Gibbons v. Ogden (1824)

The New York State Legislature granted exclusive rights for the operation of steamboats in New York waters to Robert R. Livingston and Robert Fulton.  They in turn, sold a license to Aarron Ogden to use his steamships in New York waters.  Thomas Gibbons was a competing steamship operator based out of New Jersey.  He ran his ships from New Jersey to New York City.  Ogden filed suit against him to stop him from sailing in New York waters because he had exclusive rights to do so.

The issue of the cases was whether or not a state could make a law limiting interstate—between states—trade.  Gibbons argued that only the federal government could make laws about interstate trade and that the New York law grating exclusive rights was unconstitutional.  Despite this, the New York court found in favor of Ogden and issued an injunction preventing Gibbons from legally operating in New York waters.

Gibbons attorneys appealed the case all the way to the Supreme Court.  The Court ruled that the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution gives the federal government sole authority to make laws regarding trade between states and any state law attempting to do the same was unconstitutional and, therefore, null and void.


Landmark Supreme Court Cases


BEFORE: McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)

AFTER: Worcester v. Georgia (1832)


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