McCulloch v. Maryland

17 U.S. (4 Wheat.) 316 (1819)



The sound construction of the Constitution must allow to the national legislature that discretion, with respect to the means by which the powers it confers are to be carried into execution, which will enable that body to perform the high duties assigned to it, in the manner most beneficial to the people. 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.


The state of Maryland sued McCulloch to recover certain penalties under the act of the legislature of Maryland, which imposed a tax on all banks in the state of Maryland not chartered by the Maryland legislature. McCulloch, a cashier at the Bank of the United States, had issued notes that were not issued on stamped paper in the manner prescribed by the state act.  The county court found for the State, and the court of appeals affirmed. The cause was brought, by writ of error, to the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of the Act.


Was the said act of the General Assembly of Maryland constitutional?




The Court reversed the holding that the act to incorporate the Bank of the United States was a law made in pursuance of the Constitution. Moreover, the Court held that the law imposing a tax on the Bank of the United States was unconstitutional and void because the states had no power to burden the operations of the constitutional laws enacted by Congress.

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