Gibbons v. Ogden

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Gibbons v. Ogden 22 U.S. 1, 9 Wheat. 1, 189-190 (1824) was the first decision to interpret the Commerce Clause, and it gave broad powers to Congress a wide definition to "regulate commerce ... among the several states." [1]

The case was a constitutional showdown between former New Jersey Governor Aaron Ogden and his estranged business partner, a Georgian businessman and planter named Thomas Gibbons. Ogden charged Gibbons with operating a steamboat on the Hudson River in violation of the Fulton–Livingston Steamboat monopoly that controlled steam travel in the state of New York. In March 1824, Chief Justice John Marshall ruled for the Supreme Court that Gibbons' federal coasting license trumped a state grant issued to Ogden by the Fulton–Livingston syndicate.

Commerce power

Chief Justice John Marshall famously expanded federal power:

"Commerce, undoubtedly, is traffic, but it is something more: it is intercourse. It describes the commercial intercourse between nations, and parts of nations, in all its branches, and is regulated by prescribing rules for carrying on that intercourse." Id. at 189-90.

He continued to hold that the commerce power "is the power to regulate; that is, to prescribe the rule by which commerce is to be governed. This power, like all others vested in congress, is complete in itself, may be exercised to its utmost extent, and acknowledges no limitations, other than are prescribed in the constitution." Id. at 196.

In other words, the U.S. Supreme Court thereby held that the power to regulate interstate navigation was granted to Congress by the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. The case was argued by some of America's most famous and capable attorneys at the time: Thomas Addis Emmet and Thomas J. Oakley argued for Ogden, while William Wirt and Daniel Webster, argued for Gibbons.

Further reading

  • Baxter, Maurice G. The Steamboat Monopoly: Gibbons v. Ogden, 1824 (1972). 146 pp.
  • Cox, Thomas H. "Contesting Commerce: Gibbons V. Ogden, Steam Power, and Social Change," Journal of Supreme Court History 2009, Vol. 34 Issue 1, pp 56–74
  • Newmyer, R. Kent. John Marshall and the Heroic Age of the Supreme Court (2001). 511 pp.
  • White, G. Edward. The Marshall Court and Cultural Change, 1815-35. (History of the Supreme Court of the United States, vol. 3-4.) Macmillan, 1988. 1009 pp.