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Washington Aqueduct, City of Washington, Montgomery Meigs, Condemnation, Army Corps of Engineers, Montgomery County, The Potomac River, John S. Tyson


Prior to 1875, the standard federal takings procedure had been for state governments to condemn property on behalf of the federal government. As a result, the majority of interpretative work in the early history of eminent domain jurisprudence was undertaken by state courts. In 1853, the Maryland General Assembly granted the United States Government the power to condemn land in Maryland for an aqueduct across the Potomac to supply water to two District cities. In Reddall v. Bryan, the Maryland Court of Appeals upheld the aqueduct supplying the city of Washington with water as a public use. The Court reasoned that any constitutional use by the United States was a public use of every part of the United States—and therefore in each one of the states. Securing an adequate water supply for the Capital of the Government of the United States was in the public interest, particularly at a time when public records were vulnerable to the threat of fire. States continued to condemn land for federal projects, even as the joint takings scheme became complicated, and was no more convenient than a direct federal taking, as the case of Reddall v. Bryan demonstrates. The Federal government did not assert its power of eminent domain in its own name in its own courts until 1875.


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