Aaron Ogden and Thomas Gibbons ran competing
steamboat companies that
shipped and transported goods from state to state in the early 1800s
the New York State government issued Aaron Ogden a license under an official, state government-issued monopoly to
exclusively operate steamboat ferries in the waters between New Jersey and New
Thomas Gibbons, another steamboat operator,
competed with Ogden on the same route, but held a federal license from Congress
Ogden filed a complaint in New York court to stop Gibbons
from operating his boats, claiming that the monopoly granted by New York was
legal even though he operated on shared, interstate waters.
argued that the U.S. Constitution gave Congress full and complete authority
over interstate commerce
losing twice in New York state courts, Gibbons appealed to the Supreme Court
the term commerce include traffic, navigation, and ferry services?
has authority over interstate commerce, federal government or state government?
Was the New York court’s ruling against Ogden’s
Justice Marshall spoke for the Supreme Court (6–0) siding with Gibbons, quoting
“Congress shall have power to
regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with
Court ruled that Gibbons must be allowed to operate within the waters of New
Gibbons’ side forced the court to take a broader perspective of the term
commerce to include the ferry services both Gibbons and Ogden were offering via
steamboat, those siding with Gibbons argued his federal license overpowered the
New York State license of Ogden. However, on Ogden’s side, commerce was viewed
upon more specifically, and those siding with Ogden mentioned how ferry
services landing in New York harbors were under the right of New York State to
regulate commerce within its own borders.
However, it was ruled navigation and ferry services must be defined as a
part of commerce as mentioned in the commerce clause
Article I, Section 8, Clause 3, or
the commerce clause of the constitution, states how the federal government is
granted all and every right to regulate interstate commerce, favoring Gibbons’
side that his license overpowers Ogden’s state license
supremacy clause, Article VI, Clause 2, states, ” This Constitution,
and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and
all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United
States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State
shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any state to
the contrary notwithstanding”, meaning that the federal constitution, and federal
law, take precedence over state laws, and even state constitutions. This is
significant because the case of Gibbons v. Ogden was a clear issue of state
versus federal power, as New York State at first stated its control over an
issue of interstate commerce, over another state (New Jersey), and interstate
commerce is a clearly state power of the federal government.
decision stated Gibbons’ federally issued license was included in the
regulation of commerce provided in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution
(necessary and proper clause). The New York State law creating a commercial
monopoly was eliminated, since it went against Article VI,
Clause 2, the supremacy clause, allowing all federal law to supersede state
commerce was concluded to be exclusively a right of the federal government to
control and regulate, not the states. This continues today as all trade between
states an ferry systems operating in waters either bordering two states or
including two states or more are regulated by the federal government, and if
today, a state attempts to monopolize the trade, the Interstate Commerce
Commission will step in to enforce federal regulation. The Interstate Commerce
Commission was enacted after railroads crossing multiple states raised tensions
of regulation of interstate commerce, yet, Gibbons v. Ogden was the Supreme
Court case that affirmed the federalism of commerce between states.
believe the 1808 court ruling of Gibbons v. Ogden was fair and just. The
decision of the New York State government to issue a monopoly to one party in
waters that included two states was unacceptable. By doing so, New York was
disadvantaging New Jersey ferry services, and if not addressed this could have
become a source of major conflict between the two states, disrupting the union.
However, the supremacy clause allowed for New York to submit to the federal
governments rulings and reinstate the United states’ federalism policy: the
federal government will always overrule the state governments.