Control, through laws, licenses, and other means, of the buying and selling of goods and services of all kinds, the related transportation of goods, and business and employment practices.
In the early 1800’s New York granted a monopoly to a steamboat operating in New York waters, which conflicted with a congressional coastal license given to another person operating in waters between New York and New Jersey. In Gibbons v. Ogden
In Cooley v. Board of Wardens of the Port of Philadelphia
President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, whose constitutional basis lay in the Constitution's commerce clause.
The Court’s decision in Philadelphia v. New Jersey
The question of how far within the confines of state boundaries federal legislation may penetrate to regulate commerce is answered by two Court decisions during the first quarter of the twentieth century. In the first instance, the Interstate Commerce Commission responded to the discriminatory practices of a railway company in charging lower rates for intrastate shipments among east Texas locations than for interstate shipments over similar distances. The Court, in the Shreveport Rate Cases
Although matters affecting transportation were found to be firmly within the regulatory power of Congress, the Court limited the power of Congress under the commerce clause by creating a sharp distinction between commerce and manufacturing
By 1937 the Court changed its antifederal government interpretations. The transition to a cooperative view of federalism as opposed to the dualistic and antagonist view of federal-state relations occurs with the 5-4 decision in National Labor Relations Board v. Jones and Laughlin Steel Corp.
The Court opted to base its interpretation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act
In United States v. Lopez
Much of contemporary commerce clause litigation involves the federal preemption doctrine. If a state law conflicts with a federal law, the national law supersedes it. The Court must determine whether Congress intended, either explicitly or implicitly, by its extensive regulation to take over a field such as nuclear power (Pacific Gas and Electric Co. v. State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission, 1983). The commerce clause is also the primary constitutional tool that Congress possesses when legislating in the field of Indian affairs. This is especially the case after 1871 when Congress declared that there would be no more treaties with Native Americans. Finally, the Court consistently held that the congressional right to regulate commerce with foreign nations is quite extensive (especially in the light of state attempts to tax foreign products) because it is important for the nation to speak with one voice. However, that voice is Congress and not the president (Barclays Bank v. Franchise Tax Board of California, 1994).
For an up-to-date and comprehensive account of the topic, consult Dan Coenen’s Constitutional Law: The Commerce Clause (Westbury, N.Y.: Foundation Press, 2004). Another excellent place to start is Dan T. Coenen’s Constitutional Law: The Commerce Clause (New York: Foundation Press, 2004). Maurice G. Baxter’s The Steamboat Monopoly: “Gibbons v. Ogden,” 1824 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1972) is a good case study of Marshall’s seminal opinion and a useful history of the commerce clause in the pre-Civil War years. Another work on this subject is Felix Frankfurter’s The Commerce Power Under Marshall, Taney, and Waite (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1937). Edward S. Corwin’s The Commerce Power Versus States Rights (London: Oxford University Press, 1936) treats competing Court interpretations of the commerce clause that preceded the conflict with the New Deal. Because the case in question is essential to understanding the history of the commerce clause, Richard C. Cortner’s The “Jones and Laughlin” Case (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1970) is essential reading. Paul R. Benson, Jr.’s The Supreme Court and the Commerce Clause, 1937-70 (New York: Dunellen, 1970) also provides a good historical account for the period covered. For a modern conservative and restrictive view of the commerce clause see Thomas W. Merrill’s “ Toward a Principled Interpretation of the Commerce Clause,” Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy 22 (1998): 31-43. A searching analysis of the modern conservative agenda with respect to federalism is found in Peter A. Lauricella’s “The Real ‘Contract with America’: The Original Intent of the Tenth Amendment and the Commerce Clause,” Albany Law Review 60 (1997): 1377-1408.
Cooley v. Board of Wardens of the Port of Philadelphia
Gibbons v. Ogden
Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC)
Lopez, United States v.
National Labor Relations Board v. Jones and Laughlin Steel Corp.
Private corporation charters
Race and discrimination
Shreveport Rate Cases
States’ rights and state sovereignty
Travel, right to