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Swift and Co. v. United States - When Is A Business Interstate?

court trade act sherman

Appellant

Swift and Company

Appellee

United States

Appellant's Claim

That the meat packing operations of Swift and Company were entirely conducted within a state, and thus could not fall under the jurisdiction of the Interstate Commerce Clause of the Constitution,and could not be judged to be a violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, which was only intended to regulate interstate trade. Further, that the provisions of the Sherman Act were so general and vague that they could not be applied in a particular instance.

Chief Lawyers for Appellant

John S. Miler, Merritt Starr

Chief Lawyers for Appellee

William H. Moody, U.S. Attorney General; William A. Day

Justices for the Court

David Josiah Brewer, Henry Billings Brown, William Rufus Day, Melville Weston Fuller, John Marshall Harlan I, Oliver Wendell Holmes (writing for the Court), Joseph McKenna, Rufus Wheeler Peckham, Edward Douglass White

Justices Dissenting

None

Place

Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

30 January 1905

Decision

That the operations of Swift, although conducted locally, were national and interstate in scope, and subject to the Sherman Act.

Significance

This decision broke new ground in showing that the Sherman Anti-Trust Act would apply to businesses which, even when conducted on a local basis, were involved in selling a product which went into interstate trade. Holmes showed that the distinction between intrastate trade and interstate trade was often blurred, and that a major business such as the Swift meat-packing industry, which operated in several states, was an interstate business.

Related Cases

  • United States v. E. C. Knight and Co., 156 U.S. 1 (1895).
  • Northern Securities Co. v. United States, 193 U.S. 197 (1904).

Further Readings

  • Biskupic, Joan, and Elder Witt, eds. Congressional Quarterly's Guide to the U.S. Supreme Court, 3rd ed. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, Inc., 1996.
  • Clemen, R. A. American Livestock Industry. New York: 1923.
  • Hall, Kermit L., ed. The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
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