John H. Hallock

What Is Private Property - Condemnation for Parks and Public Places - Assessments - Increased Valuations - Water Front - School Sites - Street Improvements - Hardships for Owners - How Experts Work

Under the old feudal system in vogue in England from the time of William the Conqueror, all land was owned by the crown or the sovereign. Their subjects had the use of this land as a grant in return for the services rendered by them. Such great abuses grew from this ownership that in 1215, at Runnymede, the subjects of King John forced upon him the execution of the Magna Charta, which provided that the land of subjects could not be taken from them without just compensation. Here the first limitation was placed over the sovereign power. This provision is recognized and followed in most constitutions since that time.

From this limitation sprang various rules and procedures which are followed in acquiring title to private property for public uses or utilities.

The inherent sovereign power is held by the people or government over estates or private property of individuals to take back or appropriate the same for public uses and for public uses only, and may take the same without reference to the burden imposed on any one else. In the United States the right can be exercised either by a State or the Federal Government. The Legislature has the power to decide whether the property shall be taken for public purposes, but not to take it from one man for public uses and then transfer it to another. It is not necessary for the power to be used for the benefit of a whole community. It can be exercised if a great number of inhabitants are to be benefited. The mode of exercising this power is regulated by constitutional provisions and by statutes. The whole right is controlled by constitutional amendments to Article V of the Constitution of the United States as follows: "Nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation." This same right is recognized generally by all civilized nations.