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It might further be argued, that the power of Congress over these high branches of commerce was exclusive, from the consideration that Congress possessed an exclusive admiralty jurisdiction. That it did possess such exclusive jurisdiction, would hardly be contested. No State pretended to exercise any jurisdiction of that kind. The States had abolished their Courts of Admiralty, when the constitution went into operation. Over these waters, therefore, or, at least, some of them, which are the subject of this monoply, New York has no jurisdiction whatever. They are a part of the high sea, and not within the body of any county. The authorities of that State could not punish for a murder, committed on board one of these boats, in some places within the range of this exclusive grant. This restraining of the States from all jurisdiction, out of the bodies of their own counties, shows plainly enough, that navigation on the high seas, was understood to be a matter to be regulated only by Congress. It is not unreasonable to say, that what are called the waters of New York, are, to purposes of navigation and commercial regulation, the waters of the United States. There is no cession, indeed, of the waters themselves, but their use, for those purposes, seemed to be entrusted to the exclusive power of Congress. Several States have enacted laws, which would appear to imply their conviction of the power of Congress, over navigable waters, to a greater extent.
If there be a concurrent power of regulating commerce on the high seas, there must be a concurrent admiralty jurisdiction, and a concurrent control of the waters. It is a common principle, that arms of the sea, including navigable rivers, belong to the sovereign, so far as navigation is concerned. Their use is navigation. The United States possess the general power over navigation, and, of course, ought to control, in general, the use of navigable waters. If it be admitted, that for purposes of trade and navigation, the North River, and its bay, are the river and bay of New York, and the Chesapeake the bay of Virginia, very great inconveniences and much confusion might be the result.
It might now be well to take a nearer view of these laws, to sce more exactly what their provisions were, what consequences have followed from them, and what would and might follow from other similar laws.
The first grant to John Fitch, gave him the sole and exclusive right of making, employing, and navigating, all boats impelled by fire or steam," in all creeks, rivers, bays, and waters, within the territory and jurisdiction of the State." Any other person, navigating such boat, was to forfeit it, and to pay a penalty of a hundred pounds. The subsequent acts repeal this, and grant similar privileges to Livingston and Fulton: and the act of 1811 provides the extraordinary and summary remedy, which has been already stated. The river, the bay, and the marine league along the shore, are all within the scope of this grant. Any vessel, therefore, of this description, coming into any of those waters, without a license, whether from another State, or from abroad, whether it be a public or private vessel, is instantly forfeited to the grantees of the monopoly.
Now, it must be remembered, that this grant is made as an exercise of sovereign political power. It is not an inspection law, nor a health law, nor passed by any derivative authority; it is professedly an act of sovereign power. Of course, there is no limit to the power, to be derived from the purpose for which it is exercised. If exercised for one purpose, it may be also for another. No one can inquire into the motives which influence sovereign authority. It is enough, that such power manifests its will. The motive alleged in this case is, to remunerate the grantees for a benefit conferred by them on the public. But there is no necessary connexion between that benefit and this mode of rewarding it; and if the State could grant this monopoly for that purpose, it could also grant it for any other purpose. It could make the grant for money; and so make the monopoly of navigation over those waters a direct source of revenue. When this monopoly shall expire, in 1838, the State may continue it, for any pecuniary consideration which the holders may see fit to offer, and the State to receive.
If the State may grant this monopoly, it may also grant another, for other descriptions of vessels; for instance, for all sloops.
If it can grant these exclusive privileges to a few, it may grant them to many; that is, it may grant them to all its own citizens, to the exclusion of everybody else.
But the waters of New York are no more the subject of exclusive grants by that State, than the waters of other States are subjects of such grants by those other States. Virginia may well exercise, over the entrance of the Chesapeake, all the power that New York can exercise over the bay of New York, and the waters on the shore. The Chesapeake, therefore, upon the principle of these laws, may be the subject of State monopoly; and so may the bay of Massachusetts. But this is not all. It requires no greater power, to grant a monopoly of trade, than a monopoly of navigation. Of course, New York, if these acts can be maintained, may give an exclusive right of entry of vessels into her ports. And the other States may do the same. These are not extreme cases. We have only to suppose that other States should do what New York has already done, and that the power should be carried to its full extent.
To all this, there is no answer to be given except this, that the concurrent power of the States, concurrent though it be, is yet subordinate to the legislation of Congress; and that, therefore, Congress may, when it pleases, annul the State legislation; but, until it does so annul it, the State legislation is valid and effectual. What is there to recommend a construction which leads to a result like this? Here would be a perpetual hostility; one Legislature enacting laws, till another Legislature should repeal them; one sovereign power giving the rule, till another sovereign power should abrogate it; and all this under the idea of concurrent legislation!
But further; under this concurrent power, the State does that which Congress cannot do; that is, it gives preferences to the citizens of some States over those of others. I do not mean here the advantages conferred by the grant on the grantees; but the disadvantages to which it subjects all the other citizens of New York. To impose
an extraordinary tax on steam navigation visiting the ports of New York, and leaving it free everywhere else, is giving a preference to the citizens of other States over those of New York. This Congress could not do; and yet the State does it: so that this power, at first subordinate, then concurrent, now becomes paramount.
The people of New York have a right to be protected against this monopoly. It is one of the objects for which they agreed to this constitution, that they should stand on an equality in commercial regulations; and if the government should not insure them that, the promises made to them, in its behalf, would not be performed.
He contended, therefore, in conclusion on this point, that the power of Congress over these high branches of commercial regulation, was shown to be exclusive, by considering what was wished and intended to be done, when the convention, for forming the constitution, was called; by what was understood, in the State conventions, to have been accomplished by the instrument; by the prohibitions on the States, and the express exception relative to inspection laws; by the nature of the power itself; by the terms used, as connected with the nature of the power; by the subsequent understanding and practice, both of Congress and the States; by the grant of exclusive admiralty jurisdiction to the federal government; by the manifest danger of the opposite doctrine, and the ruinous consequences to which it directly leads.
It required little now to be said, to prove that this exclusive grant is a law regulating commerce; although, in some of the discussions elsewhere, it had been called a law of police. If it be not a regulation of commerce, then it follows, against the constant admission on the other side, that Congress, even by an express act, could not annul or control it. For if it be not a regulation of commerce, Congress has no concern with it. But the granting of monopolies of this kind is always referred to the power over commerce. was as arbiter of commerce that the King formerly granted such monopolies.* This is a law regulating commerce, inasmuch as it imposes new conditions and terms on the coasting trade, on foreign trade generally, and on foreign trade as regulated by treaties; and inasmuch as it interferes with the free navigation of navigable
If, then, the power of commercial regulation, possessed by Congress, be, in regard to the great branches of it, exclusive; and if this grant of New York be a commercial regulation, affecting commerce, in respect to these great branches, then the grant is void, whether any case of actual collision had happened or not.
But, he contended, in the second place, that whether the grant were to be regarded as wholly void or not, it must, at least, be inoperative, when the rights claimed under it came in collision with other rights, enjoyed and secured under the laws of the United States; and such collision, he maintained, clearly existed in this case. It would not be denied that the law of Congress was paramount. The constitution has expressly provided for that. So that the only question in this part of the case is, whether the two rights be inconsistent with each other. The appellant had a right
* 1 Bl. Com. 273. 4 Bl. Com. 100.
to go from New Jersey to New York, in a vessel, owned by himself, of the proper legal description, and enrolled and licensed according to law. This right belonged to him as a citizen of the United States. It was derived under the laws of the United States, and no act of the Legislature of New York can deprive him of it, any more than such act could deprive him of the right of holding lands in that State, or of suing in its Courts. It appears from the record, that the boat in question was regularly enrolled, at Perth Amboy, and properly licensed for carrying on the coasting trade. Under this enrolment, and with this license, she was proceeding to New York, when she was stopped by the injunction of the Chancellor, on the application of the New York grantees. There can be no doubt that here is a collision, in fact; that which the appellant claimed as a right, the respondent resisted; and there remains nothing now but to determine, whether the appellant had, as he contends, a right to navigate these waters; because, if he had such right, it must prevail. Now, this right was expressly conferred by the laws of the United States. The first section of the act of February, 1793, c. 8. regulating the coasting trade and fisheries, declares, that all ships and vessels, enrolled and licensed as that act provides, "and no others, shall be deemed ships or vessels of the United States, entitled to the privileges of ships or vessels employed in the coasting trade or fisheries." The fourth section of the same declares, "that in order to the licensing of any ship or vessel, for carrying on the coasting trade or fisheries," bond shall be given, &c. according to the provisions of the act. And the same section declares, that the owner having complied with the requisites of the law, "it shall be the duty of the Collector to grant a license for carrying on the coasting trade;" and the act proceeds to give the form and words of the license, which is, therefore, of course, to be received as a part of the act; and the words of the license, after the necessary recitals, are, "license is hereby granted for the said vessel to be employed in carrying on the coasting trade."
Words could not make this authority more express.
The Court below seemed to him, with great deference, to have mistaken the object and nature of the license. It seemed to have been of opinion that the license had no other intent or effect than to ascertain the ownership and character of the vessel. But this was the peculiar office and object of the enrolment. That document ascertains that the regular proof of ownership and character has been given; and the license is given, to confer the right, to which the party has shown himself entitled. It is the authority which the master carries with him, to prove his right to navigate freely the waters of the United States, and to carry on the coasting trade.
In some of the discussions which had been had on this question, it had been said, that Congress had only provided for ascertaining the ownership and property of vessels, but had not prescribed to what use they might be applied. But this he thought an obvious error; the whole object of the act regulating the coasting trade, was to declare what vessels shall enjoy the benefit of being used in the coasting trade. To secure this use to certain vessels, and to deny it to others, was precisely the purpose for which the act was passed.
The error, or what he humbly supposed to be the error, in the judgment of the Court below, consisted in that Court's having thought, that although Congress might act, it had not yet acted, in such a way as to confer a right on the appellant: whereas, if a right was not given by this law, it never could be given; no law could be more express. It had been admitted, that supposing there was a provision in the act of Congress, that all vessels duly licensed should be at liberty to navigate, for the purpose of trade and commere, over all the navigable harbours, bays, rivers and lakes, within the several States, any law of the States, creating particular privileges as to any particular class of vessels, to the contrary notwithstanding, the only question that could arise, in such a case, would be, whether the law was constitutional; and that if that was to be granted or decided, it would certainly, in all Courts and places, overrule and set aside the State grant.
Now, he did not see that such supposed case could be distinguished from the present. We show a provision in an act of Congress, that all vessels, duly licensed, may carry on the coasting trade; nobody doubts the constitutional validity of that law; and we show that this vessel was duly licensed according to its provisions. This is all that is essential in the case supposed. The presence or absence of a non obstante clause, cannot affect the extent or operation of the act of Congress. Congress has no power of revoking State laws, as a distinct power. It legislates over subjects; and over those subjects which are within its power, its legislation is supreme, and necessarily overrules all inconsistent or repugnant State legislation. If Congress were to pass an act expressly revoking or annulling, in whole or in part, this New York grant, such an act would be wholly useless and inoperative. If the New York grant be opposed to, or inconsistent with, any constitutional power which Congress has exercised, then, so far as the incompatibility exists, the grant is nugatory and void, necessarily, and by reason of the supremacy of the law of Congress. But if the grant be not inconsistent with any exercise of the powers of Congress, then, certainly, Congress has no authority to revoke or annul it. Such an act of Congress, therefore, would be either unconstitutional or supererogatory. The laws of Congress need no non obstante clause. The constitution makes them supreme, when State laws come into opposition to them; so that in these cases there is no question except this, whether there be, or be not, a repugnancy or hostility between the law of Congress and the law of the State. Nor is it at all material, in this view, whether the law of the State be a law regulating commerce, or a law of police, or by whatever other name or character it may be designated. If its provisions be inconsistent with an act of Congress, they are void, so far as that inconsistency extends. The whole argument, therefore, is substantially and effectually given up, when it is admitted, that Congress might, by express terms, abrogate the State grant, or declare that it should not stand in the way of its own legislation; because, such express terms would add nothing to the effect and operation of an act of Congress.
He contended, therefore, upon the whole of this point, that a case of actual collision had been made out, in this case, between the