The Taney Court (1836–64)


What were the License Cases?

The License Cases were a trio of cases—Thurlow v. Massachusetts, Fletcher v. Rhode Island, and Peirce v. New Hampshire—in which the Taney Court unanimously upheld state laws that taxed alcoholic beverages imported into the state. The laws were designed to favor local retailers. The local retailers convinced the state legislatures that they needed an advantage over out-of-state merchants. Individuals who sold out-of-state beverages without a license challenged the constitutionality of the state laws, arguing that the laws infringed on the federal government’s control of interstate commerce. Instead, the justices determined that the statutes were justified by the state’s police powers. “Every State … may regulate its own internal traffic, according to its own judgment and upon its own views of the interest and well-being of its citizens,” Chief Justice Taney wrote.


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