Northwestern Fertilizer Co. v. Hyde Park 97 U.S. 659 (1878)

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In 1867 the Illinois legislature chartered the company for a term of fifty years to manufacture fertilizer, from dead animals, outside the city limits of Chicago. The nearby village of Hyde Park regarded the company's factory as an unendurable nuisance, injurious to the public health. Immediately before the legislature chartered the company it empowered the village to abate public nuisances excepting the company. The village passed an ordinance prohibiting the existence of any company engaged in any offensive or unwholesome business within a distance of one mile. The ordinance put the fertilizer company out of business. It invoked its chartered rights against the ordinance, which it claimed violated the contract clause.

On the basis of past decisions the Court should have accepted the company's argument, holding that the village had no authority to abate its factory. By a vote of 7–1, however, the Supreme Court ruled that the village had validly exercised its police power to protect the public health. Justice noah swayne for the Court declared that the company's charter must be construed narrowly and held that it provided no exemption from liability or nuisances. Swayne quoted from the decision earlier that term in boston beer co. v. massachusetts in which the Court announced the doctrine of inalienable police power. Both cases had the result of weakening the contract clause's traditional protection of chartered rights.

Leonard W. Levy

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Northwestern Fertilizer Co. v. Hyde Park 97 U.S. 659 (1878)

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Northwestern Fertilizer Co. v. Hyde Park 97 U.S. 659 (1878)