• Last updated on November 11, 2022

Adopting the stream of commerce doctrine, the Supreme Court held that antitrust laws could be constitutionally applied to stockyard transactions.

The federal government charged several meatpackers, including Swift and Company, with fixing livestock prices at the stockyards, in violation of the Sherman Antitrust ActSherman Antitrust Act (1890). The companies argued that the buying and selling of livestock was an intrastate transaction, occurring while the cattle were “at rest.” For support, they pointed to United States v. E. C. Knight Co.[case]E. C. Knight Co., United States v.[E. C. Knight Co., United States v.] (1895), which had narrowly defined the concept of interstate commerce.[case]Swift and Co. v. United States[Swift and Co. v. United States]Stream of commerceAntitrust law;Swift and Co. v. United States[Swift and Co. v. United States]Interstate commerce;Swift and Co. v. United States[Swift and Co. v. United States]Stream of commerce

Speaking for a unanimous Supreme Court, Justice Oliver Wendell HolmesHolmes, Oliver Wendell;Swift and Co. v. United States[Swift and Co. v. United States] held that the buying and selling of cattle was a part of a larger act of interstate commerce. Defining commerce as more of a practical than a technical, legal concept, Holmes ignored that the sales transactions took place in local jurisdictions. He wrote that these separate local transactions combined into “a current of commerce among the states.” At the time, the broad definition of commerce in the Swift decision was applied to very few economic activities because it did not overturn the Court’s earlier ruling that manufacturing was not a part of interstate commerce. The decision, however, helped lay a foundation for United States v. Darby Lumber Co.[case]Darby Lumber Co., United States v.[Darby Lumber Co., United States v.] (1941).

Antitrust law

Champion v. Ames

Commerce, regulation of

Darby Lumber Co., United States v.

E. C. Knight Co., United States v.

Sherman Antitrust Act

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