What Is the Importance of Gibbons V. Ogden?

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The Supreme Court case Gibbons v. Odgen is widely accepted as the first true instance of the power struggle between federal and state governments. When Marshall Court ruled in favor of Gibbons, it was concluded that the federal government holds more power than state governments regarding the issue of interstate commerce.

Aaron Ogden was a powerhouse in the commerce industry of New York. He owned various waterways, and he forced vessels from other states to pay significant fees to navigate through his waterways. Ogden was able to charge these high fees because the state of New York had granted him a monopoly license.

Thomas Gibbons was a trader who transported goods, via steamboat, between New York and New Jersey. Gibbons felt that he shouldn't have to pay Ogden's fees because he had a federal coastal license. Gibbons claimed that New York could not supersede the authority of Congress regarding commerce between multiple states. The Supreme Court, headed by John Marshall, agreed with Gibbons and ruled that the national government had exclusive power regarding interstate commerce and navigation. The ruling took place on Feb. 4, 1824.

This ruling was one of the first instances of the national government claiming authority over a state government. States, especially in the South, became fearful that the federal government would make similar rulings that undermined state decisions about issues like slavery and taxation.