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of Congress. The Congress forces the exercise of the power of eminent domain.
Congress itself can take for public use not only privately owned land or privately owned personal property. Eminent domain covers personal property of every kind and description. Judge Patterson is wrong in thinking that it refers only to real estate.
That is not so. So we have here in the very beginning a bill which authorizes the President to requisition all types of property, real and personal, wherever it is situated; and also asks authority of this Congress to give the President the right to delegate the exercise of that to others. And in that event, of course, the power would be executed by his nominees—War Department employees, lawyers, and captains, and generals, and in the Navy the same thing-admirals, law clerks, and so forth.
So it is a very serious thing here that we are concerned with.
Now, to begin with, it is the fifth amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which protects every citizen in regard to his property. First it says:
No person shall be deprived of his property without due process of law.
The laws are those made by Congress that are in force and effect. If compliance is made with those laws, that would be due process. If noncompliance, it is not due process.
Now, the fifth amendment in the same paragraph says this:
There is a guaranty that the citizen has by the fifth amendment, and no power on earth, no branch of this Government, can interfere with its operation; and of course Congress in all of its acts gives due regard to that.
We have the general Federal condemnation law in this country, enacted on August 1, 1888, which is quoted here in this memorandum brief.
That says in every case that where land is authorized by Congress to be taken for public use, proceedings in condemnation shall be instituted in the proper court in the manner provided by that act.
This bill disposes of that. The acts of Congress passed in 1917 and 1918 disposed of those things. And the reason for that is because some law clerk in the Navy Department by the name of W. H. Martin conceived the idea and so expressed in the act of March 4, 1917, that the President may take property, real or personal; and, when done, he or his nominees shall determine the just compensation.
That means a lot of trouble for property owners to go and collect their muniments of title, their evidence of title, plus lawyers, and be called somewhere at some time in this country to appear before a board of the Navy Department or the War Department.
Such board will be composed-I am speaking of the Navy-of a lawyer, of a captain, and of a private citizen. They would sit in some courtroom as though they were a court--and I speak from experience—and attempt to impart the oath of office to all the witnesses coming before them.
Testimony is taken, written down, transcribed, and then in about a year or 2 years that board determines the reasonable value of the property as of 2 or 3 years before.
A report of that is made to the owner; and he in the event of his refusal to accept the judgment of the board or the President, if you please, elects to receive 75 percent of the amount so determined, and then he with his lawyer goes to the Court of Claims or the proper district court and sues for such additional sum as added to the amount heretofore paid would make up just compensation.
Now, that takes 7 or 8 or 10 years to do that very thing, and during the interim, Senator, interest on the value of the property is piling up at 6 percent per annum from the date of the supposed taking.
So in the event of the taking of $100,000,000 worth of property by such proceeding, it would cost this Government $200,000,000 in interest as a part of the just compensation.
I will give the specific items if you want to know them.
The CHAIRMAN. As I understand, you have a brief there. You are going to leave that with us?
Mr. FLETCHER. Yes; I will.
The CHAIRMAN. Then it is not necessary to repeat it. We have another meeting at 12:30, so I assume that we will have to go soon. I don't want to shut you off.
Mr. FLETCHER. I am willing to be shut off, because I have expressed what I wanted to say to you.
The CHAIRMAN. I thought perhaps you had, if you are going to leave that with us.
Mr. FLETCHER. Yes; I will.
You will find in there, Senators, that there is a provision there on requisition.
Now, the word “requisition” means “request" or "demand.”
Gentlemen, you do not find in that bill a single word of purchase or lease or acquiring by contract. It is not there. Simply the word "requisition."
The private owner or the owner of private property is not given an opportunity to make a contract or a lease or anything. You don't give the agents of this Government an opportunity to first purchase or first lease. It is not there.
They simply want the word "requisition” and the word"requisition" means merely a request or a demand. That is all it meansdemnation. A requisition is always used in regard to personal property; never in regard to real estate.
Šo I think that is the substance of what I have to say.
The CHAIRMAN. Before the committee adjourns, I want to ask the reporter to embody in the record section 902, paragraphs (a) and (b), in Public, No. 835, Seventy-fourth Congress, H. R. 8555, approved June 20, 1936.
SEC. 902. (a) It shall be lawful for the Commission to requisition any vessel documented under the laws of the United States, during any national emergency declared by proclamation of the President, and when so taken or used, the owner shall be paid the fair actual value of the vessel at the time of taking, or paid the just compensation for the vessel's use based upon such fair actual value (excluding any national defense features previously paid for by the United States), less a deduction from such fair actual value of any construction differential subsidy allowed under this Act, and in no case shall such fair actual value be enhanced by the causes necessitating the taking. In the case of a vessel taken and used, but not purchased, the vessel shall be restored to the owner in a condition at least as good as when taken, less reasonable wear and tear, or the owner shall be paid an amount for reconditioning sufficient to place the vessel in such condition. The owner shall not be paid for any consequential damages arising from such taking or use:
(b) Except in cases of vessels where a construction differential subsidy has been allowed and paid, in which case the value of the vessel for the purposes of this section shall be established as provided in section 802, the Commission shall ascertain the fair compensation for such taking or use and shall certify to Congress the amount so found by it to be due for appropriation and payment to the person entitled thereto. If the amount found by the Commission to be due is unsatisfactory to the person entitled thereto, such person shall be entitled to sue the United States for the amount of such just compensation and such suit shall be brought in the manner prescribed by paragraph 20 of section 24, or by section 145 of the Judicial Code, as amended (U. S. C., title 28, secs. 41, 250).
The CHAIRMAN. We will meet tomorrow morning at 10 o'clock.
(Whereupon, at 12:10 p. m., the committee adjourned until the next day, Tuesday, June 24, 1941, at 10 a. m.)
[On account of death of Senator Pat Harrison, the next hearing was held on June 30, 1941:)
REQUISITION OF PROPERTY BY THE UNITED STATES
MONDAY, JUNE 30, 1941
UNITED STATES SENATE,
Washington, D. C. The committee met, pursuant to adjournment, at 9 a. m., in room 104-B, Senate Office Building, Senator Robert R. Reynolds (chairman) presiding.
Present: Senators Reynolds, Schwartz, Hill, Downey, Kilgore, Bridges, Gurney, and Thomas of Idaho.
The CHAIRMAN. The committee will come to order, please. Mr. Hart, we will be glad to hear you.
STATEMENT OF MERWIN K. HART, PRESIDENT OF THE NEW YORK
STATE ECONOMIC COUNCIL
Mr. HART. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Hart, due to the fact that only Senator Downey and I are here at the present time, we do not want to put you to the trouble of reading that whole statement. We can just embody it in the record. What do you think about that?
Mr. Hart. That is satisfactory to me.
Senator DOWNEY. Before that is done, Mr. Chairman, could I ask Mr. Hart something about the nature of the State Economic Council of New York?
The CHAIRMAN. Certainly.
Mr. HART. The New York State Economic Council is an organization that was formed 11 years ago with two objectives: One, to try to keep the cost of the Government-Federal, State, and local within reason, and the other, to preserve private enterprise.
Those really sum up its objectives, and it is because of those objectives that we are opposed to this bill even in its present form.
We think the present form is a great improvement over the original form, but we think that even as it is, too much authority is delegated to the Executive.
It seems to us that the method followed in the last war when, I believe, the President said that 17 different bills were passed, giving authority to the Executive, should be followed here. We do not see why not.
That would subject each request to the scrutiny of this committee at least. There might or might not be need of public hearings, but at least it would look after not only the interest of the Executive,