The Law School Authority

Slaughterhouse Cases Case Brief

Summary of Slaughterhouse Cases
83 U.S. (16 Wall.) 36 (1872) 

Relevant Law:

14th amendment § 1:  “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Art IV § 2:  “The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens of the several states” 

Facts: The Louisiana legislature passed an act supposedly to reduce pollution that would only allow one slaughterhouse to stay open.  A group of butchers rendered jobless by the legislation brought suit against the company to have the statute declared unconstitutional. P claims that it violated the 14thamendment’s Privileges and Immunities clause because it deprives them of their property without due process.  

Procedural History: State courts held in favor of the monopoly.

Issue: Does the legislative establishment of a monopoly violate the 14th Amendment's privileges and immunities clause?  

Holding: No.  

Reasoning: 

  1. There is no violation of the 13th Amendment because it is concerned generally with blacks and specifically with slavery, which was not present here.  The purpose of all these amendments is meant to ensure the freedom of slaves, not expand the rights of whites. 
  2. says that the language in the 14th amendment distinguishes between state and national citizenship
    1. argues that the 14th Amendment protects only the privileges and immunities of national citizenship and asserts that the amendment did not create any new rights enforceable against the states
    2. The states still have a right to regulate the rights of their citizens.  We don’t want to interfere with the state’s right to regulate its citizens
    3. Since the legislation at hand impinges on no right of national citizenship protected from state action by the 14th, it does not violate the Constitution. 

Decision: The decision of the Louisiana Supreme Court is affirmed.

Dissents: Field (with Chase, Swayne, and Bradley). 

  • The privileges and immunities clause of the 14th Amendment includes rights that belong to all citizens, black or right.  If it only applied to blacks, then it was an idle amendment that accomplished nothing. 
  • Plus Art IV § 2 protects state citizen’s rights

Significance: This was the initial interpretation of two civil war amendments (the 13th and 14th).  The Court held that they were largely applicable to blacks, did not create new rights of national scope beyond those expressly articulated, and did little to alter the balance of powers between the governments of the nation and states — the essential nature of federalism.

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