United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549, 21 (1995)

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Cite as: 514 U. S. 549 (1995)

Kennedy, J., concurring

the Court faced the related but quite distinct question of the authority of the States to regulate matters that would be within the commerce power had Congress chosen to act. The simple fact was that in the early years of the Republic, Congress seldom perceived the necessity to exercise its power in circumstances where its authority would be called into question. The Court's initial task, therefore, was to elaborate the theories that would permit the States to act where Congress had not done so. Not the least part of the problem was the unresolved question whether the congressional power was exclusive, a question reserved by Chief Justice Marshall in Gibbons v. Ogden, supra, at 209-210.

At the midpoint of the 19th century, the Court embraced the principle that the States and the National Government both have authority to regulate certain matters absent the congressional determination to displace local law or the necessity for the Court to invalidate local law because of the dormant national power. Cooley v. Board of Wardens of Port of Philadelphia ex rel. Soc. for Relief of Distressed Pilots, 12 How. 299, 318-321 (1852). But the utility of that solution was not at once apparent, see generally F. Frankfurter, The Commerce Clause under Marshall, Taney and Waite (1937) (hereinafter Frankfurter), and difficulties of application persisted, see Leisy v. Hardin, 135 U. S. 100, 122-125 (1890).

One approach the Court used to inquire into the lawfulness of state authority was to draw content-based or subject-matter distinctions, thus defining by semantic or formalistic categories those activities that were commerce and those that were not. For instance, in deciding that a State could prohibit the in-state manufacture of liquor intended for outof-state shipment, it distinguished between manufacture and commerce. "No distinction is more popular to the common mind, or more clearly expressed in economic and political literature, than that between manufactur[e] and commerce. Manufacture is transformation—the fashioning of raw mate-


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