If you’re facing the loss of your property through eminent domain, you may feel that it is very unfair. Hasn’t the United States always been a country that valued personal property? Isn’t that one of the founding principles? Does that mean that eminent domain is just a relatively new way for the government to trample on the rights of the people?
While feeling that it is unfair is justified, you may be surprised to learn exactly when eminent domain began. It is by no means a new process.
The beginning of the trend
Historical documents show that eminent domain was first examined back in 1876, not long after the Civil War. The government wanted to build a post office in Ohio and used eminent domain to do it. Another early case involved taking land from a railroad company to preserve the historic Gettysburg Civil War battlefield.
Granted, these things were seen as controversial even at the time. Much of this stems from the fact that the Fifth Amendment says “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
The key there, however, is that the government has to provide compensation. In this sense, the right to eminent domain was established in the Fifth Amendment. As long as the government agrees to pay the standing market price, they have always been able to take private land when needed for public projects.
That does not mean that you can’t fight it, though, or that the compensation being offered is necessarily just. It’s very important to carefully consider all of the legal options you have at a time like this.