Gibbons v. Ogden (1924)
An Expansion of the federal Commerce Clause
The New York Legislature had passed a law giving a
group of investors a monopoly over steamship travel
in the state of New York. Two individuals given this
permission were Robert Fulton and Aaron Ogden
Another steamship trader, Thomas Gibbons, wished
to use the New York waterways for business and had
received federal permission to do so
Gibbons was denied permission to the waterways by
the New York state which used its law as
Background (cont)
Aaron Ogden, the plaintiff, had purchased an interest in
the monopoly to operate steamboats that New York
state had granted to Robert Fulton and Robert
Livingston. Ogden brought suit in New York against
Thomas Gibbons, the defendant, for operating a rival
steamboat service between New York City and the New
Jersey ports.
Gibbons lost the case to Ogden but appealed it and the
case was taken to the Supreme Court where he argued
that the Act of Congress giving him permission to use
the waterways superseded the exclusive privilege the
state had granted the contractors
Ruling of the Case
The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John
Marshall, ruled in favor of Gibbons. Their reasoning
stated that the Constitution contained the Commerce
Clause, which granted the federal government
permission to regulate commerce (in this case trade)
wherever it may be. That included within the
borders of a state, in this case New York state.
Significance of Case
Gibbons v. Ogden cemented the power of federal laws
over state laws by upholding Gibbon’s federal
permission over the state law.
Chief Justice John Marshall stated that the New York
monopoly was an unconstitutional interference with the
power of Congress over interstate commerce. He
refuted the belief that the states and the federal
government are equal sovereignties. Federal power is
specifically enumerated, but within its sphere Congress
is supreme. State legislation may be enacted in areas
reserved to the federal government only if concurrent
jurisdiction is feasible (as in the case of taxation).
Significance (cont)
Consequences: A state may not uphold legislation
inconsistent with federal law which regulates a purely
internal affair regarding trade or the police power, or
is pursuant to a power to regulate interstate
commerce concurrent with that of Congress. States
do not have the power to regulate those phases of
interstate commerce which, because of the need of
national uniformity, demand that their regulation, be
prescribed by a single authority. A state does not
have the power to grant an exclusive right to the use
of state navigable waters inconsistent with federal
law. (

Gibbons v. Ogden (1924)