Thomas, J., dissenting
tion. This would contradict a bedrock principle well established by the time of the founding: that all takings required the payment of compensation. 1 Blackstone 135; 2 J. Kent, Commentaries on American Law 275 (1827) (hereinafter Kent); For the National Gazette, Property (Mar. 27, 1792), in 14 Papers of James Madison 266, 267 (R. Rutland et al. eds. 1983) (arguing that no property “shall be taken directly even for public use without indemniﬁcation to the owner”). The Public Use Clause, like the Just Compensation Clause, is therefore an express limit on the government’s power of eminent domain.
The most natural reading of the Clause is that it allows the government to take property only if the government owns, or the public has a legal right to use, the property, as opposed to taking it for any public purpose or necessity whatsoever. At the time of the founding, dictionaries primarily deﬁned the noun “use” as “[t]he act of employing any thing to any purpose.” 2 S. Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language 2194 (4th ed. 1773) (hereinafter Johnson). The term “use,” moreover, “is from the Latin utor, which means ‘to use, make use of, avail one’s self of, employ, apply, enjoy, etc.” J. Lewis, Law of Eminent Domain §165, p. 224, n. 4 (1888) (hereinafter Lewis). When the government takes property and gives it to a private individual, and the public has no right to use the property, it strains language to say that the public is “employing” the property, regardless of the incidental beneﬁts that might accrue to the public from the private use. The term “public use,” then, means that either the government or its citizens as a whole must actu-
- Some state constitutions at the time of the founding lacked just compensation clauses and took property even without providing compensation. See Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 505 U. S. 1003, 1056–1057 (1992) (Blackmun, J., dissenting). The Framers of the Fifth Amendment apparently disagreed, for they expressly prohibited uncompensated takings, and the Fifth Amendment was not incorporated against the States until much later. See id., at 1028, n. 15.