the defendant, who owned a steam-vessel, enrolled as a coaster under the laws of the United States, from sailing his vessel upon New York waters. The State courts all upheld the validity of the law, and an appeal was prayed to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court sustained the appeal, and declared the law invalid, in as far as it applied to the defendant’s vessel. The actual decision of the Court was as follows: First, that the Federal coasting license laws were valid as an exercise by Congress of its powers to regulate interstate commerce; second, that those laws conferred upon vessels duly enrolled under them the right to navigate all navigable waters of the United States; third, that all valid enactments of Congress superseded and abrogated all State legislation inconsistent with them, and that, therefore, the New York law was invalid in so far as the exclusive privileges of navigation conferred by it operated to exclude licensed coasters from navigating the waters of the State.
This is all that was actually decided by the case,—that laws passed by Congress in exercise of its commercial powers were paramount to conflicting State legislation. The opinion of the Court, however, discusses at length the question with which this article is concerned,—the principle upon which to distinguish between the commercial power of Congress and the “police” powers of the States. In the course of the argument the defence raised the point that the New York law was a regulation of commerce, and that the power to regulate commerce was “exclusive” in Congress. The opposite side met this argument by denying that the commercial powers of Congress were “exclusive.” In support of their position that the powers to regulate foreign or interstate commerce was possessed by the States concurrently with Congress, they instanced quarantine laws, inspection laws, health laws, etc., as being laws which were regulations of foreign or interstate commerce, but which were, nevertheless, confessedly within the powers of the State to enact. This argument in favor of “concurrency,” based upon State quarantine laws, health laws, etc., was discussed at length by Chief-Justice Marshall in his opinion, and although he finally declined to pass upon the question of “concurrency” or “exclusiveness,” and decided the case upon the ground stated above, this discussion is most valuable as suggesting the principle upon which to distinguish between laws affecting or operating upon foreign or interstate commerce which are, from those which