Gibbons v. Ogden

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Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. 1 (1824),[1] was a landmark decision in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that the power to regulate interstate commerce was granted to Congress by the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.[2] The case was argued by some of America's most admired and capable attorneys at the time. Exiled Irish patriot Thomas Addis Emmet and Thomas J. Oakley argued for Ogden, while William Wirt and Daniel Webster argued for Gibbons.



The acts of the Legislature of the State of New York granted to Robert R. Livingston and Robert Fulton the exclusive navigation of all the waters within the jurisdiction of that State, with boats moved by fire or steam, for a term of years. Livingston and Fulton granted a license to Aaron Ogden. Thomas Gibbons operated a competing steamboat service between Elizabethtown, New Jersey, and New York City that had been licensed by the United States Congress in regulating the coasting trade.[3]


Aaron Ogden filed a complaint in the Court of Chancery of New York asking the court to restrain Gibbons from operating on these waters. Ogden's lawyer contended that states often passed laws on issues regarding interstate matters and that states should have fully concurrent power with Congress on matters concerning interstate commerce. The monopoly, therefore, should be upheld.

Gibbons' lawyer, Daniel Webster, argued that Congress had exclusive national power over interstate commerce according to Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution and that to argue otherwise would result in confusing and contradictory local regulatory policies.

The Court of Chancery of New York and the Court of Errors of New York found in favor of Ogden and issued an injunction to restrict Gibbons from operating his boats. Gibbons appealed the case to the Supreme Court, which reversed the decision.

Decision of the Court

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