The Fuller Court (1888–1910)


In what Fuller Court decision did Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes advocate the “stream of commerce” theory?

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes advocated the “stream of commerce” theory in the Court’s unanimous decision in Swift & Co. v. United States (1905). The Court ruled that a group of meatpacking houses engaged in a variety of activities, including fixing and bidding up prices, that violated the Sherman Antitrust law. The meatpacking houses contended that their activities were intrastate in nature, but the Court noted that the sale of cattle resembled a “current of commerce” that was interstate in nature. Holmes wrote: “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.”


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