Gibbons v. Ogden, case decided in 1824 by the U.S. Supreme Court. 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 his case and appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which reversed the decision. At issue was the scope of the commerce clause of Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution; this provides that Congress shall have the power to "regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes." Chief Justice John Marshall held that the New York monopoly was an unconstitutional interference with the power of Congress over interstate commerce. He condemned the view 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). The decision was highly influential in its explication of the federal structure of the United States.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.