The Slaughterhouse Cases: Regulation, Reconstruction, and the Fourteenth Amendment / Edition 1

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The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1868, sought to protect the rights of the newly freed slaves; but its first important test did not arise until five years later. That test centered on a vitriolic dispute among the white butchers of mid-Reconstruction New Orleans.

The rough-and-tumble world of nineteenth-century New Orleans was a sanitation nightmare, with the city's slaughterhouses dumping animal remains into local backwaters. When Louisiana authorized a monopoly slaughterhouse to bring about sanitation reform, many independent butchers felt disenfranchised. Framing their case as an infringement of rights protected by the new amendment, they flooded the lower courts with nearly 300 suits. The surviving cases that reached the U.S. Supreme Court pitted the butchers' right to labor against the state's "police power" to regulate public health. The result was a controversial decision that for the first time addressed the meaning and import of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Speaking for the majority in the Court's 5-4 decision, Justice Samuel F. Miller upheld the state's actions as a fair use of its "police power." He also argued that the Fourteenth Amendment was intended exclusively as a means of protecting and redressing the suffering of former slaves. The result was a very restricted interpretation of the amendment's "privileges and immunities," "due process," and "equal protection" clauses. In striking contrast, the minority, led by Justices Stephen Field and Joseph Bradley, claimed that the Fourteenth Amendment had been intended to apply to all Americans, not just former slaves, and therefore protected the butchers' right to labor in their chosen profession.

Engagingly written and concisely crafted for students and general readers, this newly abridged edition provides a very accessible guide to one of the Supreme Court's most famous cases.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Labbe, an expert on Louisiana law, and Lurie (history & law, Rutgers Univ.) examine an 1869 enactment of the Louisiana legislature that was contested in the state's lower courts and ultimately upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. This enactment called for all of the slaughterhouses in New Orleans to be consolidated and relocated to a cleaner location; the city's butchers roundly protested, citing in defense the Fourteenth Amendment. Ordinarily, such issues would be simple matters of economics and government regulation, but the dispute took place during the Reconstruction, a time of radical political change. The authors adeptly explain the historical ramifications and legal implications of the legal challenge launched by the butchers, focusing on twin aspects central to the resolution of the dispute: the forceful and activist role of Associate Justice Samuel F. Miller in reasserting a stronger sense of the Supreme Court's pivotal role in the federal government, as well as the new imperative by 1873 to address controversial issues of constitutional law arising from the recent passage of the so-called Reconstruction Amendments. The authors' comprehensive analysis makes up a critical chapter in the ongoing evolution of constitutional protections and rights of U.S. citizens. Highly recommended for academic, law, and public libraries.-Philip Y. Blue, New York State Supreme Court Criminal Branch Law Lib., First Judicial Dist., New York Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700614097
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 10/28/2005
  • Series: Landmark Law Cases and American Society Series
  • Edition description: Abridged Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.54 (w) x 8.48 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Table of Contents

Editors' Preface

Preface and Acknowledgments

1. Beef from the Pork Barrel? Introduction and Overview

2. Private Gain, Public Health, and Public Policy in Antebellum New Orleans

3. Law, Politics, and Slaughterhouse Reform

4. A Centralized Abattoir for New Orleans

5. The Order of Battle in the Lower Courts

6. Appeal, Repeal, and a Compromise

7. The Chase Court

8. The Arguments

9. Decision and Dissents

10. The Legacy


Bibliographical Essay


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