Tuesday, October 15, 2013
It began as a dispute between competing steamship companies: The state of New York granted exclusive navigation privileges on all of its waters to one steamboat firm. The plaintiffs cried foul! This 1824 decision became a key moment in the ongoing tug-of-war for power between individual states and the federal government.
As distinguished professor emeritus of law at the University of South Carolina Herbert Alan Johnson notes in his book Gibbons v. Ogden: John Marshall, Steamboats and the Commerce Clause, that by applying the Commerce Clause of the Constitution the Court set a vital precedent for federal authority. Gibbons v. Ogden heralded the expansion of entrepreneurship and technology while justifying federal primacy in the regulation of commerce.