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Special Message

March 25, 1808

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:

In proceeding to carry into execution the act for fortifying our forts and harbors it is found that the sites most advantageous for their defense, and sometimes the only sites competent to that defense, are in some cases the property of minors incapable of giving a valid consent to their alienation; in others belong to persons who may refuse altogether to alienate, or demand a compensation far beyond the liberal justice allowable in such cases. From these causes the defense of our seaboard, so necessary to be pressed during the present season, will in various parts be defeated unless a remedy can be applied. With a view to this I submit the case to the consideration of Congress, who, estimating its importance and reviewing the powers vested in them by the Constitution, combined with the amendment providing that private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation, will decide on the course most proper to be pursued.

I am aware that as the consent of the legislature of the State to the purchase of the site may not in some instances have been previously obtained, exclusive legislation can not be exercised therein by Congress until that consent is given. But in the meantime it will be held under the same laws which protect the property of individuals and other property of the United States in the same State, and the legislatures at their next meetings will have opportunities of doing what will be so evidently called for by the particular interest of their own State.


Thomas Jefferson, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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