Swift & Co. v. United States

196 U.S. 375, 25 S. Ct. 276 (1905)



Where several lawful acts are bound together as the parts of a single plan, the plan may make the parts unlawful. The Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C.S. § 1 et seq., proceeds against combinations in restraint of commerce among the states and against attempts to monopolize the same. Intent is almost essential to such a combination and is essential to such an attempt. Where acts are not sufficient in themselves to produce a result which the law seeks to prevent but require further acts in addition to the mere forces of nature to bring that result to pass, an intent to bring it to pass is necessary in order to produce a dangerous probability that it will happen. When that intent and the consequent dangerous probability exist, the Sherman Act, like many other statutes and like the common law in some cases, directs itself against that dangerous probability as well as against the completed result.


Defendants, buyers of livestock for slaughterhouses, were accused of price fixing and other monopolistic practices in the cattle industry. The trial court issued an injunction against defendants pursuant to the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C.S. § 1 et seq. The United States Supreme Court, finding that the defendants' conduct was commerce among the states as contemplated in the Sherman Act, affirmed the injunction with a modification to provide more specific restraints on defendants' behavior.


Does the Congress have the authority to regulate wholesale animal and meat sales under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act?




It makes clear the misconception of the Sherman Act and of Federal power to regulate commerce upon which the bill and decree proceed. They appear to go upon the theory that under the act of Congress the Federal courts are to regulate commerce, and the decree enjoins, not specific acts, but violations of the statute in terms as general as the act of Congress itself. A defendant cannot know from its terms what he may or may not do without making himself liable as in contempt. 

Click here to view the full text case and earn your Daily Research Points.