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Supreme Court Decisions

Gibbons v. Ogden, 1824
By Chief Justice John Marshall
Mar 26, 2006, 9:36pm

This Supreme Court decision forbade states from enacting any legislation that would interfere with Congress's right to regulate commerce among the separate states.

NOAA - Image ID: line2185, America's Coastlines Collection
Photographer: Archival photograph by Mr. Steve Nicklas, NGS/RSD

Robert Fultos 1807 invention of the steamboat was highly significant, but its application would have been severely limited had the Supreme Court not ruled against the monopoly in interstate steamboat operation in Gibbons v. Ogden. In this decision, Chief Justice John Marshals Court ruled that Congress has the power toregulate commerc and that Federal law takes precedence over state laws.

The State of New York passed a law giving Robert Fulton and Robert Livingston a monopoly on steamboat traffic on the Hudson Bay, "navigating all boats that might be propelled by steam, on all waters within the territory, or jurisdiction of the State, for the term of twenty years." Fulton and Livingston issued permits and seized boats that operated without their endorsement.

Aaron Ogden had a license from the State of New York to navigate between New York City and the New Jersey Shore. Ogden found himself competing with Thomas Gibbons, who had been given permission to use the waterways by the Federal Government. After the State of New York denied Gibbons access to the Hudson Bay, he sued Ogden.

The case went to the Supreme Court, and Chief Justice Marshall's opinion carried out the clear original intent of the Constitution to have Congress, not the states, regulate interstate commerce. Marshals decision sustained the nationalist definition of Federal power and ruled that Congress could constitutionally regulate many activities that affected interstate commerce.

In the wake of this decision, the Federal Government, empowered by the Constitutios commerce clause, increasingly exercised its authority by legislation and judicial decision over the whole range of the natios economic life.

Source: NARA

Citation: Supreme Court Decree in Gibbons v. Ogden, 1824; Records of the Supreme Court of the United States; Record Group 267; National Archives.

Learning Links

Read the syllabus and the full decision of the Supreme Court Case of Gibbons v. Ogden, 1824
Source: Cornell Law School

Lesson Plans
Gibbons v. Ogden (1824) This is an excellent packet, with information on how the case moved through the court, background summaries, and excerpts from the opinion.
Source: The Supreme Court Historical Society

U.S. Supreme Court Opinions

FindLaw's searchable database of the Supreme Court decisions since 1893 (U.S. Supreme Court Decisions: US Reports 150-, 1893-). Browsable by year and US Reports volume number and searchable by citation, case title and full text.


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