March 16, 1819

McCulloch v. Maryland concerned Maryland’s right to levy a prohibitive tax on the Second Bank of the United States. In an effort to remove the tax, James McCulloch, the cashier at the bank’s Baltimore branch, sued Maryland on his employer’s behalf. The Maryland courts upheld the tax but the case was appealed to the Supreme Court, where John Marshall wrote the Court’s unanimous decision overturning the original ruling. The decision broadly interpreted the Constitution, endowing Congress with the power to use all appropriate means not expressly forbidden by the Constitution to achieve constitutionally mandated ends. Furthermore, it deemed that any state law inhibiting Congress’ legitimate ends must be considered invalid. Applying these principles to the case’s particulars, the Court reaffirmed Congress’ authority to charter a national bank so that it could exercise the powers listed in Article 1. Sect. 8 of the Constitution, and struck down Maryland’s tax.

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