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Barron v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore

    Brief Fact Summary. Barron (Plaintiff) claimed that municipal street construction diverted the flow of streams so that they deposited silt in front of his wharf making the water so shallow that vessels could not reach the wharf.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The Bill of Rights, including the Fifth Amendment takings clause, was intended to apply only to federal courts, not to state courts.

    Facts. Plaintiff sued for the property damage done by the municipal street construction on his wharf, and received a $45,000.00 verdict by the county court. The circuit court reversed. Plaintiff appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States. Plaintiff contended that the state court had failed to grant his property the protection guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution which prohibits taking property for public use without just compensation.

    Issue. Does the Fifth Amendment apply to the legislative power of a state as well as that of the United States.

    Held. Justice Marshall opinion. No.
    The Constitution was established by the people of the United States for themselves, for their own government and not for the government of the individual stats. Each state has a constitution for itself and in that constitution it provides limits and restrictions on the powers of its particular government.
    The people could have required changes in their constitutions such as requiring additional safeguards to liberty from state encroachment. The remedy was in their hands. The Constitution was formed to protect encroachments of the general government.

    Discussion. The Bill of Rights (Amendments 1-10) adopted in 1791 imposed a substantial series of protections for the individuals against government. Almost 80 years later the Civil War Amendments (13, 14, and 15) specifically imposed retrains on the power of states to regulate the personal and property interests of their citizens.


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