We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution, Level 3
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Lesson 14 Court Cases

Barron v. Baltimore (1833)
Facts of the Case:
John Barron was co-owner of a profitable wharf in the harbor of Baltimore. As the city developed and expanded, large amounts of sand accumulated in the harbor, making the water too shallow for large boats to dock at the wharf. He sued the city to recover a portion of his financial losses.

Question:
Does the Fifth Amendment deny the states as well as the national government the right to take private property for public use without justly compensating the property's owner?

Conclusion:
No. The Court announced its decision in this case without even hearing the arguments of the City of Baltimore. Writing for the unanimous Court, Chief Justice Marshall found that the limitations on government articulated in the Fifth Amendment were specifically intended to limit the powers of the national government. Citing the intent of the framers and the development of the Bill of Rights as an exclusive check on the government in Washington D.C., Marshall argued that the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction in this case since the Fifth Amendment was not applicable to the states.

Citation
The Oyez Project, Barron v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, 32 U.S. 243 (1833) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/1792-1850/1833/1833_0)

Lesson 14      What Was the Federalist Position in the Debate about Ratification?
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