Definition: One of the
most important decision of the early Supreme Court. Led by
Chief Justice John Marshall, the Court said that the federal
commerce clause, in effect, outranked a state law that had
granted a monopoly to one group of people.
is a summary:
New York Legislature had passed a law giving a monopoly
on steamship travel in New York state to a group of
investors, including Robert Fulton, the inventor of the
steamship Clermont. Among the people who had
permission to do business under this monopoly was Aaron
Gibbons, another steamship trader, wanted to use the New
York waterways for his business, too. He had been given
federal permission to do so. He was denied access to
these waterways by the State of New York, which cited its
law as enforcement. Gibbons sued Ogden, and the Supreme
Court agreed to decide the case.
majority opinion, written by Marshall, said that the U.S.
Constitution had a commerce clause that allowed the
federal government to regulate commerce, in this case
trade, wherever it might be, including within the borders
of a state. Previously, it was thought that the federal
government had power over only interstate
commerce. But Marshall's opinion said that the
commerce clause applied here, too. Thus, the Supreme
Court extended the definition of interstate commerce and
cemented the power of the federal government over the
states when laws conflicted.
Gibbons v. Ogden
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