Gibbons v. Ogden

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In the case of Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. 1 (1824), the United States Supreme Court ruled on March 2, 1824 that the Commerce Clause of the Constitution reserved to Congress the power to regulate interstate navigation.

The case arose from an attempt by New York State to grant a monopoly of steamboat operation between New York and neighboring New Jersey. The operator maintained that navigation was distinct from commerce, and was thus a legitimate area of state regulation.

The Court disagreed, finding that "The mind can scarcely conceive a system for regulating commerce between nations which shall exclude all laws concerning navigation." The ruling determined that "a [Congressional] power to regulate navigation is as expressly granted as if that term had been added to the word 'commerce'".

The Court went on to conclude that Congressional power over commerce should extend to the regulation of all aspects of it, overriding state law to the contrary:

If, as has always been understood, the sovereignty of Congress, though limited to specified objects, is plenary as to those objects, the power over commerce with foreign nations and among the several states is vested in Congress as absolutely as it would be in a single government, having in its constitution the same restrictions on the exercise of the power as are found in the Constitution of the United States.

The broader interpretation of Congressional power established by Gibbons v. Ogden survived until 1895, when the court began to limit Congressional power in the case of United States v. E. C. Knight Co., 156 U.S. 1 (1895).

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