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Constitutional Law Keyed to Maggs
Gibbons v. Ogden
Citation:22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 1 (1824)
The New York legislature in 1808 granted an exclusive right to Robert Livingston and Robert Fulton to operate steamboats in New York waters. Livingston and Fulton in turn licensed Ogden to operate a ferry between New York and Elizabethtown, New Jersey. Gibbons, who originally had been Ogden’s partner, began to operate a steamboat in competition with Ogden’s service. Ogden sued Gibbons, relying on his monopoly under New York state law. Gibbons responded by demonstrating that he had been granted a license to operate ferries as vessels to be employed in the coasting trade pursuant to a 1793 federal statute. If the statute meant that Gibbons was free to steam from state to state, it would have been impossible for a court to give effect both to Ogden’s monopoly rights and to Gibbon’s rights. Gibbons argued that Ogden’s exclusive right under New York law was preempted by the federal statute pursuant to the Supremacy Clause of Article VI.
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