Gibbons v. Ogden

Background and Case:
Aaron Ogden and Thomas Gibbons were once partners in the steamboat trade business, but had a falling-out after Gibbons started operating on an interstate route that was designated to Ogden. The two men took the matter to the New York Court of Errors in 1820 and it eventually reached the Supreme Court 4 years later. Ogden contended that states often issued laws concerning interstate matters, and since the route in question had been granted to him by New York, Gibbons was fault. Gibbons argued that it was unconstitutional for states to establish monopolies on interstate trade routes, citing the Constitution's statement in the Commerce Clause that only Congress had jurisdiction over interstate commerce. The Supreme Court ended up ruling in favor of Gibbons.



So that is basically all that happened, but that doesn't give you a great idea of the significance of the case, as it ended up having a far greater meaning than just a squabble between two greedy men. If you think about what the outcome of this case actually meant, it effectively took away the states' ability to regulate trade and travel within their own borders. This was a major imposition on states' rights that would not sit well with many in the U.S., particularly in the South, in the years leading up to the Civil War. And of course, the controversy between the North and the South over the role of the federal government drove the two regions apart and helped instigate the fighting. It is not likely that this particular case would have been much of a rallying cry for beleaguered Southerners in the years to come, but it certainly fits in with an overall pattern.

In addition, you could also look at the outcome of this case as permission being granted to Congress to impose their own will over the will of the states. This increase in the power of Congress would slowly continue in the coming years before erupting after the death of Lincoln. Again, these two things may or may not be related, but I thought I saw a pattern between 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2Q==]]Gibbons external image Aaron_Ogden.jpgOgden


The picture is of Ogden. I had one of Gibbons next to him but it's not showing up for some reason. Just Google him if you want to know what he looks like.