American Constitutional Law: Introductory Essays & Selected Cases

By Alpheus Thomas Mason; William M. Beaney | Go to book overview

Gibbons v. Ogden

9 Wheat. 1, 6 L.Ed. 23 ( 1824)

A steamboat monopoly granted by the state of New York gave rise to the first important case involving the commerce clause. Gibbons, whose vessels were licensed under a 1793 federal act, attempted to navigate in New York State waters disregarding an exclusive right held by Ogden, the assignee of the original right. The injunction that issued against Gibbons was sustained by the highest state court. Gibbons appealed.

MARSHALL, CH. J., delivered the opinion of the court. . . .

As preliminary to the very able discussions of the constitution, which we have heard from the bar, and as having some influence on its construction, reference has been made to the political situation of these states, anterior to its formation. It has been said, that they were sovereign, were completely independent, and were connected with each other only by a league. This is true. But when these allied sovereigns converted their league into a government, when they converted their congress of ambassadors, deputed to deliberate on their common concerns, and to recommend measures of general utility, into a legislature, empowered to enact laws on the most interesting subjects, the whole character in which the states appear, underwent a change, the extent of which must be determined by a fair consideration of the instrument by which that change was effected.

This instrument contains an enumeration of powers expressly granted by the people to their government. It has been said, that these powers ought to be construed strictly. But why ought they to be so construed? Is there one sentence in the constitution which gives countenance to this rule? In the last of the enumerated powers, that which grants, expressly, the means for carrying all others into execution, congress is authorized "to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper" for the purpose. But this limitation on the means which may be used, is not extended to the powers which are conferred; nor is there one sentence in the constitution, which has been pointed out by the gentlemen of the bar, or which we have been able to discern, that prescribes this rule. We do not, therefore, think ourselves justified in adopting it. What do gentlemen mean, by a strict construction? If they contend only against that enlarged construction, which would extend words beyond their natural and obvious import, we might question the application of the term, but should not controvert the principle. If they contend for that narrow construction which, in support of some theory not to be found in the constitution, would deny to the government those powers which the words of the grant, as usually understood, import, and which are consistent with the general views and objects of the instrument -- for that narrow construction, which would cripple the government, and render it unequal to the objects for which it is declared to be instituted, and to which

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American Constitutional Law: Introductory Essays & Selected Cases
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Source Materials ix
  • Contents xi
  • One - The Constitution, the Supreme Court, and Judicial Review 3
  • Marbury V. Madison 30
  • Eakin V. Raub 34
  • Cohens V. Virginia 39
  • Luther V. Borden 46
  • Coleman V. Miller 50
  • Colegrove V. Green 55
  • Yakus V. United States 57
  • Two - Congress, the Court, and the President 62
  • Mississippi V. Johnson 75
  • Mcgrain V. Daugherty 77
  • Hampton & Co. V. United States 81
  • Panama Refining Co. V. Ryan 85
  • Opp Cotton Mills V. Administrator 89
  • The Prize Cases 91
  • Myers V. United States 96
  • Humphrey's Executor V. United States 102
  • Ex Parte Grossman 105
  • United States V. Curtiss-Wright 108
  • Youngstown Co. V. Sawyer 112
  • Three - Federalism 120
  • Chisholm V. Georgia 135
  • Texas V. White 142
  • Mcculloch V. Maryland 146
  • Collector V. Day 158
  • Helvering V. Gerhardt 162
  • Graves V. New York Ex Rel. O'Keefe 164
  • New York V. United States 168
  • Ex Parte Siebold 174
  • Missouri V. Holland 176
  • Four - Commerce Power and State Power 178
  • Gibbons V. Ogden 193
  • Cooley V. Board of Wardens 202
  • Brown V. Maryland 206
  • Brown V. Houston 211
  • United States V. South-Eastern Underwriters Association 213
  • Leisy V. Hardin 221
  • Plumley V. Massachusetts 224
  • Best & Co. V. Maxwell 228
  • Henneford V. Silas Mason Co. 230
  • Parker V. Brown 232
  • Southern Pacific Co. V. Arizona 235
  • Hood V. Dumond 239
  • Morgan V. Virginia 245
  • Five - Congressional Power Under the Commerce Clause 248
  • United States V. E. C. Knight 266
  • Champion V. Ames the Lottery Case) 271
  • The Shreveport Case (houston, E. & W. Texas Ry. Co. V. United States) 276
  • Hammer V. Dagenhart 278
  • Stafford V. Wallace 282
  • Schechter Poultry Corporation V. United States 284
  • Carter V. Carter Coal Co. 290
  • National Labor Relations Board V. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation 297
  • Mulford V. Smith 303
  • United States V. Darby 305
  • Wickard V. Filburn 308
  • Six - National Taxing and Spending Power 311
  • Hylton V. United States 319
  • Pollock V. Farmers' Loan and Trust Company (rehearing) 321
  • Mccray V. United States 326
  • Bailey V. Drexel Furniture Company (child Labor Tax Case) 328
  • United States V. Butler 330
  • Steward Machine Co. V. Davis 337
  • Seven - The Contract Clause and State Police Power 343
  • Calder V. Bull 355
  • Dartmouth College V. Woodward 360
  • Charles River Bridge V. Warren Bridge 365
  • Stone V. Mississippi 372
  • Home Building & Loan Association V. Blaisdell 373
  • Eight - The Development of Due Process 380
  • Slaughterhouse Cases 389
  • Munn V. Illinois 397
  • Mugler V. Kansas? 404
  • Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway Co. V. Minnesota 408
  • Nine - The Application of Due Process After 1890 411
  • Lochner V. New York 424
  • Bunting V. Oregon 429
  • Block V. Hirsh 430
  • Green V. Frazier 434
  • Wolff Packing Co. V. Court of Industrial Relations 437
  • Adkins V. Children's Hospital 439
  • Nebbia V. New York 446
  • West Coast Hotel Co. V. Parrish 450
  • Ten - Equal Protection of Laws 454
  • Civil Rights Cases 465
  • Plessy V. Ferguson 472
  • Truax V. Raich 476
  • Truax V. Corrigan 479
  • Liggett Co. V. Lee 485
  • United States V. Classic 490
  • Smith V. Allwright 494
  • Sweatt V. Painter 498
  • Brown V. Topeka Briggs V. Elliott Davis V. Prince Edward County Bolling V. Sharpe Gebhart V. Belton - The Public School Segregation Cases 501
  • Eleven - Civil LIberties -- Criminal Procedure 505
  • Hurtado V. California 514
  • Olmstead V. United States 521
  • Powell V. Alabama 525
  • Palko V. Connecticut 530
  • Chambers V. Florida 532
  • Adamson V. California 535
  • United States V. Rabinowitz 542
  • Ex Parte Milligan 546
  • In Re Yamashita 551
  • Twelve - Civil LIberties -- the First Amendment Freedoms 558
  • Schenck V. United States 571
  • Meyer V. Nebraska 572
  • Gitlow V. New York 574
  • Whitney V. California 580
  • Near V. Minnesota 585
  • Cantwell V. Connecticut 590
  • Minersville School District V. Gobitis 593
  • Korematsu V. United States 602
  • Mccollum V. Board of Education 607
  • Zorach V. Clauson 612
  • Terminiello V. Chicago 616
  • American Communications Association V. Douds 622
  • Dennis V. United States 631
  • Appendix - The Constitution of the United States of America 643
  • Justices of the Supreme Court: 1789-1954 660
  • Table of Cases 663
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