Case Name: McCulloch
Citation: 17 U.S. 316 (1819)
Facts: On the 11th day of February in 1818, an act was passed
by the General Assembly of Maryland to impose a tax on banks in Maryland that
were not chartered by the Legislature. At the time, the only bank in Maryland affected
by this act was the Second Bank of the United States, located in Baltimore. The
Second Bank of the United States was incorporated by an act passed by congress
on the 10th day of April in 1816.
the head of the Baltimore branch of the Second Bank of the United States, James
McCulloch responded to this new tax levied on the bank by refusing to pay said
tax. A lawsuit emerged in favor of the State of Maryland which led to the case
being appealed to the Maryland Court of Appeals. The Maryland Court of Appeals
upheld the argument made by Maryland because the Constitution did not
specifically contain the subject of whether the United States had power to incorporate
a bank. The case was appealed to the
United States Supreme Court in 1819.
Procedural History: Suit was brought upon the head of the Bank of
the United States by John James who represented the state of Maryland. The head
of the Bank, James McCulloch, was sued for refusing to pay the tax imposed on
the bank. A suit took place at the Baltimore County court that ruled in favor
of John James and the state of Maryland. McCulloch then appealed to the
Maryland Court of Appeals who upheld the previous ruling in which favored the
state of Maryland. The case was appealed to the United States Supreme Court by
writ of error.
a national bank is within the powers of Congress because of the “necessary and
proper” clause. This clause is said to be among the powers of congress, not
among the limitations. “This provision is made in a constitution, intended for
ages to come, and consequently, to be adapted to the various crises of human
affairs. To have prescribed the means by which government should, in all future
time, execute its powers, would have been to change, entirely, the character of
the instrument, and give it the properties of a legal code.”
1. The powers that Congress thinks it has to
incorporate a national bank are given to them by the sovereign states. The
state of Maryland found it important to contest that this clause was inserted
with the intention that congress had to consult the power of making laws. That,
without it, it could be uncertain whether congress could exercise its powers in
the form of legislation. As a sovereign state in charge of making its own
legislature, Maryland has the power to tax any subject within its borders.
it was constitutional and within its powers for Congress to incorporate a bank
the state of Maryland unconstitutionally interfered with the powers of Congress
by taxing the Bank of the United States.
The Supreme Court unanimously agreed that the act to incorporate the Bank of
the United States and to establish a branch in the state of Maryland by
congress was made in pursuance of the constitution and therefore is the supreme
law of the land.
Taxation is important and retained by the states but the constitution is
supreme over the states’ rights and laws. The US Supreme Court ruled that the
United States government is supreme over states laws therefore making the
taxation on the Bank of the United States by Maryland unconstitutional.
Summary of the Majority
Opinion: The decision of the Supreme court was
unanimous. The unanimous opinion was written by Chief Justice Marshall and
stated the following:
The Supreme Court asserted that
Congress is awarded national supremacy over the states in matters of constitutionally
granted authorities. Congress has powers not explicitly outlined in the
Constitution through the “necessary and proper” clause. The state of Maryland
acted in contrary to the Constitution of the United States and therefore the
decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals in affirming the judgement of the
Baltimore County court is ruled unconstitutional. The ruling by both the
Baltimore County court and the Maryland Court of Appeals were reversed and
Chief Justice Marshall first writes
that the constitution is to be considered while the conflicting parties of
government make their arguments. In the constitution it is found that the
arguments are to be issued and discussed and then an opinion given that will
model for operations of government now and in future cases.
The courts go over the first
question that is brought about by this case- Does congress have the power to
incorporate a bank? This has never been an issue that has been discussed in the
Supreme Court so it is reflected about the past and how to even answer a
question of this kind.
The way congress passed the bill for
incorporating the Bank of the United States was not sneakily passed but instead
debated about and then supported in the executive cabinet, it then became a law.
The next issue tackled is counsel
for the state of Maryland’s claim that the sovereign states are the ones that
are giving congress its powers and possess supreme domination. The Court writes
that this proposition is hard to keep, the convention which framed the
constitution was done so by the states legislators. But the agreement was one
without obligation. The states were created so as not to force the United
States population into one mass but instead separate states that had the
ability to make their own laws on things such as taxing.
The court then turns its attention
to how the government’s enumerated powers are acknowledged by all. The United
States government is supreme in its laws as proven by the constitution. No
state can contradict the laws and powers of the government for it is supreme
over them. Although there is no established power on whether incorporating a
bank, there are “necessary and proper” language that allows congress powers
that are not directly given to them through the constitution. The word
necessary cannot be strictly defined as to make it impossible to judge future
cases of similar issues. The necessary and proper clause allows for adaptation
and endurance for future cases.
The court addresses the counsel for Maryland’s
various claims that the clause is a limitation of congresses power instead of granted
power. It is decided that the clause is among the powers of congress not of
limitations. Although governments powers are limited, as long as they are in
the scope of the constitution and most beneficial to the people, they are
The Supreme Court finally looked at
the issue of whether Maryland, as a state, has the constitutional power to tax
a national bank. It is said that the power to tax is the power to destroy and
states have no power by taxation or otherwise to impede or control the laws of
federal government therefore leading to Maryland’s act, passed by the General
Assembly to tax banks within their borders that were not chartered by their
legislature, as unconstitutional and therefore void.
Summary of any Major
Summary of any Major