License Cases

views updated


LICENSE CASES (Thurlow v. Massachusetts, Fletcher v. Rhode Island, Peirce v. New Hampshire), 5 How. (46 U.S.) 504 (1847). In six opinions, with no majority, the United States Supreme Court upheld state statutes regulating the sale of alcoholic beverages that had been brought in from other states. The statutes were quadruply controversial: they involved temperance and prohibition, they impinged on interstate commerce, they interfered with property rights, and they were surrogates for the states' power to control enslaved persons and abolitionist propaganda. All eight sitting justices sustained the statutes on the basis of the states' police powers, but they disagreed on the problems of conflict between Congress's dormant power to regulate interstate commerce and concurrent state regulatory authority.


Swisher, Carl B. The Taney Period, 1836–1864. New York: Macmillan, 1974.

William M.Wiecek

See alsoInterstate Commerce Laws .