Departmental Honors Project Title
Date of Award
College of Liberal Arts
This Project focuses on the Slaughterhouse Cases, the ramifications of the Supreme Court decision, and the reaction to the decision from the public. The Slaughterhouse Cases were a series of cases originating in New Orleans around the year 1869. The white, French butchers inside the city of New Orleans had been creating a sanitary and health issue for the city for decades. The lack of ways to dispose of offal and inedible product mixed with general apathy from the butchers as to how their practices were impacting the city led to widespread cholera epidemics.
To solve this issue the newly formed Reconstruction government of Louisiana passed an act that allowed the Crescent City Slaughterhouse and Livestock Landing Co. to run what was essentially a grand-slaughterhouse monopoly outside of the city on New Orleans and force all of New Orleans’s butchers to work in said slaughterhouse. The Butchers Benevolent Guild, representing the butchers of New Orleans, sued stating their rights under the Fourteenth Amendment had been violated. They claimed that the Due Process, Privileges or Immunities, and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment protected their right to use their property to honestly pursue their trade and that the state government was not allowed to deprive them of their property and hand the sole rights to butchering in New Orleans to a single business.
This case is important because it was the first case where the Supreme Court interpreted what the Fourteenth Amendment really meant and what it intended to accomplish. The final decision given by the Supreme Court stated that the Fourteenth Amendment was only supposed to be applied “to the newly freed race” meaning African-American men. They also ruled that the Privileges or Immunities Clause only protected a few handfuls of rights on the national level but more importantly left it up to the states to decide what privileges or immunities their own citizens had.
Many people at the time saw this case as a challenge to state authority to create a monopoly or deprive citizens of their property to protect the health of the city. But this case is so much more than just that. The ramifications of the Slaughterhouse Cases and its decision was felt for nearly one-hundred years after it had been decided. This case made it possible for the southern states to establish the doctrine of Separate but Equal using the same arguments made in the Slaughterhouse Cases.
The question that this project seeks to answer is: how did the public react, if at all, to the Slaughterhouse Cases decision; how did Southerners, Northerners, and African-Americans interpret this decision? This project wishes to examine if anyone at the time realized what the far-reaching impact of the cases was and how it would impact civil and states’ rights for many years to come. The evidence examined for this study will mainly be newspaper articles printed around or shortly after the Supreme Court gave its decision on the Slaughterhouse Cases and scholarly articles from the time period.
Jensen, Gavin, "The Slaughterhouse Cases: “Unforeseen” Consequences and Public Reaction" (2019). Departmental Honors Projects. 87.
Departmental Honors Projects