Bradshaw v. Rogers & Magee, 1822

20 Johns. 103 (New York Supreme Court of Judicature, 1822)
20 Johns. 735 (New York Court for the Correction of Errors, 1823)

Canal Law — “Taking” of Private Property

In The Founder’s Constitution, an anthology of writings (letters, records of debates and early cases) relating to the Federal Constitution, Chief Judge Spencer’s opinion in Bradshaw v. Rogers & Magee is included as Document 22 of the materials underlying the Fifth Amendment (Due Process and Taking).

John Bradshaw, the owner of land on the west side of the Waterford and Whitehall Turnpike, brought an action in trespass against Nicholas Rogers and John Magee, who had gone on his land and cut down many trees. Rogers and Magee admitted that they had cut the trees but stated that they had done so pursuant to a contract with the Canal Commission. Because part of the turnpike had been taken for canal construction, the State Engineer had approved plans for a new road through Bradshaw’s land to replace that part of the turnpike. The trial court held in favor of Rogers and Magee, and Bradshaw appealed to the New York Supreme Court of Judicature.

The Supreme Court reversed the ruling, in an opinion written by Chief Justice Ambrose Spencer. The Court determined that because Bradshaw’s land had not been entered for the purpose of canal construction, it did not come within the scope of L. 1817, ch 262. Furthermore, because the turnpike was not a public road, it did not fall within the provisions of L. 1820, ch 102 that allowed alteration of public roads and highways in furtherance of the canal project. Rogers and Magee appealed to the Court for the Correction of Errors where they were represented by attorneys Samuel Young and Harmanus Bleecker. Bradshaw was represented by Abraham Van Vechten.

In an opinion written by Chancellor James Kent, the Court for the Correction of Errors held that L. 1820, ch 102 authorized the Canal Commissioners to discontinue or alter any part of a public road or highway when it interfered with the proper location of the canal. The statute applied to a turnpike because in the popular and ordinary sense, it was “a public road or highway.” Neither the State Constitution nor the Canal Act of 1817 made appraisal and payment a condition precedent to the appropriation of necessary lands but, under the State Constitution, the appropriation of the land obliged the State to make just compensation for the private property taken.

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