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Supreme Court of the United States
March 6, 1819, Decided
No Number in Original
[*400] [**600] Mr. Chief Justice MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.
In the case now to be determined, the defendant, a sovereign State, denies the obligation of a law enacted by the legislature of the Union, and the plaintiff, on his part, contests the validity of an act which has been passed by the legislature of that State. The constitution of our country, in its most interesting and vital parts, is to be considered; the conflicting powers of the government of the Union and of its members, as marked in that constitution, are to be discussed; and an opinion given, which may essentially influence the great operations of the government. No tribunal can approach such a question without a deep sense of its importance, and of the awful responsibility involved in its decision. But it must be decided peacefully, or remain a source of [*401] hostile legislation, perhaps of hostility of a still more serious nature; and if it is to be so decided, by this [***117] tribunal alone can the decision be made. On the Supreme Court of the United States has the constitution of our country devolved this important duty.
The first question made in the cause is, has Congress power to incorporate a bank?
It has been truly said, that this can scarcely be considered as an open question, entirely unprejudiced by the former proceedings of the nation respecting it. The principle now contested was introduced at a very early period of our history, has been recognized by many successive legislatures, and has been acted upon by the judicial department, in cases of peculiar delicacy, as a law of undoubted obligation.
It will not be denied, that a bold and daring usurpation might be resisted, after an acquiescence still longer and more complete than this. But it is conceived that a doubtful question, one on which human reason may pause, and the human judgment be suspended, in the decision of which the great principles of liberty are not concerned, but the respective powers of those who are equally the representatives of the people, are to be adjusted; if not put at rest by the practice of the government, ought to receive a considerable impression from that practice. [***118] An exposition of the constitution, deliberately established by legislative acts, on the faith of which an immense property has been advanced, ought not to be lightly disregarded.
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
17 U.S. 316 *; 4 L. Ed. 579 **; 1819 U.S. LEXIS 320 ***; 4 A.F.T.R. (P-H) 4491; 4 Wheat. 316; 42 Cont. Cas. Fed. (CCH) P77,296
MCCULLOCH v. The STATE OF MARYLAND et al.
Prior History: [***1] ERROR to the Court of Appeals of the State of Maryland.
This was in action of debt brought by the defendant in error, John James, who sued as well for himself as for the State of Maryland, in the County Court of Baltimore County, in the said State, against the plaintiff in error, McCulloch, to recover certain penalties under the act of the legislature of Maryland, hereafter mentioned. Judgment being rendered against the plaintiff in error, upon the following statement of facts, agreed and submitted to the Court by the parties, was affirmed by the Court of Appeals of the State of Maryland, the highest Court of law of said State, and the cause was brought, by writ of error, to this Court.
It is admitted by the parties in this cause, by their counsel, that there was passed on the 10th day of April, 1816, by the Congress of the United States, an act, entitled, "an act to incorporate the subscribers to the Bank of the United States;" and that there was passed, on the 11th day of February, 1818, by the General Assembly of Maryland, an act, entitled, "an act to impose a tax on all Banks, or branches thereof, in the State of Maryland, not chartered by the legislature," which said acts [***2] are made part of this statement, and it is agreed may be read from the statute books in which they are respectively printed. It is further admitted, that the President, Directors and Company of the Bank of the United States, incorporated by the act of Congress aforesaid, did organize themselves, and go into full operation in the City of Philadelphia, in the State of Pennsylvania, in pursuance of the said act, and that they did on the day of eighteen hundred and seventeen, establish a branch of the said Bank, or an office of discount and deposit in the city of Baltimore, in the state of Maryland, which has from that time until the first day of May, eighteen hundred and eighteen, ever since transacted and carried on business as a Bank, or office of discount and deposit, and as a branch of the said Bank of the United States, by issuing Bank notes and discounting promissory notes, and performing other operations usual and customary for Banks to do and perform, under the authority and by the direction reaction of the said President, Directors and Company of the Bank of the United States, established at Philadelphia as aforesaid. It is further admitted, that the said President, [***3] Directors and Company of the said Bank, had no authority to establish the said branch, or office of discount and deposit at the city of Baltimore, from the State of Maryland, otherwise than the said State having adopted the Constitution of the United States and composing one of the States of the Union. It is further admitted, that James William McCulloch, the defendant below, being the cashier of the said branch of office of discount and deposit, did, on the several days set forth in the declaration in this cause, issue the said respective Bank notes therein described, from the said branch, or office, to a certain George Williams, in the city of Baltimore, in part payment of a promissory note of the said Williams, discounted by the said branch or office, which said respective Bank notes were not, nor was either of them, so issued on stamped paper in the manner prescribed by the act of Assembly aforesaid. It is further admitted, that the said President, Directors and Company of the Bank of the United States, and the said branch or office of discount and deposit have not, nor has either of them, paid in advance, or otherwise, the sum of fifteen thousand dollars, to the Treasurer of [***4] the Western shore, for the use of the State of Maryland, before the issuing of the said notes, or any of them, nor since those periods. And it is further admitted, that the Treasurer of the Western Shore of Maryland, under the direction of the Governor and Council of the said State, was ready, and offered to deliver to the said President, Directors and Company of the said Bank, and to the said branch, or office of discount and deposit, stamped paper of the kind and denomination required and described in the said act of Assembly.
The question submitted to the Court for their decision in this case, is as to the validity of the said act of the General Assembly of Maryland, on the ground of its being repugnant to the constitution of the United States, and the act of Congress aforesaid, or to one of them. Upon the foregoing statement of facts, and the pleadings in this cause, (all errors in which are hereby agreed to be mutually released,) if the Court should be of opinion that the plaintiffs are entitled to recover, then judgment it is agreed shall be entered for the plaintiffs for twenty-five hundred dollars, and costs of suit. But if the Court should be of opinion that the plaintiffs [***5] are not entitled to recover upon the statement and pleadings aforesaid, then judgment of non pros shall be entered, with costs to the defendant.
It is agreed that either party may appeal from the decision of the County Court, to the Court of Appeals, and from the decision of the Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court of the United States according to the modes and usages of law, and have the same benefit of this statement of facts, in the same manner as could be had if a jury had been sworn and empaneled in this cause, and a special verdict had been found, or these facts had appeared and been stated in an exception taken to the opinion of the Court, and the Court's direction to the jury thereon.
Copy of the Act of the Legislature of the State of Maryland, referred to in the preceding statement.
An Act to impose a Tax on all Banks or Branches thereof in the State of Maryland, not chartered by the Legislature.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Maryland, That if any Bank has established, or shall without authority from the State first had and obtained, establish any branch, office of discount and deposit, or office of pay and receipt, in any part of the State, it shall not [***6] be lawful for the said branch, office of discount and deposit, or office of pay and receipt, to issue notes in any manner, of any other denomination than five, ten, twenty, fifty, one hundred, five hundred and one thousand dollars, and no note shall be issued except upon stamped paper of the following denominations; that is to say, every five dollar note shall be upon a stamp of ten cents; every ten dollar note upon a stamp of twenty cents; every twenty dollar note, upon a stamp of thirty cents; every fifty dollar note, upon a stamp of fifty cents; every one hundred dollar note, upon a stamp of one dollar; every five hundred dollar note, upon a stamp of ten dollars; and every thousand dollar note, upon a stamp of twenty dollars; which paper shall be furnished by the Treasurer of the Western Shore, under the direction of the Governor and Council, to be paid for upon delivery; Provided always, That any institution of the above description may relieve itself from the operation of the provisions aforesaid, by paying annually, in advance, to the Treasurer of the Western Shore, for the use of the State, the sum of fifteen thousand dollars.
And be it enacted, That the President, Cashier, [***7] each of the Directors and Officers of every institution established, or to be established as aforesaid, offending against the provisions aforesaid, shall forfeit a sum of five hundred dollars for each and every offence, and every person having any agency in circulating any note aforesaid, not stamped as aforesaid directed, shall forfeit a sum not exceeding one hundred dollars; every penalty aforesaid to be recovered by indictment, or action of debt, in the County Court of the county where the offence shall be committed, one half to the informer, and the other half to the use of the State.
And be it enacted, That this act shall be in full force and effect from and after the first day of May next.
Disposition: The court reversed the decision to uphold the tax on the Bank of the United States and held that the tax was unconstitutional because the states had no power to burden the operations of the constitutional laws enacted by Congress.
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