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Street Law, Inc. and The Supreme Court Historical Society present
Street Law /
Landmark Cases /
McCulloch v. Maryland
". . . Although, among the enumerated powers of government, we do not find the word "bank" or "incorporation," we find the great powers to lay and collect taxes; to borrow money; to regulate commerce; to declare and conduct a war; and to raise and support armies and navies . . . But it may with great reason be contended, that a government, entrusted with such ample powers . . . must also be entrusted with ample means for their execution. The power being given, it is the interest of the nation to facilitate its execution. . . . " —Chief Justice John Marshall
The U.S. government created the first national bank for the country in 1791, a time during which a national bank was controversial due to competition, corruption, and the perception that the federal government was becoming too powerful. Maryland attempted to close the Baltimore branch of the national bank by passing a law that forced all banks that were created outside of the state to pay a yearly tax. James McCulloch, a branch employee, refused to pay the tax. The State of Maryland sued McCulloch saying that Maryland had the power to tax any business in its state and that the Constitution does not give Congress the power to create a national bank. McCulloch was convicted and fined, but he appealed the decision. The Supreme Court determined that Congress has implied powers that allow it to create a national bank, even though the Constitution does not explicitly state that power, and that Maryland’s taxing of its branches was unconstitutional.
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