Gibbons v. Ogden: Its Continuing Importance 200 Years Later

In remembrance of the landmark Supreme Court Case “Gibbons v. Ogden”, the Union County Board of County Commissioners will be hosting a special event called, “Gibbons v. Ogden: Its Continuing Importance 200 Years Later.” The event will feature a presentation by the Richard Hughes Professor of Law at Seton Hall University, Edward Hartnett, and will be held on Monday, March 4th from 12:30 p.m. until 1:30 p.m. at the Courtroom of Honorable Lisa Miralles Walsh (A.J.S.C.) on the 1st Floor Tower of the Union County Courthouse, located at 2 Broad Street, Elizabeth.

“As a native Elizabethan, I enjoy sharing with my family and fellow residents the connections that our cities have to famous cases like “Gibbons v. Ogden”. Union County’s rich, historical background not only makes it a great place to live and work but also a wonderful location to provide our growing families with a diverse and fascinating education. There is so much history here for us to explore together,” said Commissioner Chairwoman Kimberly Palmieri-Mouded. “Join us in commemorating this momentous anniversary with Professor Hartnett. I hope to see you all there.”

Professor Edward A. Hartnett earned his A.B., magna cum laude, from Harvard, and his J.D. degree from New York University. During his time at NYU, he was elected to The Order of the Coif, a prestigious academic society that recognizes law students for their exceptional scholarship achievements.

He has been a faculty member at the Seton Hall School of Law since 1992. Over the years, he has authored articles in leading law journals such as Boston College Law Review, Constitutional Commentary, Columbia Law Review, Duke Law Journal, Michigan Law Review, New York University Law Review, Notre Dame Law Review, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Texas Law Review, and William & Mary Law Review.

He specializes in Constitutional Law and Federal Courts with an emphasis on the history and practice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He is a co-author of the leading text on practice before the Supreme Court.

“We are honored to have Professor Edward Hartnett joining us as our guest speaker. His vast knowledge in the field of Constitutional Law, particularly his insights on the Supreme Court of the United States, and the important role played by Union County is something we can all benefit from and be proud of,” said Commissioner Bette-Jane Kowalski, Liaison to the Cultural & Heritage Advisory Board. “Learn more about this historic case and join us on March 4th.”

The case of Gibbons v. Ogden of 1824 was between fellow steamboat owners Aaron Ogden and Thomas Gibbons. In the early 1820s, Ogden operated his steamboats under a State license and in compliance with Robert Fulton and Robert R. Livingston’s monopoly of the steamboat navigation on the Hudson water route. Thomas Gibbons then entered the scene, operating his steamboats in the same water route under a Federal Coast license, violating the State License and monopoly rules.

Ogden took Gibbons to the New York Court of Chancery for the violation and initially won his case. Still, Gibbons swiftly appealed, taking his case to the United States Supreme Court, and ultimately winning his appeal against Ogden. The decision made by the Supreme Court was to uphold the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, and all navigation was freed of monopoly control.

Union County recognizes the bi-centennial of this significant event in the early history of the United States due to its connection with our area. Thomas Gibbons and Aaron Ogden, both residents of Elizabethtown (now known as Elizabeth), were involved in a court case that dealt with steamboat navigation. This case specifically addressed a water route between Elizabeth and New York City.

This special speaking event is free of charge, but registration is required. To register, please fill out the form above.

This special History program in Union County is made possible by funds from the New Jersey Historical Commission and is presented by the Union County Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs, a division of the Department of Parks and Recreation, and in collaboration with the Union County Bar Association.

For more information about this presentation and other activities and programs of the Union County Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs, visit, email, or call 908-558-2550.