Open main menu

Slaughter-House Cases

(Redirected from 83 U.S. 36)

United States Supreme Court

83 U.S. 36

Slaughter-House Cases:

The Butchers' Benevolent Association of New Orleans v. The Crescent City Live-Stock Landing and Slaughter-House Co.;

Paul Esteben, L. Ruch, J. P. Rouede, W. Maylie, S. Firmberg, B. Beaubay, William Fagan, J. D. Broderick, N. Seibel, M. Lannes, J. Gitzinger, J. P. Aycock, D. Verges, The Live-Stock Dealers' and Butchers' Association of New Orleans, and Charles Cavaroc v. The State of Louisiana, ex rel. S. Belden, Attorney-General; and

The Butchers' Benevolent Association of New Orleans v. The Crescent City Live-Stock Landing and Slaughter-House Co.

Error to the Supreme Court of Louisiana.

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

Court Documents

1. The legislature of Louisiana, on the 8th of March, 1869, passed an act granting to a corporation, created by it, the exclusive right, for twenty-five years, to have and maintain slaughter-houses, landings for cattle, and yards for inclosing cattle intended for sale or slaughter within the parishes of Orleans, Jefferson, and St. Bernard, in that State (a territory which, it was said,—see infra, p. 85,—contained 1154 square miles, including the city of New Orleans, and a population of between two and three hundred thousand people), and prohibiting all other persons from building, keeping, or having slaughter-houses, landings for cattle, and yards for cattle intended for sale or slaughter, within those limits; and requiring that all cattle and other animals intended for sale or slaughter in that district, should be brought to the yards and slaughter-houses of the corporation; and authorizing the corporation to exact certain prescribed fees for the use of its wharves and for each animal landed, and certain prescribed fees for each animal slaughtered, besides the head, feet, gore, and entrails, except of swine: Held, that this grant of exclusive right or privilege, guarded by proper limitation of the prices to be charged, and imposing the duty of providing ample conveniences, with permission to all owners of stock to land, and of all [p37] butchers to slaughter at those places, was a police regulation for the health and comfort of the people (the statute locating them where health and comfort required), within the power of the State legislatures, unaffected by the Constitution of the United States previous to the adoption of the thirteenth and fourteenth articles of amendment.

2. The Parliament of Great Britain and the State legislatures of this country have always exercised the power of granting exclusive rights when they were necessary and proper to effectuate a purpose which had in view the public good, and the power here exercised is of that class, and has until now never been denied.

Such power is not forbidden by the thirteenth article of amendment and by the first section of the fourteenth article. An examination of the history of the causes which led to the adoption of those amendments and of the amendments themselves, demonstrates that the main purpose of all the three last amendments was the freedom of the African race, the security and perpetuation of that freedom, and their protection from the oppressions of the white men who had formerly held them in slavery.

3. In giving construction to any of those articles it is necessary to keep this main purpose steadily in view, though the letter and spirit of those articles must apply to all cases coming within their purview, whether the party concerned be of African descent or not.

While the thirteenth article of amendment was intended primarily to abolish African slavery, it equally forbids Mexican peonage or the Chinese coolie trade, when they amount to slavery or involuntary servitude; and the use of the word "servitude" is intended to prohibit all forms of involuntary slavery of whatever class or name.

The first clause of the fourteenth article was primarily intended to confer citizenship on the negro race, and secondly to give definitions of citizenship of the United States, and citizenship of the States, and it recognizes the distinction between citizenship of a State and citizenship of the United States by those definitions.

The second clause protects from the hostile legislation of the States the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States as distinguished from the privileges and immunities of citizens of the States.

These latter, as defined by Justice Washington in Corfield v. Coryell, and by this court in Ward v. Maryland, embrace generally those fundamental civil rights for the security and establishment of which organized society is instituted, and they remain, with certain exceptions mentioned in the Federal Constitution, under the care of the State governments, and of this class are those set up by plaintiffs.

4. The privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States are those which arise out of the nature and essential character of the National government, the provisions of its Constitution, or its laws and treaties made in pursuance thereof; and it is these which are placed under the protection of Congress by this clause of the fourteenth amendment.

It is not necessary to inquire here into the full force of the clause forbidding a State to enforce any law which deprives a person of life, liberty, [p38] or property without due process of law, for that phrase has been often the subject of judicial construction, and is, under no admissible view of it, applicable to the present case.

5. The clause which forbids a State to deny to any person the equal protection of the laws was clearly intended to prevent the hostile discrimination against the negro race so familiar in the States where he had been a slave, and for this purpose the clause confers ample power in Congress to secure his rights and his equality before the law.

Statement of the case.Edit

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 [p39] 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 [p40] 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 [p41] 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 [p42] 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 [p43] 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:


"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."


"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.

[p44] "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.

Argument against the monopoly.Edit

Mr. John A. Campbell, and also Mr. J. Q. A. Fellows, argued (he case at much length and on the authorities, in behalf of [p45] the plaintiffs in error. The reporter cannot pretend to give more than such an abstract of the argument as may show to what the opinion of the court was meant to be responsive.

I. The learned counsel quoting Thiers,[2] contended that "the right to one's self, to one's own faculties, physical and intellectual, one's own brain, eyes, hands, feet, in a word to his soul and body, was an incontestable right; one of whose enjoyment and exercise by its owner no one could complain, and one which no one could take away. More than this, the obligation to labor was a duty, a thing ordained of God, and which if submitted to faithfully, secured a blessing to the human family." Quoting further from Turgot, De Tocqueville, Buckle, Dalloz, Leiber, Sir G. 0. Lewis, and others, the counsel gave a vivid and very interesting account of the condition and grievances of the lower orders in various countries of Europe, especially in France, with its banali6s and ".seigneurs justiciers," during those days when "the prying eye of the government followed the butcher to the shambles and the baker to the oven;" when "the peasant could not cross a river without paying to some nobleman a toll, nor take the produce which he raised to market until he had bought leave to do so; nor consume what remained of his grain till he had sent it to the lord's mill to be ground, nor full his cloths on his own works, nor sharpen his tools at his own grindstone, nor make wine, oil, or cider at hisown press;" the days of monopolies; monopolies which fobl lowed men in their daily avocations, troubled them with its meddling spirit, and worst of all diminished their responsibility to themselves. Passing from Scotland, in which the cultivators of each barony or regality were obliged to pay a "multure" on each stack of hay or straw reaped by the farmer-" thirlage" or "thraldom," as it was called-and when lands were subject to an "astriction" astricting them and their inhabitants to particular mills for the grinding of grain that was raised on them, and coming to Great Britain, the counsel adverted to the reigns of Edward III, and Rich- [p46] ard II, and their successors, when the price of labor was fixed by law, and when every able-bodied man and woman, not being a merchant or craftsman, was "bounden" to serve at the wages fixed, and when to prevent the rural laborer from seeking the towns he was forbidden to leave his own village. It was in England that the earliest battle for civil liberty had been made. Macaulay thus described it:[3]

"It was in the Parliament of 1601, that the opposition which had, during forty years, been silently gathering and husbanding strength, fought its first great battle and won its first victory. The ground was well chosen. The English sovereigns had always been intrusted with the supreme direction of commercial police. It was their undoubted prerogative to regulate coins, weights, measures, and to appoint fairs, markets, and ports. The line which bounded their authority over trade, had, as usual, been but loosely drawn. They therefore, as usual, encroached on the province which rightfully belonged to the legislature. The encroachment was, as usual, patiently borne, till it became serious. But at length the Queen took upon herself to grant patents of monopoly by scores. There was scarcely a family in the realm that did not feel itself aggrieved by the oppression and extortion which the abuse naturally caused. Iron, oil, vinegar, coal, lead, starch, yarn, leather, glass, could be bought only at exorbitant prices. The House of Commons met in an angry and determined mood. It was in vain that a courtly mipority blamed the speaker for suffering the acts of the Queen's highness to be called in question. The language of the discontented party was high and menacing, and was echoed by the voice of the whole nation. The coach of the chief minister of the crown was surrounded by an indignant populace, who cursed monopolies, and exclaimed that the prerogative should not be allowed to touch the old liberties of England."

Macaulay proceeded to say that the Queen's reign was in danger of a shameful and disgraceful end, but that she, with admirable judgment, declined the contest and redressed the grievance, and in touching language thanked the Commons for their tender care of the common weal.

[p47] The great grievance of our ancestors about the time that they largely left England, was this very subject. Sir John Culpeper, in a speech in the Long Parliament, thus spoke of these monopolies and pollers of the people:

"They are a nest of wasps-a swarm of vermin which have overerept the land. Like the frogs of Egypt they have gotten possession of our dwellings, and we have scarce a room free from them. They sup in our cup; they dip in our dish; they sit by our fire. We find them in the dye-fat, wash-bowl, and powdering-tub. They share with the butler in his box. They will not bait us a pin. We may not buy our clothes without their brokage. These are the leeches that have sucked the commonwealth so hard that it is almost hectical. Mr. Speaker! I have echoed to you the cries of the Kingdom. I will tell you their hopes. They look to Heaven for a blessing on this Parliament."

Monopolies concerning wine, coal, salt, starch, the dressing of meat in taverns, beavers, belts, bone-lace, leather, pins, and other things, to the gathering of rags, are referred to in this speech. But more important than these discussions in Parliament were the solemn judgments of the courts of Great Britain. The great and leading case was that reported by Lord Coke, The Case of Monopolies.[4] The patent was granted to Darcy to buy beyond the sea all such playing-cards as he thought good, and to utter and sell them within the kingdom, and that he and his agents and deputies should have the whole trade, traffic, and merchandise of playing-cards, and that another person and none other should have the making of playing-cards within the realm. A suit was brought against a citizen of London for selling playing-cards, and he pleaded that being a citizen free of the city he had a right to do so. And—

"Resolved (Popham, C.J.) per totam Curiam, that the said grant of the plaintiff of the sole making of cards within the realm, was utterly void, and for two reasons:


"1. That it is a monopoly and agaginst the common law.

"2. That it is against divers acts of Parliament."

[The learned counsel read Sir Edward Coke's report of the judgment in this case, which was given fully in the brief at length, seeking to apply it to the cases before the court.]

It was from a country which had been thus oppressed by monopolies that our ancestors came. And a profound conviction of the truth of the sentiment already quoted from M. Thiers—that every man has a right to his own faculties, physical and intellectual, and that this is a right, one of which no one can complain, and no one deprive him—was at the bottom of the settlement of the country by them. Accordingly, free competition in business, free enterprise, the absence of all exactions by petty tyranny, of all spoliation of private right by public authority—the suppression of sinecures, monopolies, titles of nobility, and exemption from legal duties—were exactly what the colonists sought for and obtained by their settlement here, their long contest with physical evils that attended the colonial condition, their struggle for independence, and their efforts, exertions, and sacrifices since.

Now, the act of the Louisiana legislature was in the face of all these principles; it made it unlawful for men to use their own land for their own purposes; made it unlawful to any except the seventeen of this company to exercise a lawful and necessary business for which others were as competent as they, for which at least one thousand persons in the three parishes named had qualified themselves, had framed their arrangements in life, had invested their property, and had founded all their hopes of success on earth. The act was a pure MONOPOLY; as such against common right, and void at the common law of England. And it was equally void by our own law. The case of The Norwich Gaslight Company v. The Norwich City Gaslight Company,[5] a case in Connecticut, and more pointedly still, The City of Chicago v. Rumpff,[6] a case in Illinois, and The Mayor of the City of Hudson v. Thorne,[7] [p49] a case in New York, were in entire harmony with Coke's great case, and declared that monopolies are against common right.[8]

How, indeed, do authors and inventors maintain a monopoly in even the works of their own brain? in that which in a large sense may be called their own. Only through a provision of the Constitution preserving such works to them. Many State constitutions have denounced monopolies by name, and it is certain that every species of exclusive privilege is an offence to the people, and that popular aversion to them does but increase the more largely that they are granted.

II. But if this monopoly were not thus void at common law, tt would be so under both the thirteenth and the fourteenth amendments.

The thirteenth amendment prohibits "slavery and involuntary servitude." The expressions are ancient ones, and were familiar even before the time when they appeared in the great Ordinance of 1787, for the government of our vast Northwestern Territory; a territory from which great States were to arise. In that ordinance they are associated with enactments affording comprehensive protection for life, liberty, and property; for the spread of religion, morality, and knowledge; for maintaining the inviolability of contracts, the freedom of navigation upon the public rivers, and the unrestrained conveyance of property by contract and devise, and for equality of children in the inheritance of patrimonial estates. The ordinance became a law after Great Britain, in form the most popular government in Europe, had been expelled from that territory because of "injuries and usurpations having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over the States." Feudalism at that time prevailed in nearly all the kingdoms of Europe, and serfdom and servitude and feudal service depressed their people to the level of slaves. The prohibition of "slavery and involuntary servitude" in every form and degree, except as a [p50] sentence upon a conviction for crime, comprises much more than the abolition or prohibition of African slavery. Slavery in the annals of the world had been the ultimate solution of controversies between the creditor and debtor; the conqueror and his captive; the father and his child; the state and an offender against its laws. The laws might enslave a man to the soil. The whole of Europe in 1787 was crowded with persons who were held as vassals to their landlord, and serfs on his dominions. The American constitution for that great territory was framed to abolish slavery and involuntary servitude in all forms, and in all degrees in which they have existed among men, except as a punishment for crime duly proved and adjudged.

Now, the act of which we complain has made of three parishes of Louisiana "enthralled ground." "The seventeen" have astricted not only the inhabitants of those parishes, but of all other portions of the earth who may have cattle or animals for sale or for food, to land them at the wharves of that company (if brought to that territory), to keep them in their pens, yards, or stables, and to prepare them for market in their abattoir or slaughter-house. Lest some competitor may present more tempting or convenient arrangements, the act directs that all of these shall be closed on a particular day, and prohibits any one from having, keeping, or establishing any other; and a peremptory command is given that all animals shall be sheltered, preserved, and protected by this corporation, and by none other, under heavy penalties.

Is not this "a servitude?" Might it not be so considered in a strict sense? It is like the "thirlage" of the old Scotch law and the banalités of seignioral France; which were servitudes undoubtedly. But, if not strictly a servitude, it is certainly a servitude in a more popular sense, and, being an enforced one, it is an involuntary servitude. Men are surely subjected to a servitude when, throughout three parishes, embracing 1200 square miles, every man and every woman in them is compelled to refrain from the use of their own land and exercise of their own industry and the improve- [p51] ment of their own property, in a way confessedly lawful and necessary in itself, and made unlawful and unnecessary only because, at their cost, an exclusive privilege is granted to seventeen other persons to improve and exercise it for them. We have here the "servients" and the "dominants" and the "thraldom" of the old seignioral system. The servients in this case are all the inhabitants in any manner using animals brought to the markets for sale or for slaughter. The dominants are "the seventeen" made into a corporation, with these seignioral rights and privileges. The masters are these seventeen, who alone can admit or refuse other members to their corporation. The abused persons are the community, who are deprived of what was a common right and bound under a thraldom.

III. The act is even more plainly in the face of the fourteenth amendment. That amendment was a development of the thirteenth, and is a more comprehensive exposition of the principles which lie at the foundation of the thirteenth.

Slavery had been abolished as the issue of the civil war. More than three millions of a population lately servile, were liberated without preparation for any political or civil duty. Besides this population of emancipated slaves, there was a large and growing population who came to this country without education in the laws and constitution of the country, and who had begun to exert a perceptible influence over our government. There were also a large number of unsettled and difficult questions of State and National right that had no other settlement or solution but what the war had afforded. It had been maintained from the origin of the Constitution, by one political party-men of a high order of ability, and who exerted a great influence-that the State was the highest political organization in the United States; that through the consent of the separate States the Union had been formed for limited purposes; that there was no social union except by and through the States, and that in extreme cases the several States might cancel the obligations to the Federal government and reclaim the allegiance and fidelity of its members. Such were the doctrines of Mr. [p52] Calhoun, and of others; both those who preceded and those who have followed him. It is nowhere declared in the Constitution what "a citizen" is, or what constitutes citizenship; and what ideas were entertained of citizenship by one class in our country may be seen in the South Carolina case of Hunt v. The State, where Harper, J., referring to the arguments of Messrs. Petigru, Blanding, McWillie, and Williams—men eminent in the South as jurists—who were opposing nullification, says:

"It has been admitted in argument by all the counsel except one, that in case of a secession by the State from the Union, the citizens and constituted authorities would be bound to obey and give effect to the act."

But the fourteenth amendment does define citizenship and the relations of citizens to the State and Federal government. It ordains that "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 where they reside." Citizenship in a State is made by residence and without reference to the consent of the State. Yet, by the same amendment, when it exists, no State can abridge its privileges or immunities. The doctrine of the "States- Rights party," led in modern times by Mr. Calhoun, was, that there was no citizenship in the whole United States, except sub modo and by the permission of the States. According to their theory the United States had no integral existence except as an incomplete combination among several integers. The fourteenth amendment struck at, and forever destroyed, all such doctrines. It seems to have been made under an apprehension of a destructive faculty in the State governments. It consolidated the several "integers" into a consistent whole. Were there Brahmans in Massachusetts, "the chief of all creatures, and with the universe held in charge for them," and Soudras in Pennsylvania, "who simply had life through the benevolence of the other," this amendment places them on the same footing. By it the national principle has received an indefinite enlarge- [p53] ment. The tie between the United Statesand every citizen in every part of its own jurisdiction has been made intimate and familiar. To the same extent the confederate features of the government have been obliterated. The States in their closest connection with the members of the State, have been placed under the oversight and restraining and enforcing hand of Congress. The purpose is manifest, to establish through the whole jurisdiction of the United States ONE PEOPLE, and that every member of the empire shall understand and appreciate the fact that his privileges and immunities cannot be abridged by State authority; that State laws must be so framed as to secure life, liberty, property from arbitrary violation and secure protection of law to all. Thus, as the great personal rights of each and every person were established and guarded, a reasonable confidence that there would be good government might seem to be justified. The amendment embodies all that the statesmanship of the country has conceived for accommodating the Constitution and the institutions of the country to the vast additions of territory, increase of the population, multiplication of States end Territorial governments, the annual influx of aliens, and the mighty changes produced by revolutionary events, and by social, industrial, commercial development. It is an act of Union, an act to determine the reciprocal relations of I he millions of population within the bounds of the United States—the numerous State governments and the entire United States administered by a common government—that they might mutually sustain, support, and co-operate for the promotion of peace, security, and the assurance of property and liberty.

Under it the fact of citizenship does not depend upon parentage, family, nor upon the historical division of the land into separate States, some of whom had a glorious history, of which its members were justly proud. Citizenship is assigned to, nativity in any portion of the United States, and every person so born is a citizen. The naturalized person acquires citizenship of the same kind without any action of the State at all. So either may by this title of citizenship [p54] make his residence at any place in the United States, and under whatever form of State administration, he must be treated as a citizen of that State. His "privileges and immunities" must not be impaired, and all the privileges of the English Magna Charta in favor of freemen are collected upon him and overshadow him as derived from this amendment. The States must not weaken nor destroy them. The comprehensiveness of this amendment, the natural and necessary breadth of the language, the history of some of the clauses; their connection with discussions, contests, and domestic commotions that form landmarks in the annals of constitational government; the circumstances under which it became part of the Constitution, demonstrate that the weighty import of what it ordains is not to be misunderstood.

From whatever cause originating, or with whatever special and present or pressing purpose passed, the fourteenth amendment is not confined to the population that had been servile, or to that which had any of the disabilities or disqualifications arising from race or from contract. The vast number of laborers in mines, manufactories, commerce, as well as the laborers on the plantations, are defended against the unequal legislation of the States. Nor is the amendment confined in its appliciation to laboring men. The mandate is universal in its application to persons of every class and every condition. There are forty millions of population who may refer to it to determine their rank in the United States, and in any particular State. There are thirty-seven governments among the States to which it directs command, and the States that may be hereafter admitted, and the persons hereafter to be born or naturalized will find here declarations of the same weighty import to them all. To the State governments it says: "Let there be no law made or enforced to diminish one of the privileges and immunities of the people of the United States;" nor law to deprive them of their life, liberty, property, or protection without trial. To the people the declaration is: "Take and hold this your certificate of status and of [p55] capacity, the Magna Charta of your rights and liberties." To the Congress it says: "Take care to enforce this article by suitable laws."

The only question then is this: "When a State passes a law depriving a thousand people, who have acquired valuable property, and who, through its instrumentality, are engaged in an honest and necessary business, which they understand, of their right to use such their own property, and to labor in such their honest and necessary business, and gives a monopoly, embracing the whole subject, including the right to labor in such business, to seventeen other persons—whether the State has abridged any of the privileges or immunities of these thousand persons?"

Now, what are "privileges and immunities" in the sense of the Constitution? They are undoubtedly the personal and civil rights which usage, tradition, the habits of society, written law, and the common sentiments of people have recognized as forming the basis of the institutions of the country. The first clause in the fourteenth amendment does not deal with any interstate relations, nor relations that depend in any manner upon State laws, nor is any standard among the States referred to for the ascertainment of these privileges and immunities. It assumes that there were privileges and immunities that belong to an American citizen, and the State is commanded neither to make nor to enforce any law that will abridge them.

The case of Ward v. Maryland[9] bears upon the matter. That case involved the validity of a statute of Maryland which imposed a tax in the form of a license to sell the agricultural and manufactured articles of other States than Maryland by card, sample, or printed lists, or catalogue. The purpose of the tax was to prohibit sales in that mode, and to relieve the resident merchant from the competition of these itinerant or transient dealers. This court decided that the power to carry on commerce in this form was "a pxivilege or immunity" of the sojourner.

[p56] 2. The act in question is equally in the face of the fourteenth amendment in that it denies to the plaintiffs the equal protection of the laws. By an act of legislative partiality it enriches seventeen persons and deprives nearly a thousand others of the same class, and as upright and competent as the seventeen, of the means by which they earn their daily bread.

3. It is equally in violation of it, since it deprives them of their properly without due process of law. The right to labor, the right to one's self physically and intellectually, and to the product of one's own faculties, is past doubt property, and property of a sacred kind. Yet this property is destroyed by the act; destroyed not by due process of law, but by charter; a grant of privilege, of monopoly; which allows such rights in this matter to no one but to a favored "seventeen."

It will of course be sought to justify the act as an exercise of the police power; a matter confessedly, in its general scope, within the jurisdiction of the States. Without doubt, in that general scope, the subject of sanitary laws belong to the exercise of the power set up; but it does not follow there is no restraint on State power of legislation in police matters. The police power was invoked in the case of Gibbons v. Ogden.[10] New York had granted to eminent citizens a monopoly of steamboat navigation in her waters as coinlpensation for their enterprise and invention. They set up that Gibbons should not have, keep, establish, or land with a steamboat to carry passengers and freight on the navigable waters of New York. Of course the State had a great jurisdiction over its waters for all purposes of police, but none to control navigation and intercourse between the United States and foreign nations, or among the States. Suppose the grant to Fulton and Livingston had been that all persons coming to the United States, or from the States around, should, because of their services to the State, land on one of their lots and pass through their gates. This would abridge the rights secured in the fourteenth amendment. [p57] The right to move with freedom, to choose his highway, and to be exempt from impositions, belongs to the citizen. He must have this power to move freely to perform his duties as a citizen.

The Passenger Cases, in 7 Howard, are replete with discussions on the police powers of the States. The arguments in that case appeal to the various titles in which the freedom of State action has been supposed to be unlimited. Immigrants, it was said, would bring pauperism, crime, idleness, increased expenditures, disorderly conduct. The acts, it was said, were in the nature of health acts. But the court said that the police power could not be invoked to justify even the small tax there disputed.

Messrs. H. H. Carpenter and J. S. Black (a brief of Mr. Charles Allen being filed on the same side), and Mr. T. J. Durant, representing in addition the State of Louisiana, contra.

Mr. Justice MILLER, now, April 14th, 1873, delivered the opinion of the court.


  1. See infra, pp. 85, 86
  2. De la Propriété, 36, 47.
  3. History of England, vol. 1, p. 58.
  4. 11 Reports, 85.
  5. 25 Conn. 19
  6. 45 Ill. 90.
  7. 7 Paige Ch. 261.
  8. The statement of these cases being made, infra, pp. 106–109, in the dissenting opinion of Mr. Justice Field, is not here given.
  9. 12 Wallace, 419.
  10. 9 Wheaton, 203.

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).