McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheaton (17 U.S.) 316; 4 L. Ed. 579 (1819)

Facts—Although the U.S. Constitution made no direct mention of the sub[1]ject, Congress incorporated the Bank of the United States, a branch of which it established in Baltimore. The state of Maryland required all banks not chartered by the state to pay a tax on each issuance of bank notes. McCulloch, the cashier of the Baltimore branch of the Bank of the United States, issued notes without complying with the state law. Action was brought on the part of Maryland to recover the penalties.

Questions—(a) Does Congress have the power to incorporate a bank? (b) May the state of Maryland tax a branch of the U.S. Bank located in Maryland?

Decisions—(a) Yes; (b) No.

Reasons—C.J. Marshall (7–0). The Constitution empowers the government to lay and collect taxes; to borrow money; to regulate commerce; to declare and conduct war; and to raise and support armies and navies. The Constitution also grants Congress the power “to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution” the expressed powers in the Constitution. This provision is included within the powers of Congress and does not limit Congress to choosing those means that are “absolutely” necessary. By incorporating a bank, Congress is creating the means to attain the goals of the powers entrusted to them. The Tenth Amendment does not include the limitation “expressly” before the word “reserved,” and thereby does not bar the congressional exercise of implied powers.

The Constitution and the laws made in pursuance thereof are supreme and cannot be controlled by the various states. If the state of Maryland could regulate the laws of the federal government, then the Constitution and federal laws would soon lose their significance. “Let the end be legitimate, let it be within the scope of the Constitution, and all means which are appropriate, which are plainly adapted to that end, which are not prohibited, but consist with the letter and spirit of the Constitution, are constitutional.” When Maryland taxed the operations of the federal government, it acted upon institutions created by people over whom it claimed no control. The power to tax involves the power to destroy. Because such a tax could be used to destroy an institution vitally necessary to carry out the operations of the national government, it is unconstitutional and void.

Note—McCulloch proclaimed the doctrine of implied congressional powers and of federal supremacy. In the Legal Tender Cases, 12 Wallace 457 (1871), and in Juilliard v. Greenman, 110 U.S. 421 (1884), McCulloch was supplemented by the development of the doctrine of “resulting” (or resultant) powers.

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