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Slaughter-House Cases

Citation. 83 U.S. 36, 16 Wall. 36, 21 L. Ed. 394 (1873)
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Brief Fact Summary.

Butchers had to use one facility to slaughter their livestock. All competing plants were closed and the butchers had to right to slaughter at the corporation’s plant.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments do not protect people from state legislation.


Louisiana chartered a corporation and granted to it by statute the exclusive right to operate facilities in New Orleans for the landing, keeping and slaughter of livestock. All other facilities were closed and the independent butchers were given the right to slaughter at the corporation’s plant on paying maximum charges that were fixed by statute. The butchers claimed that the statute created a monopoly and denied butchers the right to exercise their trade.


Do the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments apply to the states?


Justice Miller’s opinion. No.
The power exercised was a police power that concerned the life and health of the citizens in the state. The authority of the legislature to pass this type of law is ample unless some restraint can be found in the Constitution or in the Amendments.
The first argument is that the statute creates an involuntary servitude that is forbidden by the Thirteenth Amendment. The Court must look at the history of the enactment of the Thirteenth Amendment. It was in response to the civil war and slavery. The results of the emancipation were codified in the United States Constitution.
The second argument is that it abridges the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States.
The third is that it denies the butchers equal protection of the laws. The clause was intended to make sure former slaves were not discriminated against by the laws in that state. If they did not then Congress was authorized to enforce the amendment by suitable legislation. A strong case would be necessary to apply this clause to anyone other than to remedy a racially discriminatory practice.
The fourth is that the statute deprives them of property without due process of law. The restraint imposed on New Orleans butchers by the state cannot be interpreted to be depriving them of any property within the meaning of the provision.


Justice Field dissenting.
The common law of England condemned all monopolies in any known trade.
The Fourteenth Amendment makes it essential to the validity of the legislation of every State that the right of free labor be respected. The act of Louisiana rejects this right. A free government involves the right of every citizen to pursue his happiness in an unrestrained way, except by just, equal and impartial laws.


The Court held that the fundamental rights set forth in the Bill of Rights were not privileges and immunities of national citizenship. Therefore, the Fourteenth Amendment privileges and immunities clause is ineffective in protecting individual rights.

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