Swift and Co. v. United States, 196 U.S. 375; 25 S. Ct. 276; 49 L. Ed. 518 (1905)

Swift and Co. v. United States, 196 U.S. 375; 25 S. Ct. 276; 49 L. Ed. 518 (1905)

Facts—The government charged a number of corporations, firms, and individuals of different states, dealing in fresh meat throughout the United States with colluding not to bid against each other in the livestock markets or the different states, to bid up prices to induce cattlemen to send their stock to the yards, to fix selling prices, and to restrict shipments of meat, to establish a uniform rule of credit to dealers, to keep a blacklist, to make uniform and improper charges for cartage, and to get less than lawful rates from the railroads.

Question—Is this an illegal monopoly in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act?


ReasonsJ. Holmes (9–0). Although the combination alleged embraces restraint and monopoly of trade within a single state, its effect upon commerce among the states was not accidental. The combination intended to monopolize interstate commerce protected from restraint by the Sherman Act of 1890, since the meat shipments and sales involved were between citizens of diverse states.

“It is said that this charge was too vague and that it does not set forth a case of commerce among the states. Taking up the latter objection first, commerce among the states is not a technical legal conception, but a practical one, drawn from the course of business. When cattle are sent for sale from a place in one state, with the expectation that they will end their transit, after purchase, in another, and when in effect they do so, with only the interruption necessary to find a purchaser at the stock yards, and when this is a typical, constantly recurring course, the current thus existing is a current of commerce among the states, and the purchase of the cattle is a part and incident of such commerce.

. . . It is immaterial if the section also embraces domestic transactions. “It should be added that the cattle in the stock yard are not at rest.”

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