Great Falls Mfg. Co. v. Attorney General
Annotate this Case
124 U.S. 581 (1888)
U.S. Supreme Court
Great Falls Mfg. Co. v. Attorney General, 124 U.S. 581 (1888)
Great Falls Manufacturing Company v. Attorney General
Submitted December 19, 1887
Decided February 6, 1888
124 U.S. 581
An arbitration was had in 1863 between the Great Falls Manufacturing Company and the Secretary of the Interior -- on behalf of the United States -- in regard to the amount of compensation to be paid to the company for its land, water rights, and other property to be taken for the Washington Aqueduct. The arbitrators reported four alternative plans for the construction of the proposed work, and decided that if Plan 4 should be adopted, involving only a dam from the Maryland shore to Conn's Island, the United States should pay as damages the sum of $10,692, but that if Plan 1 should be adopted, involving the construction of a dam from the Maryland shore across the Maryland channel and Conn's Island to the Virginia shore, the company should receive as damages the sum of $63,766, and should also have the right to build and maintain a dam and bulkhead across the land of the United States in Virginia, and to use the water, subject to the superior right of the United States to its use for the purposes of the aqueduct. The United States constructed the aqueduct, adopting substantially Plan 4. The company sued in the Court of Claims for compensation, and recovered a judgment for $15,692, which was affirmed here. 112 U. S. 112 U.S. 640. By an act of Congress passed in 1882 for increasing the water supply, provision was made for the acquisition of further property and further rights, and for the extension of the dam across Conn's Island to and upon the Virginia shore. This statute provided for a survey and for the making and filing of a map of the property to be taken and acquired under it, and also for notice of the filing to the parties interested, for appraisements of property taken, for awards of damages, and for payment of the awards
on receiving conveyances of the lands &c., taken. A right was also given to each owner dissatisfied with the award in this case to proceed for damages in the Court of Claims against the United States within one year from the publication of the notice. Under this act of 1882, a dam was constructed substantially in accordance with Plan 1, and other property and other rights of the Great Falls Company were taken in the construction, but no provision was made for a canal and bulkhead whereby the company could use the surplus water. On the last day of the year after the filing of the notice under the statute, the company filed its petition in the Court of Claims to recover damages for the taking of its property, and then filed this bill in the circuit court alleging that that petition had been filed from fear that the company might lose any benefit of the act by limitation, and to save its rights, and for no other purpose; that the survey and map were defective inasmuch as land had been taken from the company which was not included in them; that the notice of the filing of the map had not been given as required by the statute, but was materially defective, and that the act requiring the company to submit its rights to the judgment of the Court of Claims was unconstitutional in that, among other things, it made no provision for ascertaining the amount of compensation by a jury. For relief, the bill prayed that the structures commenced might be removed, or, if it should appear that the property had been legally condemned, that an issue be framed, triable by jury, to ascertain the amount of plaintiff's damage, and that judgment be given for the sum found. Defendant demurred and, the demurrer being sustained, the bill was dismissed.
(1) That the United States having adopted and executed Plan 4, neither party was bound by the award as to Plan 1, and as no reservation had been made by the act of 1882 as to the bulkhead or canal for the use of the surplus water, that the officers charged with the construction of the dam were not bound to concede such rights to the company, though the United States were bound to make compensation for whatever rights or property of the company were taken and appropriated to public use.
(2) That as the survey and map had been made in good faith and undoubtedly embraced most of the property taken, if it happened that any tract taken was not included in them, the proceedings were not invalidated by the omission, but the United States were bound to make compensation for the omitted tract as if it had been included in the map.
(3) That defects in the notice were waived by filing the petition in the Court of Claims.
(4) That the commencement of that proceeding was a waiver of any constitutional objection against the taking of the company's property or of the settlement of the amount of the damage therefor by the Court of Claims, but this was decided without intending to express a doubt as to the constitutionality of the act of 1882.
(5) That the purpose with which the plaintiff invoked the jurisdiction of the Court of Claims was immaterial.
The Court stated the case as follows:
Congress formed the purpose, many years ago, of supplying the Cities of Washington and Georgetown with water from the Potomac River at the Great Falls, in the State of Maryland. A controversy having arisen between the Secretary of the Interior, charged with the expenditure of public moneys appropriated for that purpose, and the Great Falls Manufacturing Company as to the compensation, if any, which the latter was entitled to receive for certain lands and water rights at or near the Great Falls, which that company claimed, and which the officers of the government proposed to take for public use, articles of agreement were signed by that company and the Secretary of the Interior on the twentieth of November, 1862, submitting the matters in dispute to the arbitrament of Benjamin R. Curtis, Joseph R. Swan, and others. The government exhibited to the arbitrators four alternative plans, with specifications, for what is called the Potomac dam of the Washington Aqueduct. The majority of the arbitrators awarded and determined, February 28, 1863, that
"If the United States shall adopt and decide to execute the plan of operations designated in the specification and on the plat as Dam A, being the first plan of operations mentioned in the said specification, then the Great Falls Manufacturing Company are legally entitled to the sum of sixty-three thousand seven hundred and sixty-six dollars ($63,766) as compensation for the use and occupation by the United States of the land, water rights, and privileges claimed by the said company, and all consequential damages to the property and rights of the said company which they may legally claim by reason of the execution by the United States of the plan of operations last above mentioned. But this assessment is based upon the condition that the said company, as against the United States, may lawfully build and maintain a canal and bulkhead across and upon the land of the United States on the Virginia shore
of the Potomac, since marked on the same plat numbered 4 as belonging to the United States, so as to use the water of the pool above the Dam A, subject to the superior right of the United States to use the water for the aqueduct in the manner and to the extent shown by the aforesaid specification of the said Dam A, and its corresponding plan of operations."
This plan involved the construction of a dam from the feeder of the aqueduct, thence across the Maryland channel and Conn's Island to the Virginia bank on land belonging to the United States. The arbitrators concurred in awarding and determining that
"If the United States shall adopt and decide to execute the plan of operations designated in the specification and on the plat as 'Plan 4th,' being the fourth plan of operations named in the said specification, then the said Great Falls Manufacturing Company are legally entitled to the sum of fifteen thousand six hundred and ninety-two dollars ($15,692) as compensation for the use and occupation by the United States of the land, water rights, and privileges claimed by the said company, and all consequential damages to the property and rights of the said company which they may legally claim by reason of the execution by the United States of the plan of operations last above mentioned."
The latter plan involved the construction or a dam of masonry from the Maryland shore to Conn's Island, and gave the United States the right to deepen the channels on the Maryland side of that island near its head.
In United States v. Great Falls Manufacturing Company, 112 U. S. 645, this Court affirmed a judgment of the Court of Claims for $15,692 as compensation and damages to that company by reason of the adoption and execution by the United States of Plan 4.
The present suit by the Great Falls Manufacturing Company relates to the construction of a dam across and from Conn's Island to the Virginia shore, for which provision was made by an Act of Congress approved July 15, 1882, 22 Stat. 168, c. 294, entitled "An act to increase the water supply of the City of Washington, and for other purposes." The act provides for
a survey and map of the land necessary to extend the Washington Aqueduct to the high ground north of Washington, near Sixth Street extended, and of the land necessary for a reservoir at that point. But it also contains the following provisions:
"The Secretary of War shall cause to be made . . . a like survey and map of the land necessary for a dam across the Potomac River at the Great Falls, including the land now occupied by the dam, and the land required for the extension of said dam across Conn's Island to and upon the Virginia shore, and when surveys and maps shall have been made, the Secretary of War and the Attorney General of the United States shall proceed to acquire to and for the United States the outstanding title, if any, to said land and water rights, and to the land on which the gatehouse at Great Falls stands by condemnation: . . . and provided further that if it shall be necessary to resort to condemnation, the proceeding shall be as follows: when the map and survey are completed, the Attorney General shall proceed to ascertain the owners or claimants of the premises embraced in the survey, and shall cause to be published, for the space of thirty days, in one or more of the daily newspapers published in the District of Columbia, a description of the entire tract or tracts of land embraced in the survey, with a notice that the same has been taken for the uses mentioned in this act, and notifying all claimants to any portion of said premises to file, within its period of publication, in the Department of Justice, a description of the tract or parcel claimed, and a statement of its value as estimated by the claimant. On application of the Attorney General, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia shall appoint three persons, not in the employ of the government or related to the claimants, to act as appraisers, whose duty it shall be, upon receiving from the Attorney General a description of any tract or parcel the ownership of which is claimed separately, to fairly and justly value the same and report such valuation to the Attorney General, who thereupon shall, upon being satisfied as to the title to the same, cause to be offered to the owner or owners the amount fixed by the
appraisers as the value thereof, and if the offer be accepted, then, upon the execution of a deed to the United States in form satisfactory to the Attorney General, the Secretary of War shall pay the amount to such owner or owners from the appropriation made therefor in this act."
"In making the valuation, the appraisers shall only consider the present value of the land, without reference to its value for the uses for which it is taken under the provisions of this act."
"The appraisers shall each receive for their services five dollars for each day's actual service in making the said appraisements."
"Any person or corporation having any estate or interest in any of the lands embraced in said survey and map who shall for any reason not have been tendered payment therefor as above provided, or who shall have declined to accept the amount tendered therefor, and any person who, by reason of the taking of said land or by the construction of the works hereinafter directed to be constructed, shall be directly injured in any property right, may at any time within one year from the publication of notice by the Attorney General as above provided, file a petition in the Court of Claims of the United States setting forth his right or title and the amount claimed by him as damages for the property taken or injury sustained, and the said court shall hear and adjudicate such claims in the same manner as other claims against the United States are now by law directed to be heard and adjudicated therein, provided that the court shall make such special rules in respect to such cases as shall secure their hearing and adjudication with the least possible delay."
"Judgments in favor of such claimants shall be paid as other judgments of said court are now directed to be paid, and any claimant to whom a tender shall have been made as hereinbefore authorized, and who shall have declined to accept the same, shall, unless he recover an amount greater than that so tendered, be taxed with the entire cost of the proceeding. All claims for value or damages on account of ownership of any interest in said premises or on account of injury to a property right by the construction of said works shall, unless
a petition for the recovery thereof be filed within one year from the date of the first publication of notice by the Attorney General as above directed, be forever barred, provided that owners or claimants laboring under any of the disabilities defined in the statute of limitations of the District of Columbia may file a petition at any time within one year from the removal of the disability."
"Upon the publication of the notice as above directed, the Secretary of War may take possession of the premises embraced in the survey and map and proceed with the constructions herein authorized and, upon payment being made therefor, or, without payment, upon the expiration of the times above limited without the filing of a petition, an absolute title to the premises shall vest in the United States."
"SEC. 2. That the Secretary of War be, and is hereby, authorized and directed to complete the dam at Great Falls to the level of one hundred and forty-eight feet above tide, and extend the same at that level across Conn's Island to the Virginia shore, and that he raise the embankment between the Potomac River and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal above the dam, so as to protect the canal from the increased flooding which the completion of the dam will cause in times of high water, or pay to the canal company, in full satisfaction for all such flooding, the amount hereinafter appropriated for that purpose."
"SEC. 3. That the following sum, or so much thereof as may be necessary, is hereby appropriated out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated: . . ."
"To pay for water rights and land necessary to extend the dam at Great Falls to the Virginia shore, forty-five thousand dollars."
"For work and material to complete the dam at Great Falls to the level of one hundred and forty-eight feet above tide, and extend the same to the Virginia shore, one hundred and forty-five thousand one hundred and fifty-one dollars. . . ."
"To protect the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal from increased flooding by reason of completing the dam at Great Falls, twelve thousand three hundred dollars. "
"To provide for the erection of suitable fish ways at the Great Falls of the Potomac and at the dam to be constructed under the provisions of this act, in accordance with plans and specifications to be prescribed by the United States Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries, fifty thousand dollars, or so much thereof as may be necessary."
The defendants are Augustus H. Garland, Attorney General of the United States: William C. Endicott, Secretary of War; Garrett J. Lydecker, Major of Engineers in the United States Army, having charge, under the Secretary of War, of the construction of the before-mentioned dam from Conn's Island to the Virginia shore, and George B. Chittenden and Samuel H. Chittenden, contractors with the Secretary of War for said work.
The plaintiff in its bill alleges that it is the owner in fee of Conn's Island; of other tracts of land in the Potomac River above that island, being the several islands known as the "Cyclades;" of a tract about 1,000 acres in Virginia on that river at the Great Falls known as the "Toulson Tract;" and of all the easements, rights of water, use, navigation, privileges, and fisheries appertaining to those several tracts or bodies of land. The value placed by the plaintiff upon said water rights is shown by the allegation that the water at the Great Falls,
"being of great purity, and 148 feet above the mean tide at Washington City, forms the best, most convenient, and almost the only supply of pure water for the capital of the United States which will flow by its own weight, and without the cost of pumping, into the highest habitations of said District, thus furnishing an unlimited supply of water for domestic use and extinguishment of fires."
The bill recites the facts connected with the award of February 28, 1863, and, after stating the circumstances under which it recovered said judgment against the United States in the Court of Claims, refers to the provisions of the Act of July 15, 1882. It alleges that the Secretary caused to be made a survey and map, but that they were not sufficiently accurate to be the foundation of proceedings for the condemnation of plaintiff's land and water rights to the public use. Referring to the notice of such survey
and map as published by the Attorney General, it alleges that the only claim made by that officer as to said land and water rights was the following contained in such notice:
"In addition to acquiring to and for the United States any outstanding title to these lands at the Great Falls, it is also proposed to acquire all water rights implied in the possession of the same or needed for purposes contemplated by the act under which these proceedings are taken. The map of the surveys (in these tracings) required for the uses enumerated in the above-named act of 1882, c. 294, may be seen at this department by all claimants to any portion of said premises."
The lands above referred to are thus described in the same notice:
"1st. For extending the dam to and upon the Virginia shore, it is proposed to take and acquire title to a strip about 918 feet wide, crossing Conn's Island and the Virginia channel and connecting the United States property on Fall's Island and Hard-to-come-at, with the United States property on the Virginia shore. This will extend the present limits of the United States property on the Virginia shore to the south by taking in a triangular lot containing about 8-10 acres."
"This tract is colored in yellow on tracing C."
The bill charges that
"although no notice of any taking has been given in the manner prescribed by law, and although no act has been done which would justify him in so doing, the Secretary of War, in the year 1883, by his servants and agents, wrongfully took possession of the lands of your complainant, claiming to have done so in behalf of the United States, in the State of Maryland and in Virginia, which land was not within any description made, surveyed, or traced by the Secretary of War, and has used said land for the purpose of constructing a dam along a portion of said land across Conn's Island, and over said river to the Virginia shore, and has built a large portion of said dam by means of his said servants and agents without making any bulkhead in said dam, or any provision whatever by which your complainant can use any portion of the water for manufacturing or other valuable purposes, as was awarded by the arbitrators in their award as aforesaid in favor of your
complainants, the dam to be constructed after the manner of plan A. And your complainant is informed and believes, and therefore avers, that the War Department of the United States has occupied said land with a force sufficient to prevent any opposition of your complainant to its acts and doings or the acts and doings of its servants, agents, and employees without a breach of the peace of the State of Maryland."
It is also averred in the bill that the plaintiff waited, after several applications by it, both verbally and in writing to the Attorney General and Secretary of War until the last day before the year limited by said act in which claims might be filed in the Court of Claims for damages, expecting that steps would be taken by which its land and water rights might be legally taken by the United States in such form that it could obtain reasonable compensation for such property, and that nothing being done, from great caution and fear lest it might lose all benefit of any provision of said act by limitation, it then filed a petition in that court setting forth its claim in order to save its rights, and for no other purpose whatever. But it protests that what the Secretary of War and the Attorney General did are simple trespasses and wrongs done to the plaintiff, and that for the want of legal steps on their part, for the condemnation of its property, the Court of Claims is without jurisdiction to ascertain and a ward compensation to it. The bill concludes with the averment that even if the provisions of the act of Congress had been strictly followed, the steps taken by the Secretary of War and the Attorney General would not be justified in law, because the act under which they claimed to proceed is unconstitutional and void. The grounds upon which its validity is assailed will be hereafter indicated. The relief asked is a decree restraining defendants, and each of them, from further occupying the plaintiff's lands and premises or from building any structure thereon or in any way hindering or interfering with the natural flow of the water between Conn's Island and the Virginia shore; that the defendants, and each of them, be required to remove and cause to be removed every structure, dam, and embankment heretofore
erected by them or by any officer of the United States acting in their behalf in the premises; that if it shall appear that its land and water rights have been legally condemned to the use of the United States, an issue be framed, triable by a jury, for the ascertainment of the compensation due the plaintiff, and that it have judgment for the amount so found in its favor, and that all persons, claiming to act for or on behalf of the United States be restrained from occupying or in any way interfering with said land and water rights until the amount of such judgment be paid or tendered to plaintiff or paid into court for its use. In the court below, a demurrer to the bill was sustained, and the plaintiff declining to amend, its suit was dismissed with costs. Great Falls Manufacturing Co. v. Garland, 25 F. 521.
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