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VINSON, C. J., dissenting.

343 U.S.

"The only way that I know of, other than Government operation, by which a steel shut-down could have been avoided was to grant the demands of the steel industry for a large price increase. I believed and the officials in charge of our stabilization agencies believed that this would have wrecked our stabilization program. I was unwilling to accept the incalculable damage which might be done to our country by following such a course.

"Accordingly, it was my judgment that Government operation of the steel mills for a temporary period was the least undesirable of the courses of action which lay open. In the circumstances, I believed it to be, and now believe it to be, my duty and within my powers as President to follow that course of action.

"It may be that the Congress will deem some other course to be wiser. It may be that the Congress will feel we should give in to the demands of the steel industry for an exorbitant price increase and take the consequences so far as resulting inflation is concerned.

"It may be that the Congress will feel the Government should try to force the steel workers to continue to work for the steel companies for another long period, without a contract, even though the steel workers have already voluntarily remained at work without a contract for 100 days in an effort to reach an orderly settlement of their differences with management.

"It may even be that the Congress will feel that we should permit a shut-down of the steel industry, although that would immediately endanger the safety of our fighting forces abroad and weaken the whole structure of our national security.


VINSON, C. J., dissenting.

"I do not believe the Congress will favor any of these courses of action, but that is a matter for the Congress to determine.

"It may be, on the other hand, that the Congress will wish to pass legislation establishing specific terms and conditions with reference to the operation of the steel mills by the Government. Sound legislation of this character might be very desirable.

“On the basis of the facts that are known to me at this time, I do not believe that immediate congressional action is essential; but I would, of course, be glad to cooperate in developing any legislative proposals which the Congress may wish to consider.

"If the Congress does not deem it necessary to act at this time, I shall continue to do all that is within my power to keep the steel industry operating and at the same time make every effort to bring about a settlement of the dispute so the mills can be re

turned to their private owners as soon as possible.' Twelve days passed without action by Congress. On April 21, 1952, the President sent a letter to the President of the Senate in which he again described the purpose and need for his action and again stated his position that “The Congress can, if it wishes, reject the course of action I have followed in this matter." 24 Congress has not so acted to this date.

Meanwhile, plaintiffs instituted this action in the District Court to compel defendant to return possession of the steel mills seized under Executive Order 10340. In this litigation for return of plaintiffs' properties, we assume that defendant Charles Sawyer is not immune from judicial restraint and that plaintiffs are entitled to equitable relief if we find that the Executive Order


23 Cong. Rec., April 9, 1952, pp. 3962–3963. 24 Cong. Rec., April 21, 1952, p. 4192.

994084 ()-52-47

VINSON, C. J., dissenting.

343 U.S.

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under which defendant acts is unconstitutional. We also assume without deciding that the courts may go behind a President's finding of fact that an emergency exists. But there is not the slightest basis for suggesting that the President's finding in this case can be undermined. Plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction before answer or hearing. Defendant opposed the motion, filing uncontroverted affidavits of Government officials describing the facts underlying the President's order.

Secretary of Defense Lovett swore that "a work stoppage in the steel industry will result immediately in serious curtailment of production of essential weapons and munitions of all kinds." He illustrated by showing that 84% of the national production of certain alloy steel is currently used for production of military-end items and that 35% of total production of another form of steel goes into ammunition, 80% of such ammunition now going to Korea. The Secretary of Defense stated that: “We are holding the line [in Korea] with ammunition and not with the lives of our troops.”

Affidavits of the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, the Secretary of the Interior, defendant as Secretary of Commerce, and the Administrators of the Defense Production Administration, the National Production Authority, the General Services Administration and the Defense Transport Administration were also filed in the District Court. These affidavits disclose an enormous demand for steel in such vital defense programs as the expansion of facilities in atomic energy, petroleum, power, transportation and industrial production, including steel production. Those charged with administering allocations and priorities swore to the vital part steel production plays in our economy. The affidavits emphasize the critical need for steel in our defense program,


VINSON, C. J., dissenting.

19 25 the

the absence of appreciable inventories of steel, and the drastic results of any interruption in steel production.

One is not here called upon even to consider the possibility of executive seizure of a farm, a corner grocery store or even a single industrial plant. Such considerations arise only when one ignores the central fact of this case that the Nation's entire basic steel production would have shut down completely if there had been no Government seizure. Even ignoring for the moment whatever confidential information the President may possess as "the Nation's organ for foreign affairs," uncontroverted affidavits in this record amply support the finding that "a work stoppage would immediately jeopardize and imperil our national defense."

Plaintiffs do not remotely suggest any basis for rejecting the President's finding that any stoppage of steel production would immediately place the Nation in peril. Moreover, even self-generated doubts that any stoppage of steel production constitutes an emergency are of little comfort here. The Union and the plaintiffs bargained for 6 months with over 100 issues in dispute-issues not limited to wage demands but including the union shop and other matters of principle between the parties. At the time of seizure there was not, and there is not now, the slightest evidence to justify the belief that any strike will be of short duration. The Union and the steel companies may well engage in a lengthy struggle. Plaintiffs' counsel tells us that "sooner or later” the mills will operate again. That may satisfy the steel companies and, perhaps, the Union. But our soldiers and our allies will hardly be cheered with the assurance that the ammunition upon which their lives depend will be forthcoming—"sooner or later,” or, in other words, "too little and too ate."

25 Chicago & Southern Air Lines v. Waterman S. S. Corp., 333 U. S. 103, 111 (1948), and cases cited.

VINSON, C. J., dissenting.

343 U.S.

Accordingly, if the President has any power under the Constitution to meet a critical situation in the absence of express statutory authorization, there is no basis whatever for criticizing the exercise of such power in this case.


The steel mills were seized for a public use. The power of eminent domain, invoked in this case, is an essential attribute of sovereignty and has long been recognized as a power of the Federal Government. Kohl v. United States, 91 U. S. 367 (1876). Plaintiffs cannot complain that any provision in the Constitution prohibits the exercise of the power of eminent domain in this case. The Fifth Amendment provides: "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” It is no bar to this seizure for, if the taking is not otherwise unlawful, plaintiffs are assured of receiving the required just compensation. United States v. Pewee Coal Co., 341 U. S. 114 (1951).

Admitting that the Government could seize the mills, plaintiffs claim that the implied power of eminent domain can be exercised only under an Act of Congress; under no circumstances, they say, can that power be exercised by the President unless he can point to an express provision in enabling legislation. This was the view adopted by the District Judge when he granted the preliminary injunction. Without an answer, without hearing evidence, he determined the issue on the basis of his "fixed conclusion ... that defendant's acts are illegal” because the President's only course in the face of an emergency is to present the matter to Congress and await the final passage of legislation which will enable the Government to cope with threatened disaster.

Under this view, the President is left powerless at the very moment when the need for action may be most pressing and when no one, other than he, is immediately

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