This section is from the book "The Constitutional Law Of The United States", by Westel Woodbury Willoughby. Also available from Amazon: Constitutional Law.
That property of incorporated companies, like other species of property, are subject to the State's power of eminent domain, is not questioned. In Long Island Water Supply Co. v. Brooklyn52 it is declared: "A contract is property, and, like any other property, may be taken under condemnation proceedings for public use. Its condemnation is of course subject to the rule of just compensation. . . . The true view is that the condemnation proceedings do not impair the contract, do not break its obligations, but appropriate it, as they do the tangible property of the company, to the public uses." 53
47 Los Angeles v. Los Angeles City Water Co., 177 U. S. 558; 20 Sup. Ct. Rep. 736; 44 L. ed. 886.
48 Stone v. III. Cent. Ry. Co., 116 U. S. 347; 6 Sup. Ct. Rep. 348; 29 L. ed. 650.
49 Chicago, etc., Ry. Co. v. Minn., 134 U. S. 418; 10 Sup. Ct. Rep. 462; 33 L. ed. 970.
50 Georgia R. & Bkg. Co. v. Smith, 128 U. S. 174; 9 Sup. Ct. Rep. 47; 32 L. ed. 377.
51 Peik v. Chicago, etc., R. R. Co., 94 U. S. 164; 24 L. ed. 97.
52 166 U. S. 685; 17 Sup. Ct. Rep. 718; 41 L. ed. 1165.
53 "Into all contracts, whether made between States and individuals or between individuals only, there enter conditions which arise, not out of the literal terms of the contract itself; they are superinduced by the preexisting and higher authority of the laws of nature, or nations, or of the community to which the parties belong; they are always presumed, and must be presumed, to be known and recognized by all, are binding upon all, and need never therefore be carried into express stipulation, for this could add nothing to their force. Every contract is made in subordination to them, and must yield to their control, as conditions inherent and paramount, wherever a necessity for their execution shall occur. Such a condition is the right of eminent domain. This right does not operate to impair the contract effected by it, but recognizes its obligation in the fullest extent, claiming only the fulfilment of an essential and inseparable condition. ... A distinction has been attempted, in argument, between the power of a government to appropriate for public uses property which is corporeal, or may be said to be in being, and the like power in the government to resume or extinguish a fran-The distinction, thus attempted, we regard as a refinement which has no foundation in reason, and one that, in truth, avoids the true legal or constitutional question in these causes; namely, that of the right of private persons, in the use or enjoyment of their private property, to control, and actually to prohibit the power and duty of the government to advance and protect the general good. We are aware of nothing peculiar to a franchise which can class it higher, or render it more sacred, than other property."