Blogs > Liberty and Power > Commerce Clause Question

Aug 20, 2009 11:36 pm

Commerce Clause Question

Where in these words does it indicate that the national government may regulate only interstate commerce?
"The Congress shall have Power ... To regulate Commerce ... among the several States....

I know it's been interpreted that way since about 1808 (not 1789), but why? Does the text actually support that interpretation and no other? Not according to William Crosskey's detailed study of word usage in the late eighteenth century (Politics and the Constitution in the History of the Unites States).

It's not as if the framers of the Constitution were unable to write, "between Citizens of different States." They used that phrase in defining the jurisdiction of the federal courts. Maybe the Antifederalists were right. Maybe the Constitution did grant the national government plenary power over commerce and much else.

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Paul Moreno - 5/14/2009

I think their principal goal was to prevent the state obstructions and local discriminations that they experienced under the Articles of Confederation. Epstein's article is very good--"The Proper Scope of the Commerce Power," Virginia Law Review 73 (1987), 1387.

David T. Beito - 5/11/2009

The Anti-Feds were right about so many things. The Constitution framers (for all their virtues) were seeking to establish a strong national government. It makes perfect sense to trust Hamilton's interpretation, rather than those who either didn't participate in the process or had political reasons for later opposing the Federalists such as Jefferson and Madison.