• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court expanded eminent domain to prevail over contracts the state made with private parties and further established that police power cannot be contracted away.

The state of Vermont had signed a one-hundred-year contract with the West River Bridge Company but later decided to build a free road over the toll bridge. Although the state paid the bridge company for its property and franchise, the bridge company hired the famed Daniel WebsterWebster, Daniel to represent it, maintaining that the state’s action violated the contracts clause. By a 7-1 vote, the Supreme Court ruled against the bridge company. In the opinion for the Court, Peter V. DanielDaniel, Peter V.;West River Bridge Co. v. Dix[West River Bridge Co. v. Dix] wrote that the state could not contract away its basic police power and that eminent domain prevailed over Vermont’s earlier contract. Justice James M. Wayne dissented, and Justice John McKinley did not participate.Contracts clause;West River Bridge Co. v. Dix[West River Bridge Co. v. Dix]

Contract, freedom of

Contracts clause

Police powers

Takings clause

Categories: History