Slaughter-House Cases (1873)

The Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment needed to be considered in light of its original purpose of ensuring the freedom of former slaves. Therefore, slaughterhouse owners who had been prevented from running their businesses when Louisiana granted one slaughterhouse company a monopoly, and who claimed they had been deprived of their property without due process of law, did not have a case under the Due Process Clause.

The Court also defined the scope of the Privileges and Immunities Clause narrowly, arguing that the clause referred to “very few express limitations which the Federal Constitution imposed upon the States–such, for instance, as the prohibition against ex post facto laws, bills of attainder, and laws impairing the obligation of contracts,” along with seeking the government’s protection while “on the high seas” as well as a general right to interact with government. But the clause did not “bring within the power of Congress the entire domain of civil rights heretofore belonging exclusively to the States.”

The case touched on constitutional principles including federalism, economic rights, and limits on rights.