Slaughter-House Cases

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Slaughter-House Cases  (1873) 
Syllabus
The Slaughter-House Cases, 83 U.S. 36 (1873), was the first United States Supreme Court interpretation of the relatively new Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. It is viewed as a pivotal case in early civil rights law, reading the Fourteenth Amendment as protecting the "privileges or immunities" conferred by virtue of the federal United States citizenship to all individuals of all states within it, but not those privileges or immunities incident to citizenship of a state.
Court Documents
Opinion of the Court

United States Supreme Court

83 U.S. 36

SLAUGHTER-HOUSE CASES

Error to the Supreme Court of Louisiana

 Argued: January 11, 1872; Reargued February 3-5, 1873 --- Decided: April 14, 1873

[Syllabus from pages 36-38 intentionally omitted]

ERROR to the Supreme Court of Louisiana.

The three cases-the parties to which as plaintiffs and defendants in error, are given specifically as a sub-title, at the head of this report, but which are reported together also under the general name which, in common parlance, they had acquired-grew out of an act of the legislature of the State of Lousiana, entitled: 'An act to protect the health of the City of New Orleans, to locate the stock landings and slaughter-houses, and to incorporate 'The Crescent City Live-Stock Landing and Slaughter-House Company," which was approved on the 8th of March, 1869, and went into operation on the 1st of June following; and the three cases were argued together.

The act was as follows:

'SECTION 1. Be it enacted, &c., That from and after the first day of June, A.D. 1869, it shall not be lawful to land, keep, or slaughter any cattle, beeves, calves, sheep, swine, or other animals, or to have, keep, or establish any stock-landing, yards, pens, slaughter-houses, or abattoirs at any point or place within the city of New Orleans, or the parishes of Orleans, Jefferson, and St. Bernard, or at any point or place on the east bank of the Mississippi River within the corporate limits of the city of New Orleans, or at any point on the west bank of the Mississippi River, above the present depot of the New Orleans, Opelousas, and Great Western Railroad Company, except that the 'Crescent City Stock Landing and Slaughter-House Company' may establish themselves at any point or place as hereinafter provided. Any person or persons, or corporation or company carrying on any business or doing any act in contravention of this act, or landing, slaughtering or keeping any animal or animals in violation of this act, shall be liable to a fine of $250, for each and every violation, the same to be recoverable, with costs of suit, before any court of competent jurisdiction.'

The second section of the act created one Sanger and sixteen other persons named, a corporation, with the usual privileges of a corporation, and including power to appoint officers, and fix their compensation and term of office, and to fix the amount of the capital stock of the corporation and the number of shares thereof.

The act then went on:

'SECTION 3. Be it further enacted, &c., That said company or corporation is hereby authorized to establish and erect at its own expense, at any point or place on the east bank of the Mississippi River within the parish of St. Bernard, or in the corporate limits of the city of New Orleans, below the United States Barracks, or at any point or place on the west bank of the Mississippi River below the present depot of the New Orleans, Opelousas, and Great Western Railroad Company, wharves, stables, sheds, yards, and buildings necessary to land, stable, shelter, protect, and preserve all kinds of horses, mules, cattle, and other animals; and from and after the time such buildings, yards, &c., are ready and complete for business, and notice thereof is given in the official journal of the State, the said Crescent City Live-Stock Landing and Slaughter-House Company shall have the sole and exclusive privilege of conducting and carrying on the live-stock landing and slaughter-house business within the limits and privileges granted by the provisions of this act; and cattle and other animals destined for sale or slaughter in the city of New Orleans, or its environs, shall be landed at the live-stock landings and yards of said company, and shall be yarded, sheltered, and protected, if necessary, by said company or corporation; and said company or corporation shall be entitled to have and receive for each steamship landing at the wharves of the said company or corporation, $10; for each steamboat or other water craft, $5; and for each horse, mule, bull, ox, or cow landed at their wharves, for each and every day kept, 10 cents; for each and every hog, calf, sheep, or goat, for each and every day kept, 5 cents, all without including the feed; and said company or corporation shall be entitled to keep and detain each and all of said animals until said charges are fully paid. But if the charges of landing, keeping, and feeding any of the aforesaid animals shall not be paid by the owners thereof after fifteen days of their being landed and placed in the custody of the said company or corporation, then the said company or corporation, in order to reimburse themselves for charges and expenses incurred, shall have power, by resorting to judicial proceedings, to advertise said animals for sale by auction, in any two newspapers published in the city of New Orleans, for five days; and after the expiration of said five days, the said company or corporation may proceed to sell by auction, as advertised, the said animals, and the proceeds of such sales shall be taken by the said company or corporation, and applied to the payment of the charges and expenses aforesaid, and other additional costs; and the balance, if any, remaining from such sales, shall be held to the credit of and paid to the order or receipt of the owner of said animals. Any person or persons, firm or corporation violating any of the provisions of this act, or interfering with the privileges herein granted, or landing, yarding, or keeping any animals in violation of the provisions of this act, or to the injury of said company or corporation, shall be liable to a fine or penalty of $250, to be recovered with costs of suit before any court of competent jurisdiction.

'The company shall, before the first of June, 1869, build and complete A GRAND SLAUGHTER-HOUSE of sufficient capacity to accommodate all butchers, and in which to slaughter 500 animals per day; also a sufficient number of sheds and stables shall be erected before the date aforementioned, to accommodate all the stock received at this port, all of which to be accomplished before the date fixed for the removal of the stock landing, as provided in the first section of this act, under penalty of a forfeiture of their charter.

'SECTION 4. Be it further enacted, &c., That the said company or corporation is hereby authorized to erect, at its own expense, one or more landing-places for live stock, as aforesaid, at any points or places consistent with the provisions of this act, and to have and enjoy from the completion thereof, and after the first day of June, A.D. 1869, the exclusive privilege of having landed at their wharves or landing-places all animals intended for sale or slaughter in the parishes of Orleans and Jefferson; and are hereby also authorized (in connection) to erect at its own expense one or more slaughter-houses, at any points or places consistent with the provisions of this act, and to have and enjoy, from the completion thereof, and after the first day of June, A.D. 1869, the exclusive privilege of having slaughtered therein all animals, the meat of which is destined for sale in the parishes of Orleans and Jefferson.

'SECTION 5. Be it further enacted, &c., That whenever said slaughter-houses and accessory buildings shall be completed and thrown open for the use of the public, said company or corporation shall immediately give public notice for thirty days, in the official journal of the State, and within said thirty days' notice, and within, from and after the first day of June, A.D. 1869, all other stock landings and slaughter-houses within the parishes of Orleans, Jefferson, and St. Bernard shall be closed, and it will no longer be lawful to slaughter cattle, hogs, calves, sheep, or goats, the meat of which is determined for sale within the parishes aforesaid, under a penalty of $100, for each and every offence, recoverable, with costs of suit, before any court of competent jurisdiction; that all animals to be slaughtered, the meat whereof is determined for sale in the parishes of Orleans or Jefferson, must be slaughtered in the slaughter-houses erected by the said company or corporation; and upon a refusal of said company or corporation to allow and animal or animals to be slaughtered after the same has been certified by the inspector, as hereinafter provided, to be fit for human food, the said company or corporation shall be subject to a fine in each case of $250, recoverable, with costs of suit, before any court of competent jurisdiction; said fines and penalties to be paid over to the auditor of public accounts, which sum or sums shall be credited to the educational fund.

'SECTION 6. Be it further enacted, &c., That the governor of the State of Louisiana shall appoint a competent person, clothed with police powers, to act as inspector of all stock that is to be slaughtered, and whose duty it will be to examine closely all animals intended to be slaughtered, to ascertain whether they are sound and fit for human food or not; and if sound and fit for human food, to furnish a certificate stating that fact, to the owners of the animals inspected; and without said certificate no animals can be slaughtered for sale in the slaughter-houses of said company or corporation. The owner of said animals so inspected to pay the inspector 10 cents for each and every animal so inspected, one-half of which fee the said inspector shall retain for his services, and the other half of said fee shall be paid over to the auditor of public accounts, said payment to be made quarterly. Said inspector shall give a good and sufficient bond to the State, in the sum of $5000, with sureties subject to the approval of the governor of the State of Louisiana, for the faithful performance of his duties. Said inspector shall be fined for dereliction of duty $50 for each neglect. Said inspector may appoint as many deputies as may be necessary. The half of the fees collected as provided above, and paid over to the auditor of public accounts, shall be placed to the credit of the educational fund.

'SECTION 7. Be it further enacted, &c., That all persons slaughtering or causing to be slaughtered, cattle or other animals in said slaughter-houses, shall pay to the said company or corporation the following rates or perquisites, viz.: For all beeves, $1 each; for all hogs and calves, 50 cents each; for all sheep, goats, and lambs, 30 cents each; and the said company or corporation shall be entitled to the head, feet, gore, and entrails of all animals excepting hogs, entering the slaughter-houses and killed therein, it being understood that the heart and liver are not considered as a part of the gore and entrails, and that the said heart and liver of all animals slaughtered in the slaughter-houses of the said company or corporation shall belong, in all cases, to the owners of the animals slaughtered.

'SECTION 8. Be it further enacted, &c., That all the fines and penalties incurred for violations of this act shall be recoverable in a civil suit before any court of competent jurisdiction, said suit to be brought and prosecuted by said company or corporation in all cases where the privileges granted to the said company or corporation by the provisions of this act are violated or interfered with; that one-half of all the fines and penalties recovered by the said company or corporation [Sic in copy-REP.], in consideration of their prosecuting the violation of this act, and the other half shall be paid over to the auditor of public accounts, to the credit of the educational fund.

'SECTION 9. Be it further enacted, &c., That said Crescent City Live-Stock Landing and Slaughter-House Company shall have the right to construct a railroad from their buildings to the limits of the city of New Orleans, and shall have the right to run cars thereon, drawn by horses or other locomotive power, as they may see fit; said railroad to be built on either of the public roads running along the levee on each side of the Mississippi River. The said company or corporation shall also have the right to establish such steam ferries as they may see fit to run on the Mississippi River between their buildings and any points or places on either side of said river.

'SECTION 10. Be it further enacted, &c., That at the expiration of twenty-five years from and after the passage of this act the privileges herein granted shall expire.'

The parish of Orleans containing (as was said [1]) an area of 150 square miles; the parish of Jefferson of 384; and the parish of St. Bernard of 620; the three parishes together 1154 square miles, and they having between two and three hundred thousand people resident therein, and prior to the passage of the act above quoted, about, 100 persons employed daily in the business of procuring, preparing, and selling animal food, the passage of the act necessarily produced great feeling. Some hundreds of suits were brought on the one side or on the other; the butchers, not included in the 'monopoly' as it was called, acting sometimes in combinations, in corporations, and companies, and sometimes by themselves; the same counsel, however, apparently representing pretty much all of them. The ground of the opposition to the slaughter-house compeny's pretensions, so far as any cases were finally passed on in this court was, that the act of the Louisiana legislature made a monopoly and was a violation of the most important provisions of the thirteenth and fourteenth Articles of Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The language relied on of these articles is thus:

AMENDMENT XIII.

'Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, nor any place subject to their jurisdiction.'

AMENDMENT XIV.

'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.'

The Supreme Court of Louisiana decided in favor of the company, and five of the cases came into this court under the 25th section of the Judiciary Act in December, 1870; where they were the subject of a preliminary motion by the plaintiffs in error for an order in the nature of a supersedeas. After this, that is to say, in March, 1871, a compromise was sought to be effected, and certain parties professing, apparently, to act in a representative way in behalf of the opponents to the company, referring to a compromise that they assumed had been effected, agreed to discontinue 'all writs of error concerning the said company, now pending in the Supreme Court of the United States;' stipulating further 'that their agreement should be sufficient authority for any attorney to appear and move for the dismissal of all said suits.' Some of the cases were thus confessedly dismissed. But the three of which the names are given as a sub-title at the head of this report were, by certain of the butchers, asserted not to have been dismissed. And Messrs. M. H. Carpenter, J. S. Black, and T. J. Durant, in behalf of the new corporation, having moved to dismiss them also as embraced in the agreement, affidavits were filed on the one side and on the other; the affidavits of the butchers opposed to the 'monopoly' affirming that they were plaintiffs in error in these three cases, and that they never consented to what had been done, and that no proper authority had been given to do it. This matter was directed to be heard with the merits. The case being advanced was first heard on these, January 11th, 1872; Mr. Justice Nelson being indisposed and not in his seat. Being ordered for reargument, it was heard again, February 3d, 4th, and 5th, 1873.

Notes[edit]

^1  See infra, pp. 85, 86.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).