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Cooley v. Board of Wardens

Citation. 53 U.S. (12 How.) 299, 13 L.Ed. 996 (1852).

Brief Fact Summary.

Cooley challenged a state law requiring that ships using their port hire a local pilot, alleging that it violates the Commerce Clause.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Congress’ power to regulate commerce per the Commerce Clause does not deprive the States of all power to regulate commerce.


Pennsylvania passed a law that required ships using the Philadelphia port to hire a local pilot. Cooley was fined by the Board of Wardens for violating this law. Cooley brought suit challenging the constitutionality of this law, arguing that it violates Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause.


Does the Commerce Clause deprive the States of all power to regulate commerce?


No, the Commerce Clause does not wholly deprive the States of power to regulate commerce.


The mere grant of power to regulate commerce does not deprive the States of all power to legislate on this subject. Unless Congress has exerted its commerce power in a certain area, legislation should be left to the States.

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