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Gibbons v. Ogden

Steamships: Navigating For The Future

The first chapter in the Gibbons v. Ogden story began in 1807, when Robert Fulton and Robert R. Livingston won the exclusive right to operate steamboats in New York waters. Soon after, they won another exclusive grant to operate steamships in the state of Louisiana, thus obtaining control over some of the major commercial water routes in the United States.

Soon, other people began to get into the steamboat business. They too won monopolies to operate steamboats in the waters of various states. Meanwhile, the United States was expanding westward, and steamboats were becoming increasingly important in connecting the various parts of the growing nation. But since many different companies had carved up the rights to different state waterways among themselves, it was difficult for any single company to carry goods from state to state.

Citizens of New York state began to complain about the way monopolies dominated the steamboat business. The New Jersey legislature also took action: they passed a law authorizing its officials to seize and confiscate any steamboats operating under the New York monopoly. Clearly, the situation did not bode well for interstate commerce.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940Gibbons v. Ogden - Steamships: Navigating For The Future, A Fight Between Two Partners, Commerce Or Navigation?, Implications For The Future