while the bravery, and, indeed, heroism, displayed by both the contending forces, rank with the highest exhibition of those qualities ever made by man. The importance of the issue involved in the contest of which this great battle was a part cannot be overestimated. The existence of the government itself, and the perpetuity of our institutions, depended upon the result. Valuable lessons in the art of war can now be learned from an examination of this great battlefield, in connection with the history of the events which there took place. Can it be that the government is without power to preserve the land, and properly mark out the various sites upon which this struggle took place? Can it not erect the monuments provided for by these acts of congress, or even take possession of the field of battle, in the name and for the benefit of all the citizens of the country, for the present and for the future? Such a use seems necessarily not only a public use, but one so closely connected with the welfare of the republic itself as to be within the powers granted congress by the constitution for the purpose of protecting and preserving the whole country. It would be a great object lesson to all who looked upon the land thus cared for, and it would show a proper recognition of the great things that were done there on those momentous days.... Such action on the part of congress touches the heart, and comes home to the imagination of every citizen, and greatly tends to enhance his love and respect for those institutions for which these heroic sacrifices were made. The greater the love of the citizen for the institutions of his country, the greater is the dependence properly to be placed upon him for their defense in time of necessity, and it is to such men that the country must look for its safety. The institutions of our country, which were saved at this enormous expenditure of life and property, ought to and will be regarded with proportionate affection. Here upon this battlefield is one of the proofs of that expenditure, and the sacrifices are rendered more obvious and more easily appreciated when such a battlefield is preserved by the government at the public expense. The right to take land for cemeteries for the burial of the deceased soldiers of the country rests on the same footing, and is connected with, and springs from, the same powers of the constitution. It seems very clear that the government has the right to bury its own soldiers, and to see to it that their graves shall not remain unknown or unhonored.
No narrow view of the character of this proposed use should be taken. Its national character and importance, we think, are plain. The power to condemn for this purpose need not be plainly and unmistakably deduced from any one of the particularly specified powers. Any number of those powers may be grouped together, and an inference from them all may be drawn that the power claimed has been conferred.
It is needless to enlarge upon the subject, and the determination is arrived at without hesitation that the use intended is of that public nature which comes within the constitutional power of congress to provide for by the condemnation of land.
Exploring Constitutional Conflicts