Learn about the history of civil rights, and controversial cases in law history. In this video you'll learn about the Slaughter-House
cases from 1873.
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Male: In the 1860’s, New Orleans was a growing port city with a large number of slaughter houses. In the days before a health codes, slaughter houses were highly dangerous and there were everywhere filth and disease were rampant in the areas surrounds slaughter houses which operated everywhere from huge dock side buildings, to backyards, and neighborhoods, entrails, and caucuses litter the streets. And the run off died the Mississippi River red with blood.
James W. Ely, Jr.: New Orleans like many cities in the middle of the 19th Century was experiencing considerable health problems which emulated from the unregulated practice of slaughtering animals for meat. Animals were slaughtered not just in New Orleans but in many communities. Animals were slaughtered in different areas of town. The slaughtering gave raise to odors and attracted flies. It was widely in an inaccurately perceived to the health hazard.
Male: In 1869, the Louisiana legislature reacted to the problem by establishing one centralized slaughter house in granting it, a 25-year monopoly. Butchers operating their own slaughter houses were forced out of business but offered places to butcher within the Government owned slaughter house for price.
25 butchers filed suit, claiming that by closing their slaughter houses. The Government had denied them of property without due process of law, a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Louisiana State Supreme Court ruled in favor of the owned monopoly but an appeal brought the case to the US Supreme Court.
Samuel F. Miller: It is true the statute grants for pair of 25 years exclusive privileges. Whether those privileges are at the expense of the community and the sense of curtailment of any their fundamental rights is a question open to consideration. The language of the Fourteenth Amendment is “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.”
The statute under consideration is amply framed to remove from the more densely populated part of the city the noxious slaughter houses. As this provides for the common good, it may be considered as established that the legislature of Louisiana has the authority to pass the present statute. Under no construction of the Fourteenth Amendment can the restraint imposed by the State of Louisiana upon the exercise of the butcher’s trade beheld to be deprivation of property within the meaning of that Amendment.
Male: Justice Miller’s majority opinion held that a state’s police powers gave a legitimate purpose in acting to protect the health and safety of its citizens. Only five of nine justices were in favor of the monopoly.
James W. Ely, Jr.: Four justices dissented. Two most important for our purposes Justice Bradley and Justice Field argued in their opinions very forcefully. At the Fourteenth Amendment was intended to bring about basic changes in the nature of the federal structure of the Federal Government that it was designed to give broad protections to liberty and property and that liberty encompass the right to engage in ordinary trades of free monopoly restraint.
Male: Justice Field stood up for the butchers, explaining the objections of the minority, the remaining four justices.
Stephen J. Field: Under British common law, the basis for US law. “No privilege was more fully recognized or more completely incorporated into the fundamental law of the country than that every free subject in the British Empire was entitled to pursue his happiness by following any of the known established trades and occupations of this country.” Subject only to such restraints as equally affected all others.
The immortal document which proclaims the independents of this country, declared as self-evident truths that the creator had indulge men with certain an alienable rights. How widely equality has been departed from? How entirely rejected and trampled upon by this act of Louisiana? It is to me a matter of profound regret that its validity is recognized by a majority of this Court. For by it, the right of free labor, one of the most sacred and imprescriptible rights of men is violated.
Roger L. Goldman: In the slaughter house case, the Court gave a pretty a narrow definition of what would constitute a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Michael Middleton: In the slaughter house case I think that they were -- they were doing, you know, a literal interpretation of the amendments that were design to for citizenship to knew the free slaves and were expressing in unwillingness to expand those particular rights are granted to African-Americans to other entities to set presidents for the use of those amendments.
Male: Despite Field’s protests, the Court held for the State Louisiana. Monopolies would not be challenge again until the trust busting efforts of Presidents Roosevelt and Taft in the early 20th Century, 25 years later.