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Cooley v. Board of Wardens

Significance, Further Readings


Aaron B. Cooley


Board of Wardens of the Port of Philadelphia

Appellant's Claim

Ship master Aaron B. Cooley protested a port regulation making him pay half the normal fee for a pilot although he did not use one. The regulation, Cooley claimed, was an invasion of the exclusive authority of Congress over foreign and interstate commerce.

Chief Lawyers for Appellant

Campbell, Dallas

Chief Lawyers for Appellee

Morris, Tyson

Justices for the Court

John Catron, Benjamin Curtis (writing for the Court), Peter Vivian Daniel, Robert Cooper Grier, Samuel Nelson, Roger Brooke Taney

Justices Dissenting

John McLean, James Moore Wayne (John McKinley did not participate)


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

2 March 1852


The Court divided interstate and foreign commerce into two categories for which separate national and local rules could apply. Federal rules would apply to business of a "character to require uniformity of treatment" while "local peculiarities of ports" could be appropriately left to the "legislative discretion of the several states."

Related Cases

  • The Passenger Cases, 7 How. 283 (1849).
  • Bibb v. Navajo Freight Lines, 359 U.S. 520 (1959).

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1833 to 1882