Gibbons v. Ogden (1824)

Gibbins v. Ogden, 22 U.S. 1, 9 Wheat. 1, 6 L. Ed. 23 (1824)

Facts: A statute was enacted in New York, giving Fulton and Livingston an exclusive right to operate a steamboat company on New York waters. Ogden was giving a license by Fulton and Livingston to operate a ferry between New York and New Jersey. Later, Gibbons began operating a ferry, licensed under a statute enacted by Congress that necessarily entailed Gibbons entering into New York waters, thereby violating Ogden’s monopoly. Ogden obtained an injunction against Gibbons from a New York court.

Issue: Was it lawful for the Court of New York to issues Ogden an injunction against his license?

Holding: No, the New York monopoly was invalid.

Rationale: The monopoly was invalid under the supremacy clause. Gibbons was given a license to move or “navigate” throughout New York’s waterways. Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution grants Congress the power to regulate commerce among the several states.

Opposite to what Ogden believed, “commerce” means more than traffic. It also encompasses navigation. The phrase “among the several states” means “intermingled with them”. Therefore, Congress’ power to regulate “among the several states” must not stop at the external boundary line of each State. Congress’ power must also extend to each States’ interior. Moreover, the power of Congress to regulate within its proper sphere, e.g., interstate commerce, is exclusive.


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