TOPICS OF THE TIMES.
Coercion Can Be Applied.
A decidedly curious situation has been created and a delicate legal question is raised by an inquiry recently addressed to the Attorney General of Connecticut by the Park Commission of the State. What the Commissioners wanted to know was whether they could condemn and take over under their power of eminent domain the house and grounds in Hartford where MARK TWAIN lived and turn the estate into a permanent memorial of the dead writer.
It seems that the present owners of the property demand for it a price which the members of the Mark Twain Memorial Association consider unreasonably high, and this is evidently the belief, too, of The Hartford Courant, for that paper characterizes those owners in severe terms for the little regard they have shown for the carrying out of a plan the execution of which would be a cause of keen satisfaction all over the country.
As evidently, the Attorney General is in sympathy with the purposes of those who are trying to preserve in its present condition a place with which are linked so many fine associations and to prevent the erection on the land of a group of big apartment houses. In a long opinion, supported by many citations of decisions rendered in cases which he declares relevant, the Attorney General declares that the Park Commission's power to take property is unquestionable, but he advises that the Memorial Association have in hand, before the condemnation proceedings begin, enough money to pay whatever the Park Commission may decide to be a reasonable price for the house and the seven acres of ground in which it stands.
These Are "Public" Purposes.
There is no doubt, of course, as to the power of a State or municipal board to take at an appraised value land for a park the need for which has been duly recognized. The question at issue is whether or not the commemoration of a literary man's memory is a "public purpose" in the legal meaning of that phrase.
There are intentions, the Attorney General holds, that bring the project well within the domain where the right of eminent domain can be exercised with propriety. "This recreation place," he writes, "will not only benefit the general welfare of our people, but it well be the Mecca for people from every country in the world." That is an exaggeration so slight as to be permissible, the part of the world not interested in MARK TWAIN and his work not having much right to be considered in such a matter.
The thing to do now is to raise the money with which to pay the price the owners of the Mark Twain home ought to get, as distinguished from the price they want to get. The Hartford Courant is ready to accept contributions, large or small, and take care of them.
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