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of the owner; the acquisition of prescriptive rights in property by the public, or by corporations authorized to hold property for quasi-public uses ; and the general subject of assessment of benefits for local improvements. An adherence to the definition of Eminent Domain as the power to condemn private property for public use, called for the elimination of the consideration of rights obtained by dedication and prescription. The assessment of benefits for local improvements is certainly to be referred to the power of taxation, in all cases where no land is taken from the owner upon whom the benefit is assessed. But whenever the benefit is deducted from the compensation for land or materials taken, or whenever the benefit is considered in arriving at the “just compensation” secured to the subject, when his property is taken by the public, then the benefit has been treated of in this work.
The history of the exercise of the power of Eminent Domain in the United States is the history of the material development of the country. The great bulk of the cases have appeared within the last forty years. Prior to that time, the opening of highways and the erection of mills gave rise to an occasional discussion of this branch of the law. The era of railroad and canal-building has thronged the courts with cases; and the magnitude of the interests involved has demanded and secured for them the attention of counsel of great ability, as well as the careful consideration of the most learned judges on the bench. Later legislation, and constitutional enactments, have somewhat simplified the law and settled doubtful questions; but, notwithstanding this assistance, the law, as declared by the courts, is far from being uniform or symmetrical. It is hoped that this treatise will give the profession a more complete view of the law of the subject than has hitherto been attainable, and that the systematization of the law and the definition of its boundaries will thereby be furthered.
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