SupremeCourt Case: Gibbons v. Ogden

SupremeCourt Case: Gibbons v. Ogden

AaronOgden obtained an exclusive license from New York State to operate asteamboat from New York to New Jersey. Similarly, Thomas Gibbonsacquired a license from the federal government to operate a steamboaton the same route, which brought competition to Ogden’s monopolybusiness (Cox, 2009). Consequently, Ogden sued Gibbons in a New Yorkcourt and obtained an injunction against Gibbons’ business.However, Gibbons appealed the case to the Supreme Court, arguing thathe was operating his steamboat under a permit issued by the Congress.Therefore, the Congress has exclusive power to regulate interstatecommerce under Article 1 Section 8. The Supreme Court had to decideif New York’s injunction against Gibbons’ license was lawful(Cox, 2009).

ChiefJustice Marshall wrote the majority opinion, which unanimously ruledfor Gibbons. The ruling explained that Ogden’s license violatedFederal Licensing Act of 1793 (Cox, 2009). Thus, the Congress has thepower to regulate commerce among states in the country. The majorityopinion also explained that New York’s licensing law forout-of-state businesses was inconsistent with the Congressional Actregulating coast trade. Hence, the New York law was invalid accordingto the Supremacy Clause (Cox, 2009). Marshall explained that the wordcommerce included businesses conducted on interstate waterways.Accordingly, no state has the power to regulate interstate commercedue to the need for national consistency, which is only provided bythe single authority of the federal laws (Cox, 2009).

Theruling was one of the most influential decisions that defined thepower of the Congress to regulate interstate businesses includingsteamboat operators. The case was the first legal proceeding thatmarked the power struggle between the federal and state governments(Cox, 2009). The court decision favored Gibbons, which led to theconclusion that the federal government holds more power regarding thematters of interstate commerce. Therefore, the ruling laid a platformfor future expansion of Congressional power over commercial activity.After the case, the Congress attained preemptive power over states toregulate commerce crossing the state lines (Cox, 2009).


Cox,T. H. (2009). Gibbonsv. Ogden, law, and society in the early republic.Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press.