Interstate Commerce / Gibbons V Research Paper

Excerpt from Research Paper :

As a result, Gibbons was providing a service and was helping ensure the free flow of ideas. The licensed that he received from Congress is regulating these principals. Based on this interpretation along with the previous case law decided in McCulloch v Maryland and the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution; New York State does not have the power to regulate trade. Instead, this power is solely reserved for Congress with the court saying, "The power to regulate commerce, so far as it extends, is exclusively vested in Congress, and no part of it can be exercised by a State. State inspection laws, health laws, and laws for regulating the internal commerce of a State, and those which respect turnpike roads, ferries, & c. are not within the power granted to Congress. The laws of N.Y. granting to R.R.L. And R.F. The exclusive right of navigating the waters of that State with steam boats, are in collision with the acts of Congress regulating the coasting trade, which being made in pursuance of the constitution, are supreme, and the state laws must yield to that supremacy, even though enacted in pursuance of powers acknowledged to remain in the States. A license under the acts of Congress for regulating the coasting trade, gives a permission to carry on that trade. The license is not merely intended to confer the national character. The power of regulating commerce extends to navigation carried on by vessels exclusively employed in transporting passengers. The power of regulating commerce extends to vessels propelled by steam or fire, as well as to those navigated by the instrument ability of wind and sails." ("Gibbons v Ogden") As a result, the significance of this decision would give the federal government a larger amount of power in areas of commerce over the states. This would lead to a number of different issues between the states and the federal government over areas power.

The Long-Term Effects on the United States

Gibbons v Ogden would lead to a number of different debates, as to the overall scope of what the decision would mean about the power that Congress would have over commerce. The initial fear from the case is that this would give the federal government the authority to consolidate all of the states power. Instead, the effects were that it opened up interstate commerce. This was significant, because prior to the ruling many of the different states had their own set of laws that they would impose on matters of commerce. This slowed the free flow of people, goods, services and ideas. As the various regulations and barriers made it far more difficult for one person to travel, much less conduct business in another state. Once this decision was handed down, the steamship industry would see a massive expansion as they were able to travel from one state to the next freely. This would allow for the development of the nations first transportation system, through the various rivers and waterways. Over the course of time, one could argue that the effects of this ruling allowed for the industrialization of America. Where, the free flow of goods and services between the states, would allow the federal government to create a number of different transportations systems (that would help promote commerce). To include: the interstate highway system, the railroad, national utility grids, the internet and the air transportation industry.

However, the overall effects of Gibbons v Ogden can be seen much further than just the way that interstate commerce was developed. Instead, this case would have much more far reaching effects on how the federal government would regulate commerce, business and the role that it would play in the economy. After the Supreme Court decision the federal government began to expand the overall power that it had in relation to the states. Where, it could use its power to regulate commerce, as a way to effectively control the different states. This would empower Congress to pass various laws to regulate commerce and the economy in general. Some good examples would include: the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, the Federal Reserve Act, the Glass Stegall Act and the Investment Company Act. All of these different laws are significant, because in one way or another the federal government is attempting to control the overall amounts of commerce. For example, the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 gives the federal government to regulate the nation's
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stock markets and the financial industry. This was in response to the 1929 stock market crash, where it was determined that one of the reasons why the crash took place was: no regulation of the stock market. To prevent the anything goes type of atmosphere, the federal government began to regulate these markets (because interstate commerce was involved). ("Securities and Exchange Act of 1934") In this particular aspect, this law is directly tied to the Supreme Court case Gibbons v Ogden, because it established the precedent that the federal government has the right to regulate commerce.

Yet, beyond the issue of commerce is the overall amount of power that the federal would have over the states. This is important because since the end of the American Revolution, the scope of powers that the federal government has would constantly be debated. Where, the ratification of the Constitution would be in question, because some of the opponents feared that it would give the federal government to much power over the lives of every day citizens. Many people feared that by giving the federal government this much control; will eventually lead to them seizing power from the states and implementing authoritarian rule (something the British did). As a result, the overall increase in power of the federal government would stoke these fears. Like what was stated previously, Gibbons v Ogden created fear among the general public and pundits that this would lead to a consolidation of federal power. However, the case would signify a shift in American political traditions, as the federal government would continue to play an important part in regulating the states. At the heart of the debate created by Gibbons v Ogden, was to the overall power that the federal government would have, in comparison with the states. Where, since that decision the power of the federal government would greatly expand over nearly 180 years. This is because the case would serve as a precedent that would allow their overall authority in a number of different areas to increase. What happened was, Gibbons v Ogden was a part of a series of Supreme Court cases that would quickly place any kind of power that the states did have in check. This because a number of different issues were constantly being brought to the forefront, in regards to the overall power that the federal government would have in comparison to the states. A good example of this can be seen by Cohen v Virginia, where it was decided before the ruling of Gibbons v Ogden. In this particular situation, the Supreme Court ruled that they have the power to review state court decisions. ("Cohens v Virginia") This is significant because it solidified the courts authority over all of the other parts of the judicial system. To include: finding the actions taken by the courts or state legislatures as unconstitutional. Signaling, the growing amounts of power that the federal government would have over the states.

However, the overall scope of powers of the federal government would continually be tested. Gibbons v Ogden affirmed the power to regulate commerce, yet, there was confusion about how and when such power can be applied. A good example of this can be seen with the Supreme Court case Willson v Black Bird Creek Marsh Company. In this 1829 case, the Black Bird Creek Company was given the power under Delaware law to construct a dam. When one of the citizens tore down this dam, the company filed a lawsuit claiming that they had violated Delaware state law. At the heart of the argument, was if the state had the power to impose laws that were given to Congress. This is despite the fact that Congress had never passed any laws on if the construction of the dam was illegal. The high court ruled in favor of the company, claiming that when there are no federal laws in place, the states have the right to create their own laws. ("Willson v Blackbird Creek Marsh Company") This significant because it shows how the federal government's power is expanding, yet it is limited to a certain extent. Where, there are clearly defined powers and responsibilities of the states. During situations where federal regulation is lacking, the state has the option of creating their own regulations to address these issues.

The Impact of the Gibbons v Ogden into the New Millennium and Beyond

The impact of Gibbons v Ogden has had a major effect on role that the federal government and states have in relation…

Sources Used in Documents:


"Cohens v Virginia." Oyez. 2010. Web. 6 Apr. 2010. <>

"Gibbons v. Ogden." Social Studies for Kids. 2010. Web. 5 Apr. 2010.

"Gibbons v Ogden." Find Law. 2010. Web. 5 Apr. 2010. <>

"Securities and Exchange Act of 1934." Investopedia. 2010. Web. 6 Apr. 2010. <>

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