Was McCulloch correctly decided against Maryland?


McCulloch v. Maryland
Negotiates: February 22, 1819
Decided: March 6, 1819
Surname: James McCulloch v. The State of Maryland, John James
Quoted: 17 U.S. 316 (1819)
Appeal to the United States Supreme Court against the Maryland Court of Appeal decision confirming the constitutionality of the state-collected tax on Second Bank of the United States banknotes.
Although the Constitution does not expressly give Congress the authority to set up a bank, it does have the authority to determine taxes and expenses. The establishment of a bank is an appropriate means of supporting these legislative powers. Maryland has no right to interfere in the bank's operations by imposing a tax on it because federal laws take precedence over state laws.
Chairman: John Marshall
Assessor: Washington Johnson Livingston Todd Duvall Story
Majority opinion: Marshall, Washington, Johnson, Livingston, Todd, Duvall
Applied Law
United States Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, Sentences 1 and 18

In the case McCulloch v. Maryland the United States Supreme Court pronounced a landmark decision on federalism in the United States in 1819. The state of Maryland attempted to disrupt the operation of a branch of the federally owned Second Bank of the United States by imposing a tax on all banknotes issued by non-Maryland banks. The Supreme Court ruled the Tax Collection Act unconstitutional because it conflicted with the implicit legislative powers of Congress on the "Necessary and proper"-Clauses of the first article of the United States Constitution are based. The clause gives Congress the power to pass laws beyond the explicitly named catalog of areas of responsibility, as long as these laws are “necessary and appropriate” to implement the explicitly named legislative powers. The case law on implicit competences has found its way into international law and other legal systems as the implied powers doctrine.

Table of Contents


The Maryland Legislature passed a law in 1818 that imposed a special tax on banknotes issued by non-Maryland banks. The act was the state's response to the unauthorized establishment of a branch of the Second Bank of the United States in Baltimore in 1817. The branch did not properly issue its bills on state paper and also refused to pay the state's $ 15,000 claim.

After the branch's cashier, James McCulloch, unsuccessfully sued the claims in Baltimore County Court, he appealed to the state appeals court. The court ruled that the United States Constitution did not explicitly provide for the creation of a bank by the federal government and that it was unconstitutional. McCulloch appealed this decision to the Supreme Court.


Chief Justice John Marshall stated in the decision that Congress, as a state body, should have implicit competencies in addition to the explicit competences enumerated in the constitution (implied powers), namely those that are necessary for the realization of the explicit competences (in the sense of the necessary and proper clause) are necessary.

Since the United States Constitution takes precedence over the law of the individual states ("The constitution, therefore, declares that the constitution itself, and the laws passed in pursuance of its provisions, shall be the supreme law of the land, and shall control all state legislation and state constitutions, which may be incompatible therewith"), the states could not prevent or fend off competent laws of Congress through their own legislation ("if the law of congress, [...] [is] a constitutional act, it [...] cannot be either defeated or impeded by acts of state legislation"; "If congress has power to do a particular act, no state can impede, retard or burden it").

See also

Web links


  • Jean Edward Smith, John Marshall: Definer Of A Nation, New York: Henry Holt & Company, 1996.
  • Jean Edward Smith, The Constitution And American Foreign Policy, St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Company, 1989.
  • Karen O'Connor, Larry J. Sabato, "American Government: Continuity and Change," New York, Pearson, 2006.
  • Mark Tushnet: I dissent: Great Opposing Opinions in Landmark Supreme Court Cases. Beacon Press, Boston 2008, ISBN 978-0-8070-0036-6, pp. 17-30.

Categories:Judgment of the United States Supreme Court | Constitutional History (United States) | Politics 1819 | History of Maryland | History of the United States (1789–1849) | Court decision (19th century)

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