Barron v. Baltimore, 7 Peters (32 U.S.) 243; 8 L. Ed. 672 (1833)

Barron v. Baltimore, 7 Peters (32 U.S.) 243; 8 L. Ed. 672 (1833)

Facts—The city of Baltimore in paving its streets diverted several streams from their natural course, with the result that they made deposits of sand and gravel near Barron’s Wharf, which rendered the water shallow and prevented the approach of vessels, rendering the wharf practically useless. Barron alleged that the city’s action violated the clause in the Fifth Amendment that forbids taking private property for public use without just compensation. He contended that this amendment, being a guarantee of individual liberty, ought to restrain the states, as well as the national government.

Question—Does the Fifth Amendment restrain the states as well as the national government?

Decision—No, the provisions of the Bill of Rights, of which the Fifth Amendment is a part, are designed to limit the national government rather than the state governments.

ReasonsC.J. Marshall (7–0). The people of the United States established the Constitution for their own government, not for the government of the individual states. The powers they conferred on that government were to be exercised by that government. Likewise, the limitations on that power, if expressed in general terms, are necessarily applicable only to that government. The Fifth Amendment contains certain restrictions obviously restraining the exercise of power by the federal government. Since the Constitution is a document framed for the government of all, it does not pertain to the states unless directly mentioned.

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