Slaughter-House Cases, (1873)

Facts: A Louisiana law of 1869 created a state corporation for the slaughtering of livestock. The corporation was given exclusive power to slaughter livestock, and all other private slaughterhouses were required to close. Independent butchers could use the corporations facilities for a charge, but could not conduct independent operations.

Procedural Posture: The butchers not included in the monopoly claimed that the law deprived them of their right to "exercise their trade" and challenged it under the 13th and 14th amendments. The highest state court sustained the law.

Issue: Whether the 13th and 14th amendments guarantee federal protection of individual rights of all citizens of the United States against discrimination by their own state governments.

Holding: No.

Majority Reasoning: The states have the proper police power to limit slaughter house operations for the health and safety of their residents. The meaning of the 13th and 14th amendments must be derived from the historical context of the problems they were designed to remedy, namely African slavery. The Congress, after the end of the Civil War, sought to strenghten the freedom of the former slaves by passing these amendments. The word "servitudes" in the 13th amendment refers to "personal servitudes" not property rights, because of the qualifying word "involuntary." The purpose of the 13th amendment was thus to etch freedom for slaves into the constitution so that it later would not be questioned or avoided. The 14th amendment was a further step needed to protect former slaves from the "black codes." The 15th amendment must be grouped in with the 13th and 14th, and it was specifically for black suffrage. These three amendments were ratified to counteract the specific evils of discrimination against former slaves. They did not create any further guarantees of privileges that did not already exist.

Specifically, they only were meant to guarantee federal privileges, not state priviliges, whatever they may be. The "priviliges and immunities" clause did not create additional rights, it merely required states to apply its laws equally to non-state residents as well as state residents.

Dissent Reasoning: [Field] stated that the privileges and immunities referred to in the 14th amendment included the right to pursue lawful employment. The clause in article 4, section 2 did for the protection of citizens of one state against discrimination by another state, what the 14th amendment does for the protection of every citizen against discrimination by his own state against him. [Bradley] felt that since the language of the 14th amendment was general in nature, and did not claim to protect only blacks, that it was meant to secure fundamental rights of any citizen against discrimination by his state.