Today in History
EMINENT DOMAIN REVISITED
These words, the meaning of which we scarcely know, have recently become
very familiar to all of us. Familiar, yes, but what do we know about
them? Is this something new? Did those who formed our civil government
know about this concept? Is there anything in our Constitution that tells
us the answer to that question? And, if so, what did they say in regard
to it? In ARTICLE IV of the Bill of Rights we read:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers,
and effects, against unreasonable....seizures, shall not be violated.
That quote almost immediately, sends a message to our minds that warns us
our property could be ‘unreasonably’ taken/seized by unscrupulous persons
if we aren't careful!" Rather scary, isn't it.
What does that have to do with "Eminent Domain"?
Here is the connection: Eminent domain is "the power to take private property for
(See footnotes 1 & 2 for definitions.)
When any civil unit takes a person’s possessions without their consent
to use for something that those in civil government think they have the
right to take because "the public" would benefit from it they call it "eminent domain" even though the persons are paid for the property.
Unfortunately, the "taking" without consent" would then have been forced-not voluntary.
Eventually we'll get to the definition of "public" but right now we want to peruse this "eminent domain"
John Locke stated,
Men... in Society having Property, they have such a right to the Goods,
which by the Law of the Community are theirs, no Body hath a right to take their Substance or any part of it from them, without their own
Consent; without this they have no Property at all. For I have truly no
Property in that, which another can by right take from me, when he pleases against my
(Italics mine, Ed.)
Furthermore, taking something from another without their consent is
defined by God as theft: "Thou shalt not steal"-whether it is by one or
At issue, also, is the matter of why it is taken.
The word "eminent" in the phrase "eminent domain" indicates that there is a power, higher than
the body of the people, that civil bodies may use when those in office
think the whole body of the people would benefit.
Everyone can and does use the highways and streets.
The "everyone" is the whole people as opposed to that which respects an
individual. However that may be, the question is: how did those civil
servants come to be higher than the people? Notice they are civil
servants. In fact, I think you will agree with me that only God is a
truly "eminent" person. He does say He has "all power in heaven and in
earth!" Civil servants can only claim they are eminent in the sense that
they were delegated by the whole people to act (as an eminent body) for
the whole body: the "public" (see footnote 3) for their benefit.
use, in constitutional provisions restricting the exercise of the
right to take private property in virtue of eminent domain, means a
use concerning the whole community as distinguished from particular
individuals"....(it) must be in common, and not for a particular
individual. Black’s Law Dictionary, p. 1232.
would do this, for instance, when a county road is needed. For example,
the Supervisors for a county would take on "eminency" to procure the needed property to build the road.
In the process it might be necessary to use some land owned by an individual in the path of the road.
The supervisors (acting for the people) would contact the owners, explain the
need and request that the owner sell a part of the property so the road
could be completed. The owner would then say yes or no and the price
would be set-a price, incidentally, that would be satisfactory to the owner.
In the event that the owner decides not to sell, the supervisors might then claim they had the authority from the people to take the
property because the need for the road is essential, the only property
suitable is this particular parcel and, as the parcel isn't essential to
the welfare of the owner, the supervisors have no alternative but to declare themselves eminent, to declare they have "eminent domain" and
must purchase the parcel whether the owner wants to sell or no. This is
the proper way to handle the matter if, indeed, there is no other remedy.
It is easy to see that the reason for the taking of the property was for
a public use. Today the courts are telling folks that property may be
taken for a public purpose. How could that be used to do with property
anything the taker desired? How does that change the whole scenario?
Noah Webster tells us that the word purpose means: "That which a person sets
before himself as an object to be reached or
accomplished".... Quite a bit different from the noun
Did our Founders understand how our property must be protected?
Read again Articles IV and V of our Bill of Rights. Get "You and the Bill of
Rights" study manual described on this web site for a broader understanding of that document.
Read what presidential candidate, Mr. Howard Phillips of the Conservative Caucus, said of it.
How is condemnation being done in order to take folks property by
eminent domain today? Read the article describing that process!
1. Eminent domain.
The power to take private property for public use by the state, municipalities, and private persons or corporations authorized
to exercise functions of public character. Housing Authority of Cherokee
National of Oklahoma v. Langley, Okl., 555 P.2d 1025, 1028. Fifth
Amendment, U. S. Constitution. Black’s Law Dictionary, p. 1232.
(Back to article)
PUBLIC, a. [L.publicus, from the root of populus, people; that is, people-like.] 1. Pertaining to a nation, state or community; extending to
a whole people;... Thus we say,.. public good, public calamity, public
service, public property. (Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the
English Language.) (Back to
3. Public, adj. Common to all or many; general, open to
common use. Belonging to the people at large; relating to or affecting the whole
people of a state, nation, or community; not limited or restricted to any
particular class of the community. Peacock v. Retail Credit Co.,
D. C. Ga., 32 F. Supp. 44418, 423. Public use, in constitutional provisions restricting the exercise of the
right to take private property in virtue of eminent domain, means a use
concerning the whole community as distinguished from particular individuals....(it) must be in common, and not for a particular
individual. (Emphasis mine, Ed.) Black’s Law
Dictionary, p. 1227. (Back to
to comment on this article? We value your input
send us your comments and if you wish, a link to your site or a link
to another page that supports your views and we'll post your valued
The Governor's Story
You, Your Child and the
Siege of Shah Island
The Pilgrims Came
Guide to Teaching Grammar using the Principle Approach
Liberty and Justice for All
Writing and the Essay