Today in Supreme Court History

Today in Supreme Court History: April 14, 1873


4/14/1873: The Slaughter-House Cases argued.

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  1. Another example of the inability of this Court to read the plain 8th grade English of the Constitution.

    1. What really bothers me about this whole thing was that all the debates, pro and con, in Congress and the media and the general public, recognized the amendment as applying the full Bill of Rights to the states, and yet when the Supremes intentionally ignored that and just made u some shat, no one cared. 8 years after the Civil War had ended, and no one cared any more.

      All those complaints we get nowadays about short attention spans of kids are showing their own short attention span in not knowing of this, nor how President Adams could gleefully prosecute newspaper editors under the Alien and Sedition acts, and throw them in jail, just one decade after the Constitution was ratified.

      1. On the other hand, imagine the consequences if the court had ruled the other way. They were dumping bacteria-laden intestines and such into the very water that people were drinking and getting them sick. Chorea outbreaks and God knows what else.

        Other cities had moved their butchers — Boston’s were all along what was then the waterfront, and people didn’t drink salt water. (The concept of not washing all the offal overboard hadn’t occurred yet.)

        So *if* SCOTUS had ruled for the butchers, think of all the people they would have killed.

        Bad cases make bad law.

        1. Oh, it was really gross stuff. New Orleans had traditionally been one of the least-clean cities of the Union – quite an accomplishment. A lot of it was mosquitos, but that connection wasn’t scientifically known then.

          Dumping offal in the river and leaving it in the streets was certainly not ideal, health-wise, and it formed the context for giving this one slaughterhouse a monopoly on slaughtering.

          The Court *could* have said, “yes, there’s a constitutional right to earn a living, but this law is so necessary to public health that it doesn’t violate that right.” Instead, they threw out suggestions that the state could regulate the right to earn a living, even in non-gross-out cases.

  2. When lecturing on these cases my Con Law prof, who had little conception of how he came off, kept on spitting out “the Butchers of New Orleans!” as if decrying some mass killing. That’s what I always think of when someone mentions them.

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