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United States v. Lee


UNITED STATES V. LEE, 106 U.S. 196 (1882). In 1857, upon the death of George Washington Parke Custis, his Arlington House estate passed to his daughter, Mary Lee, wife of Robert E. Lee, for the term of her lifetime. The property was then to pass to Custis's eldest grandson, Mary's son George Washington Custis Lee.

During the Civil War the estate was seized by agents of the U.S. government for delinquent taxes, offered for sale, and, despite bids from friends of the Lee family, purchased by an army officer, who converted it into a national cemetery and military post. After Mrs. Lee's death, her son brought a court action to eject the superintendent of Arlington Cemetery on the grounds that he was trespassing. The United States pleaded the immunity of a sovereign, but in the 1882 case, the Supreme Court held that the doctrine of immunity did not extend to the misuse of authority by agents of the government. Eventually the matter was settled when the government paid for ownership of the property.


Beth, Loren P. The Development of the American Constitution, 1877–1917. New York: Harper and Row, 1971.

Leonard C.Helderman/a. r.

See alsoArlington National Cemetery ; Cemeteries, National ; Government Ownership ; Public Domain ; Sovereignty, Doctrine of .

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