Slaughterhouse Cases

Sample Brief
The Slaughterhouse Cases, 83 U.S. 36 (1873)
Facts: To clean up the pollution of the Mississippi River caused by slaughterhouses, the
Louisiana legislature passed an act that prohibited the slaughtering of livestock, except at
one large slaughterhouse, and established a rate structure for their slaughter. A group of
independent butchers rendered jobless by the legislation brought suit against the company
to have the statute declared unconstitutional. State courts held in favor of the monopoly.
Issues: Does the legislative establishment of a monopoly slaughterhouse violate the 13th
Amendment? the 14th Amendment's privileges and immunities clause? its equal
protection clause? its due process clause?
Held: No. No. No. No.
Reasoning: Miller, for a 5-4 Court. l) There is no violation of the 13th Amendment
because it is concerned generally with blacks and specifically with systems of involuntary
servitude -- slavery -- not present here. 2) The Court distinguishes between state and
national citizenship, argues that the 14th Amendment protects only the privileges and
immunities of national citizenship (e.g., the rights to go to the seat of government, have
access to seaports and courts of justice, etc.), and asserts that the amendment did not
create any new rights enforceable against the states. 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. 3) and 4) Neither the concepts of due process nor equal
protection has ever been construed by a court to comprehend deprivations of property akin
to those addressed in this case, and the Court refuses to entertain a construction that would
so extend them.
Decision: The decision of the Louisiana Supreme Court is affirmed.
Concurrences: None.
Dissents: Field (with Chase, Swayne, and Bradley). The privileges and immunities clause
of the 14th Amendment includes rights that belong to "the citizens of all free
governments." This comprehends "the right to pursue a lawful employment...without
other restraint than such as equally affects all persons." Thus, the legislation is
Bradley. Legislation denying lawful employment to a category of citizens
deprives them of their "right of choice." As such, it denies them liberty without due
process and equal protection and violates the 14th Amendment.
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.