Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheaton (22 U.S.) 1; 6 L. Ed. 23 (1824)
Facts—The state of New York gave exclusive navigation rights to all water within the jurisdiction of the state of New York to R. R. Livingston and R. Fulton, who assigned Ogden the right to operate between New York City and New Jersey ports. Gibbons owned two steamships running between New York and Elizabethtown, which were licensed under act of Congress. Ogden gained an injunction against Gibbons, who appealed.
Issue—Can a state grant exclusive rights to navigate its waters?
Decision—C.J. Marshall (6–0). Congressional power to regulate commerce is unlimited except as prescribed by the Constitution. Commerce is more than traffic; it is intercourse, thus including navigation, and it is regulated by prescribing rules for carrying on that intercourse. Regulating power over commerce between states does not stop at the jurisdictional lines of states, and may be exercised within a state, but it does not extend to commerce wholly within a state. When the state law and federal law conflict on this subject, federal law must be supreme. Thus the act of the state of New York was unconstitutional. Any matter that affects interstate commerce is within the power of Congress.
Note—This case, argued for Gibbons by Daniel Webster, is almost always the starting point for discussions of the commerce power and is noteworthy because it was the first one ever to go to the Court under the commerce clause. Marshall defined commerce very broadly and received popular acclaim for striking down a monopoly. The commerce clause has become one of the primary bases for the expansion of congressional powers.