Gibbons v. Ogden: How a Lawsuit Over a Steamboat Monopoly Expanded the Power of the Federal Government

For Immediate Release:
October 10, 2013
Contact: Lorenzo Butler
Gibbons v. Ogden: How a Lawsuit Over a Steamboat Monopoly Expanded the Power of the Federal Government

It began as a dispute between competing steamship companies. The plaintiffs cried foul when the State of New York granted exclusive navigation privileges on all its waters to a steamship firm co-owned by Robert Fulton. It ended with the United States Supreme Court ruling that the power to regulate interstate commerce was granted to Congress by the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. 
Author Herbert Alan Johnson explores how the 1824 decision became a key moment in the ongoing tug-of-war for power between individual states and the federal government in a discussion of his book Gibbons v. Ogden: John Marshall, Steamboats and the Commerce Clause on Tuesday, October 15, 2013, at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.

By applying the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the Court set a vital precedent in Gibbons v. Ogden for federal authority. Johnson reveals the case's lasting impact on both commerce in the early republic and the growth of federal power over the last 200 years.

At the same time, he brings to life Chief Justice John Marshall, who exhibited an uncanny ability to forge agreements among his colleagues.

Essential to the nation's economic history, Gibbons v. Ogden heralded the expansion of entrepreneurship and technology while justifying federal primacy in the regulation of commerce.  

Johnson is distinguished professor emeritus of law at the University of South Carolina. Among his books are The Chief Justiceship of John Marshall 1801-35, Wingless Eagle: U.S. Army Aviation through World War I, and History of Criminal Justice.

The Legal Landmarks series is co-presented by the Kansas City Public Library, the Truman Library Institute, and the Federal Court Historical Society. It is funded by grants from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation Legacy Fund, with additional support provided by Spencer Fane Britt & Browne, and is co-sponsored by the University Press of Kansas and the University of Kansas School of Law.  

Admission is free. A 6 p.m. reception precedes the event. Free parking is available in the Library District Parking Garage at 10th & Baltimore.  RSVP at or call 816.701.3407.


Kansas City Public Library Beta