McCulloch v. Maryland

Why is the case important?

McCulloch v. Maryland Brief The central themes of this case were the power of state governments to tax a federal bank, the power of Congress to establish a federal bank, and blanket exemptions from tax for federal banks.


Congress chartered the Second Bank of the United States. Branches were established in many states, including one in Baltimore, Maryland. In response, the Maryland legislature adopted an Act imposing a tax on all banks in the state not chartered by the state legislature. James McCulloch, a cashier for the Baltimore branch of the United States Bank, was sued for violating this Act. McCulloch admitted he was not complying with the Maryland law. McCulloch lost in the Baltimore County Court and that court’s decision was affirmed by the Maryland Court of Appeals. The case was then taken by writ of error to the United States Supreme Court (Supreme Court).

Key Players

1 Appellant: McCulloch, cashier of the Bank of the United States. Appellee: The State of Maryland, who passed local legislation which taxed the Bank.


Did Congress have the authority to establish the bank? Did the Maryland law unconstitutionally interfere with congressional powers?


In a unanimous decision, the Court held that Congress had the power to incorporate the bank and that Maryland could not tax instruments of the national government employed in the execution of constitutional powers. Pursuant to the Necessary and Proper Clause (Art. I, Section 8), Chief Justice Marshall noted that Congress possessed powers not explicitly outlined in the U.S. Constitution. Marshall redefined “necessary” to mean “appropriate and legitimate,” covering all methods for furthering objectives covered by the enumerated powers.  Marshall also held that while the states retained the power of taxation, the Constitution and the laws made in pursuance thereof are supreme and cannot be controlled by the states.

What was the effect of the supreme court case McCulloch v. Maryland?


This Supreme Court decision establishes the Constitution as the supreme law of the land, taking precedent over any state law incongruent with it. McCulloch v. Maryland Summary The Supreme Court ruled in favor of McCulloch and his employer, The Bank of United States. It found that a tax imposed by The state of Maryland on The Bank’s branch in The state was unconstitutional as a violation of The Supremacy Clause. Moreover, The Court held that Congress was given The power to establish a federal bank based on The “necessary and proper clause” of The Constitution.

Daniel Webster for McCulloch, William Wirt for McCulloch, William Pinkney for McCulloch, Luther Martin for Maryland
Baltimore, Maryland
Marshall Court
17 US 316 (1819)
Feb 28, 1819 Feb 23, 1819 Feb 24, 1819 Feb 25, 1819 Feb 26, 1819 Feb 27, 1819 Mar 1, 1819 Mar 2, 1819 Mar 3, 1819
Mar 6, 1819