“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.”
This case explores the legal concepts of federalism, national supremacy, and the Necessary and Proper Clause.
The United States government created the first national bank for the country in 1791, but its charter lapsed under President Jefferson. During James Madison’s presidency, the Second Bank of the United States was chartered. The national bank was controversial due to competition with state banks, 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 tax on all banks created outside of the state. James McCulloch, the bank’s manager, 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 did not give Congress the power to create a national bank. McCulloch was convicted and fined, but he appealed the decision. The U.S. 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 because it interfered with the working of the federal government.