American Portraits

David Lucas’ Beachfront Property and Integrity

In this lesson, students will learn how David Lucas acted with integrity when a new law deprived him of the right to use his property. Lucas boldly challenged what he believed to be an unconstitutional taking of his property.

Founding Principles

Due Process image

Due Process

The government must interact with all citizens according to the duly-enacted laws; applying these rules equally among all citizens.

Limited Government image

Limited Government

Citizens are best able to pursue happiness when government is confined to those powers which protect their life, liberty, and property.

Property Rights image

Property Rights

The natural right of all individuals to create, obtain, and control their possessions, beliefs, faculties, and opinions, as well as the fruits of their labor.


According to the 1977 Coastal Zone Management Act, owners of land in certain “critical areas” of South Carolina’s coastline were required to receive permits from South Carolina Coastal Council before they built structures or otherwise changed the use of their land. The law’s purpose was to prevent erosion and destruction of barrier islands. In 1986, David H. Lucas, a real estate developer, purchased two beachfront lots on Isle of Palms, just north of Charleston, South Carolina. These lots were not defined as “critical areas,” and Lucas intended to build single-family homes on his property. Lucas’s neighbors on both sides had already built large houses on their lots….

Narrative PDF

Compelling Question

How does integrity help you overcome obstacles when you believe you have been treated unjustly?

Virtue Defined

Integrity is personal consistency in moral goodness.

Lesson Overview

In this lesson, students will learn how David Lucas acted with integrity when a new law deprived him of the right to use his property. Lucas boldly challenged what he believed to be an unconstitutional taking of his property.


  • Students will analyze David Lucas’s character as a businessman and community member.
  • Students will examine Lucas’s demonstration of integrity and commitment to truth.
  • Students will understand why integrity is an essential virtue in their own lives.
  • Students will act with integrity even when they face a tough struggle.


With respect to property rights, the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that “No person shall be…deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” “Eminent domain” has long been recognized as a legitimate government power that can take private property when necessary. For example, if a community needs a new road, park, or school, but the best location for that new facility is private property, the government may force the owner to sell the property in order to build the new structure for the use of the community as a whole.

The Fifth Amendment’s “Takings Clause” assures that government must deal with the property owner fairly. In a “regulatory taking,” a government regulation limits a property owner’s use of the property in ways that do not confiscate the property, but reduce its value to the owner. In this situation, if the government passes laws that limit the effective use of the property, should the government be required to compensate the owner for that lost value?


  • Eminent domain
  • Takings Clause
  • Erosion
  • Barrier islands
  • Regulatory taking
  • Police power
  • Antecedent
  • Proscribed
  • Confiscatory
  • Beachfront Management Act
  • Susceptible

Introduce Text

Have students read the background and narrative, keeping the Compelling Question in mind as they read. Then have them answer the remaining questions below.

For more robust lesson treatment, check out our partners at the Character Formation Project

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Walk-In-The-Shoes Questions
As you read, imagine you are the protagonist.

  • What challenges are you facing?
  • What fears or concerns might you have?
  • What may prevent you from acting in the way you ought?

Observation Questions

  • Integrity may be defined as the power and capacity that we use to adhere to the truth of things, to what is right and good. In what ways did David Lucas demonstrate integrity to seek to enhance life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for himself and others?
  • What did David Lucas understand his identity to be and how did that affect his contribution to his neighborhood?
  • What did David Lucas understand his purpose to be in the controversy related to the new law intended to protect the coastal environment?

Discussion Questions
Discuss the following questions with your students.

  • What is the historical context of the narrative?
  • What historical circumstances presented a challenge to the protagonist?
  • How and why did the individual exhibit a moral and/or civic virtue in facing and overcoming the challenge?
  • How did the exercise of the virtue benefit civil society?
  • How might exercise of the virtue benefit the protagonist?
  • What might the exercise of the virtue cost the protagonist?
  • Would you react the same under similar circumstances? Why or why not?
  • How can you act similarly in your own life? What obstacles must you overcome in order to do so?

Additional Resources

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