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Gibbons v. OgdenSupreme Court of the United StatesArgued February 5, 1824Decided March 2, 1824Full case nameThomas Gibbons, Appellant v. Aaron Ogden, RespondentCitations22 U.S. 1 (more)9 Wheat. 1; 16 L. Ed. 23; 1824 U.S. LEXIS 370Case historyPriorAppeal from the Court for the Trial of Impeachments and Correction of Errors of the State of New YorkHoldingNew York law was invalid because the Commerce Clause of the Constitution designated power to Congress to regulate interstate commerce and the broad definition of commerce included navigation.Court membershipChief Justice
John Marshall

Associate Justices
Bushrod Washington · William JohnsonThomas Todd · Gabriel DuvallJoseph Story · Smith Thompson
Case opinionsMajorityMarshall, joined by Washington, Todd, Duvall, StoryConcurrenceJohnsonThompson took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.Laws appliedU.S. Const. art. I sec. 8 clause 3

Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 1 (1824), was a landmark decision in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that the power to regulate interstate commerce, granted to Congress by the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution, encompassed the power to regulate navigation.[1][2] The case was argued by some of America’s most admired and capable attorneys at the time. Exiled Irish patriot Thomas Addis Emmet and Thomas J. Oakley argued for Ogden, while U.S. Attorney General William Wirt and Daniel Webster argued for Gibbons.


In 1808[3] the New York State Legislature granted to Robert R. Livingston and Robert Fulton exclusive navigation privileges of all the waters within the jurisdiction of that state, with boats moved by fire or steam, for a term of thirty years. Livingston and Fulton subsequently also petitioned other states and territorial legislatures for similar monopolies, hoping to develop a national network of steamboat lines, but only the Orleans Territory accepted their petition and awarded them a monopoly on the lower Mississippi.[4]

Aware of the potential of the new steamboat navigation, competitors challenged Livingston and Fulton by arguing that the commerce power of the federal government was exclusive and superseded state laws. Legal challenges followed, and in response, the monopoly attempted to undercut its rivals by selling them franchises or buying their boats. Former New Jersey governor Aaron Ogden had tried to defy the monopoly, but ultimately purchased a license from the Livingston and Fulton assignee’s in 1815, and entered business with Thomas Gibbons from Georgia. The partnership collapsed three years later, however, when Gibbons operated another steamboat on Ogden’s route between Elizabeth-town, New Jersey, (now Elizabeth) and New York City, that had been licensed by the United States Congress under a 1793 law regulating the coasting trade.[5] The partners ended up in the New York Court of Errors, which granted a permanent injunction against Gibbons in 1820.[4] In the interim Gibbons also had taken on Cornelius Vanderbilt as his ferry captain, and later, his business manager.[6][7]


Aaron Ogden filed a complaint in the Court of Chancery of New York asking the court to restrain Thomas Gibbons from operating on these waters. Ogden’s lawyer contended that states often passed laws on issues regarding interstate matters and that states should have fully concurrent power with Congress on matters concerning interstate commerce.

Gibbons’ lawyer, Daniel Webster, argued that Congress had exclusive national power over interstate commerce according to Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of the Constitution and that to argue otherwise would result in confusing and contradictory local regulatory policies. The Court of Chancery of New York and the Court of Errors of New York found in favor of Ogden and issued an injunction to restrict Gibbons from operating his boats.

Gibbons appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing as he did in New York that the monopoly conflicted with federal law. After several delays, the court began discussing the meaning of the commerce clause in 1824, which by that time had become an issue of wider interest. Congress was debating a bill to provide a federal survey of roads and canals.[3] Southerners, in particular, were growing more sensitive to what the resolution of these issues would mean to them as sectional disputes, especially over slavery, were increasing.[4]

Decision of the U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Gibbons. Congress had the right to regulate interstate commerce. The sole decided source of Congress’s power to promulgate the law at issue was the Commerce Clause. Accordingly, the Court had to answer whether the law regulated “commerce” that was “among the several states.” With respect to “commerce,” the Court held that commerce is more than mere traffic—that it is the trade of commodities. This broader definition includes navigation. The Court interpreted “among” as “intermingled with.”

“If, as has always been understood, the sovereignty of Congress, though limited to specified objects, is plenary as to those objects, the power over commerce with foreign nations and among the several States is vested in Congress as absolutely as it would be in a single government, having in its Constitution the same restrictions on the exercise of the power as are found in the Constitution of the United States.”

The part of the ruling which stated that any license granted under the Federal Coasting Act of 1793 takes precedence over any similar license granted by a state is also in the spirit of the Supremacy Clause, although the Court did not specifically cite this clause.

The Court did not discuss the argument pressed for Gibbons by U.S. Attorney General Wirt that the federal patent laws preempted New York’s patent grant to Fulton and Livingston.[8] That question remained undecided for the next 140 years until the Supreme Court held in Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Stiffel Co. (1964) that federal patent law preempted similar state laws.

Opinion excerpts

The power to “regulate Commerce” 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.

In interpreting the power of Congress as to commerce “among the several states”:

The word “among” means intermingled with. A thing which is among others, is intermingled with them. Commerce among the States, cannot stop at the external boundary line of each State, but may be introduced into the interior … Comprehensive as the word “among” is, it may very properly be restricted to that commerce which concerns more States than one.

Defining how far the power of Congress extends:

The power of Congress, then, comprehends navigation, within the limits of every State in the Union; so far as that navigation may be, in any manner, connected with “commerce with foreign nations, or among the several States.”

See also

List of United States Supreme Court cases, volume 22


^ Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 1 (1824). This article incorporates public domain material from this U.S government document.

^ John Steele Gordon Archived 2008-04-20 at the Wayback Machine “10 Moments That Made American Business,” American Heritage, February/March 2007.

^ a b Todd Shallat, Water and Bureaucracy: Origins of the Federal Responsibility for Water Resources, 1787-1838 Archived 2014-02-02 at the Wayback Machine, pp 13-15, Natural Resources Journal 32 (Winter 1992)

^ a b c David P. Billington, Donald C. Jackson, Martin V. Melosi, The History of Large Federal Dams: Planning, Design, and Construction in the Era of Big Dams, pp 13-14, U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, Denver, Colorado, 2005

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^ Grabas, Joseph A. “”Why doesn’t New Jersey dump their garbage on Staten Island?”” (PDF). The Grabas Institute. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 23 February 2015.[bad link=11/30/16]

^ Stiles, T.J. (n.d.), “Cornelius Vanderbilt”, The New York Times, retrieved 2011-07-16, Perhaps the greatest turning point in his life came on November 24, 1817, when he agreed to serve as ferry captain for Thomas Gibbons of New Jersey. Gibbons’s vessel (which ran between New Jersey and New York) was a steamboat, which gave Vanderbilt an education in this new technology. More important, Vanderbilt assisted Gibbons in a battle against a legal monopoly on steamboats in New York waters that had been granted to the patrician Livingston family. Gibbons’s lawsuit against the monopoly, Gibbons v. Ogden, was finally decided in his favor by the United States Supreme Court on March 2, 1824. Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that the monopoly had no force against interstate shipping; states, he declared, could not interfere with interstate commerce. The decision overturned lower court precedent to guarantee freedom of trade within the nation’s borders. It allowed Gibbons’s ferry to operate unhindered, and cleared the way for Vanderbilt’s own future in transportation.

^ Marshall did say, as the last two sentences of his opinion, “I have not touched upon the right of the States to grant patents for inventions or improvements generally, because it does not necessarily arise in this cause. It is enough for all the purposes of this decision if they cannot exercise it so as to restrain free intercourse among the States.” 221 U.S. at 239.

Further reading

Johnson, Herbert A. (2010). ‘Gibbons v. Ogden’: John Marshall, Steamboats, and the Commerce Clause. University Press of Kansas. ISBN 978-0-7006-1734-0.
Cox, Thomas H. (2009). Gibbons v. Ogden, Law, and Society in the Early Republic. Ohio University Press. ISBN 978-0-8214-1845-1.
Cox, Thomas H. (2008). “Contesting Commerce: Gibbons v. Ogden, Steam Power, and Social Change”. Journal of Supreme Court History. 34: 55–73. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5818.2009.01198.x.

External links

Text of Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 1 (1824) is available from: CourtListener  Google Scholar  Justia  Library of Congress  OpenJurist  Oyez (oral argument audio) 
Gibbons v. Ogden, Law, and Society in the Early Republic
The short film Gibbons v. Ogden (1977) is available for free download at the Internet Archive
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Gibbons v. Ogden (1824) | Decision and Rationale

Gibbons v. Ogden (1824) | Decision and Rationale – The decision called Gibbons's federal license a legitimate exercise of the regulation of commerce The Gibbons decision established for all time the supremacy of the National Government in all Many constitutional scholars consider Marshall's opinion in the Gibbons case the Chief Justice's finest.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.".The decision in gibbons v. ogden most likely resulted in fewer disputes about state monopolies because more cases about state versus federal licenses.fewer Gibbons v. Ogden was a case solved by the US Supreme Court in 1824 and which led to the enactment of a landmark decision.

Gibbons v. Ogden – Conservapedia – The case of Gibbons vs. Ogden once again emphasized federal power. It placed the responsibility of regulating trade and commerce in Congress's hands, while it restricted regulations from being confined to one particular state. This may have given more power to the national government, but it also…The decision favored Gibbons.ExplanationThe US Supreme Court found in favor of Gibbons, holding that (See below)Gibbons had broad application because many states had carved out water transit Gibbons v. Ogden was argued before the US Supreme Court on February 5, 1924, and the…States cannot interfere with the federal government to regulate commerce. The decision was important to the commerce clause of the Constitution, and no navigation company could have a monopoly. Competing steamboat operators were protected by terms of a federal license to engage in trade along…

Gibbons v. Ogden - Conservapedia

The decision is gibbons v. Ogden most likely resulted… – – the supreme court decision in gibbons v. ogden decided that the commerce clause in article 1 of the constitution gives congress the power to regulate interstate 1.Which answer best describes a reason why industries flourished in New England? A- The people in New England had more work experience.Gibbons v. Ogden is extremely relevant because it established Congresses right to regulate interstate commerce. In addition, it held the powers designated to Congress in Article 1 Section 8 of the United States Constitution as supreme to conflicting state law which attempt to regulation interstate commerce.In Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. 1 (1824), the U.S. Supreme Court first held that Congress has the authority to The opinion, authored by Chief Justice John Marshall, is considered the most influential regarding After the New York Supreme Court affirmed the decision, Gibbons appealed to the U.S…

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Youngstown Sheet and Tube Co. v. Sawyer Case Brief Summary | Law Case Explained – By the late 1940s, labor organizations had
become a powerful force in America.
The government worked with unions to prevent work stoppages,
but widespread fear remained about the crippling effects of large-scale strikes. In response,
Congress, over President Truman's veto, passed the Taft-Hartley Labor Act in 1947, which limited the negotiation tools
unions had in collective bargaining disputes, This did nothing
to soothe the contentious relationship between Congress and the President, who had been vocal
in his criticism for the “Do-Nothing Congress” in his reelection campaign.
Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer involved a labor dispute in the early 1950s between
steel mill owners and employees about their collective bargaining agreements. The two
sides were unable to come to terms, even after federal mediators arrived to help. The workers
prepared to strike. At the time, the United States was involved
in the Korean War, and steel was needed for the military. President Truman believed the
reduction in steel production from a strike would compromise national defense. He issued
an executive order instructing the Secretary of Commerce (Sawyer) to take control of the
nation’s steel mills and ensure uninterrupted production.
Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. (plaintiff) and other mill operators sued Sawyer in federal
court. Youngstown alleged the President’s order was unconstitutional, because it amounted
to legislation, which was Congress’s proprietary role.
The government argued that because the President was acting in response to a national emergency,
the order was authorized under “the aggregate of his constitutional powers as the Nation’s
Chief Executive and the Commander-in-Chief.” The district court granted an injunction on
the ground that the President had exceeded his constitutional authority, but the court
of appeals, sitting en banc, temporarily stayed the injunction. The Supreme Court granted
certiorari to consider whether the President had exceeded his executive powers when he
issued the order. Writing for the majority, Justice Black held
that the President could only act where he had been expressly or implicitly authorized
to do so by the Constitution or Congress. The executive branch could not cite any express
constitutional justification for the order, and the Court rejected as too attenuated the
solicitor general’s argument that the President’s power should be implied. Justice Black found
that the war powers granted to the executive by the Constitution did not apply because
there had been no declaration of war, and no other constitutional provisions conveyed
this authority. Justice Black noted that Congress expressly rejected the use of seizures to
solve labor disputes during the drafting process of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947. Thus, the
executive order could not be justified by any statutory authorization, either.
Given the concurring and dissenting opinions in this case, there has been some debate over
the exact limits of the President’s authority. Justice Jackson’s famous concurrence outlines
the authority of the President to act. Where Congress has expressly or impliedly granted
power to the executive, the President may rely upon his own powers and those of Congress.
Where Congress is silent, the President may rely only on his own authority (though there
is a “zone of twilight” where the President and Congress may have concurrent powers).
Lastly, where the President acts contrary to the will of Congress, “his power is at
its lowest ebb.” Jackson found that Congress had explicitly refused to grant the executive
the power to seize real property to avoid labor disputes and that Truman had acted unconstitutionally.
Justice Douglas concurred to say that only Congress could appropriate money to compensate
owners for a nationwide seizure of property; therefore, the power to seize private property
rested squarely with Congress. Justice Frankfurter wrote a concurrence to
point out that while the executive has been granted the authority to make large-scale
seizures in the past, Congress had granted temporary powers during war or national emergency.
Finding neither condition present, Frankfurter believed Truman’s order was unconstitutional.
Justice Burton, in his concurrence, found the Truman acted outside his authority because
he did not abide by the procedures authorized by Congress in the Taft Hartley Act and had
no inherent power to act on his own. Justice Clark’s concurrence concluded that
the executive’s independent power to act depends on the gravity of the situation, but
he did not find the labor dispute to be severe enough to warrant the President’s executive
order. Justice Vinson wrote the lone dissent, arguing
that the President’s order was necessary to prevent a crisis of national defense that
could result if work stoppage caused steel shortages.
The Youngstown decision was a sharp and unexpected blow to President Truman’s policy ambitions,
and Truman made his displeasure known. Justice Black extended an olive branch by inviting
Truman to a party. Truman eventually made peace with the justices, telling Black, “Hugo,
I don't much care for your law, but, by golly, this bourbon is good." .