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McCulloch v. Maryland, (1819), was a landmark United States Supreme Court decision.

In this case, the state of Maryland attempted to impede operation of a branch of the Second Bank of the United States by imposing a tax on all notes of banks not chartered in Maryland. Though the law, by its language, was generally applicable, the U.S. Bank was the only out-of-state bank then existing in Maryland, and the law is generally recognized as specifically targeting the U.S. Bank. The Court invoked the doctrine of implied powers in the Constitution, which allowed the Federal government to pass laws not expressly provided for in the Constitution's list of enumerated powers as long as they are in useful furtherance of those powers.

The fundamental case established the following two principles:

  1. The Article I, Section 8, Necessary and Proper Clause of the US Constitution grants Congress implied powers inherent as a blueprint for a practically functional government, and
  2. that state action may not impede valid constitutional exercises of power by the Federal government.

The opinion was written by Chief Justice John Marshall, a man whose many opinions shape modern constitutional law.


The dispute that led to McCulloch began in 1790 between Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, who favored congressional authority to create a Bank of the United States, and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and Attorney General Edmund Randolph, who opposed. Despite the resistance, Congress created the First Bank of the United States in 1791. The bank existed until 1811, when the charter expired. However, the bank was re-instituted as the Second Bank of the United States in 1816 to resolve the serious economic problems of the country. The economic troubles continued, however, and many states opposed the bank because it called for loans owed by the states. The State of Maryland retaliated by creating a law to tax any bank not chartered by the state. The U.S. Bank refused to pay the taxes and Maryland filed suit against James McCulloch, the cashier of the Baltimore branch of the Bank of the United States.

To begin, the court determined that Congress had the power to charter the bank. Marshall supported this conclusion with three arguments. First, the court argued historically that the Constitution was a social contract created by the people at the Constitutional Convention. The government proceeds from the people and bound the state sovereignties. Therefore, the federal government is supreme based on the consent of the people.

Second, Congress is bound to act under explicit or implied powers of the Constitution. Pragmatically, if all of the powers were listed, we would not be able to understand or embrace the document; it is not possible to write everything. Although the term "bank" is not included, there are powers such as to lay and collect taxes, to borrow money and to regulate commerce. Although not explicitly stated, Congress has the implied right to create the bank.

Third, Marshall supports the opinion textually under the Necessary and Proper Clause, which permits Congress to seek an objective that is within the enumerated powers as long as it is rationally related to the objective and not forbidden by the Constitution. Marshall rejected Maryland's narrow interpretation of the clause because many of the enumerated powers would be useless. Also, the clause is listed within the powers of Congress, not the limitations. For those reasons, "necessary" does not mean the only way to do something and applies to procedures to implement all constitutionally established powers. In conclusion, Congress has the authority to promulgate legislation as long as the result is legitimate under the Constitution and adopted for the objective.

Next, Marshall determined whether Maryland may tax the branch of the bank without violating the Constitution. The Supremacy clause dictates that State laws comply with the Constitution and succumb when there is a conflict. Taking as undeniable the fact that "the power to tax involves the power to destroy", the court concluded that the Maryland tax could not be levied against the government. If states were allowed to continue their acts, they would destroy the institution created by federal government and oppose the principle of federal supremacy which originated in the text of the Constitution.

The court held that Maryland violated the Constitution by taxing the bank, and therefore voided that tax. The opinion mandated that Congress has implied power that needs to be related to the text of the Constitution, but not all powers need to be within the text. This case was an essential element in the struggle for the creation of federalism, and the permanent balance between federal power and States' rights.

Case Citation:

McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 U.S. 316 (1819)

For more information, see Related Questions, below.

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Q: What was the US Supreme Court case McCulloch v Maryland 1819 about and what did it establish?
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Related Questions

What constitutional principle did the US Supreme Court establish in the McCulloch v. Maryland case?

judicial review

In mcculloch vs maryland the supreme court expanded the power of?


Who was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court when the Supreme Court handed down the ruling for McCulloch v. Maryland?

John Marshall

What was the ruling of the appeals court before McCulloch v Maryland came before the Supreme Court?

The US Supreme Court case, McCulloch v. Maryland, (1918) was initially heard in Baltimore County Court, where a Maryland citizen, John James, sued James McCulloch for failing to pay taxes levied against the Second Bank of the United States. James hoped the court would rule McCulloch had to pay the taxes and that he (James) would collect a portion as a reward. The Baltimore County Court judge upheld Maryland law and found against McCulloch.The case was then appealed to the Maryland Court of Appeals, which affirmed the County Court decision (naturally, the Maryland State courts would uphold their own state laws).McCulloch v. Maryland reached the US Supreme Court on a writ of "Error to the Court of Appeals of the State of Maryland."Case Citation:McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 US 316 (1819)

Which supreme court case prevented taxing federal government?

McCulloch v. Maryland

What landmark case determined that the supreme court could review state court decisions?

McCulloch v. Maryland

What did the supreme court case McCulloch v Maryland settle?

McCulloch v. Maryland settled that the National Bank was constitutional. Also it settled that Maryland does not have the power to tax a institution created by congress.

What landmark supreme court cases further establishes the supremacy clause?

McCulloch v. Maryland

How did the supreme courts ruling in mcculloch v. Maryland strengthen the federal government?

How did the Supreme Court’s ruling in McCulloch v. Maryland strengthen the federal government ?The court case known as McCulloch v. Maryland of March 6, 1819, was a seminal Supreme Court Case that affirmed the right of implied powers, that there were powers that the federal government had that were not specifically mentioned in the Constitution, but were implied by it.

The Supreme Court case that most clearly contributed to the start of the Civil War was?

McCulloch v. Maryland.

State's power to tax the federal government was addressed in the supreme Court decision?

A+ : McCulloch vs. Maryland

Who was the Chief Justice during McCulloch v Maryland?

Fourth Chief Justice John Marshall presided over the Supreme Court and wrote the opinion for McCulloch v. Maryland,(1819). Marshall lead the Court from 1801-1835.Case Citation:McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 US 316 (1819)

Who won the case McCulloch v. Maryland?

The Supreme Court decided in favor of the nominal petitioner, McCulloch, who was a proxy for the federal government.Case Citation:McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 US 316 (1819)For more information about McCulloch v. Maryland, see Related Questions, below.

Which Supreme Court case established the superiority of federal law over State law?

McCulloch v. Maryland

How did the supreme court rule in mcculloch vs maryland?

They said that a public official has more power than a state does.

Which Supreme Court decision first limited state jurisdiction over federal agencies?

McCulloch v. Maryland

Who was President when the US Supreme Court decided McCullouch v Maryland?

Fifth President James Monroe was in office when the US Supreme Court determined the States lacked the constitutional right to tax the federal government in McCulloch v. Maryland,(1819).Case Citation:McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 US 316 (1819)

What did McCulloch v Maryland do?

McCulloch v. Maryland was a landmark decision by the Supreme Court of the United States. The state of Maryland had attempted to impede operation of a branch of the Second Bank of the United States by imposing a tax on all notes of banks not chartered in Maryland.

What year was the case McCullough v Maryland?

The US Supreme Court handed down a decision on McCullochon March 6, 1819.Case Citation:McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 US 316 (1819)

What Supreme Court ruling overturned a states attempt to impose taxes on federal government agencies?

McCulloch v. Maryland

Which Supreme Court case set the precedent for the supremacy of the national government during Reconstruction?

McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)

Which Supreme Court decision is not correctly matched with its ruling?

McCulloch v. Maryland: ruled that states could tax the federal goveornment

Who wrote the Supreme Court opinions in both McCulloch v Maryland and Gibbons v Ogden?

Chief Justice John Marshall

Who was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court when they handed down the ruling for McCulloch v Maryland?

Fourth Chief Justice, John Marshall

What group benefited most from the Supreme Court desicion in McCulloch v Maryland v and Gibbons v Ogden?

federal goverment