Wednesday, October 10, 2012

McCulloch v. Maryland case brief

McCulloch v. Maryland
17 U.S. 316 (1819)

A dispute which arose regarding whether Congress had the power to incorporate the second Bank of the United States.

The embarrassments that followed the dissolution of the first Bank of the United States spurred Congress to charter the second Bank of the United States. One of its branches was located in Maryland, which took issue with its presence. The Maryland legislature enacted a law levying a tax on out-of-state banks, and the only bank that fit the description was the Bank of the United States. McCulloch, the administrator of the Bank, refused to pay the tax. The dispute resulted in a lawsuit.

Did Congress have the power to incorporate the Bank?

Congress had power to incorporate the Bank.

Maryland argued that Congress had no power to incorporate the Bank on the grounds (1) that
sovereignty lies with the states and (2) that the Necessary and Proper Clause does not permit
Congress such great leeway in the administration of the nation’s affairs. Both of these lines of reasoning lack merit. The Constitution was submitted to the people, not to the states, for ratification. It was the people of the United States, and not the states, who chose to adopt the Constitution as the supreme law of the land. While necessity dictated that the ratification conventions be held in the individual states, such incidental circumstances give no support to the argument that consent to be governed by the Constitution actually came from the states.

Maryland contends in the alternative that Congress had no power to incorporate the Bank be-
cause such a power of incorporation does not appear among the enumerated powers of the
federal government. This argument makes the mistaken assumption that any power must first be enumerated before Congress can make use of it.

The Necessary and Proper Clause was written specifically to avoid the difficulties and embarrassments which would result from such a stringent requirement. Incorporation is not a power in itself; it is only the means that Congress has chosen to administer the finances of the country.

Maryland's last argument is that the Necessary and Proper Clause really means that Congress is prohibited from incorporating the Bank unless it were absolutely necessary. This reading of
the Clause contradicts the plain meaning of “necessary” and blatantly disregards the structure of the Constitution.

“Necessary” is generally taken to mean “convenient” or “conducive”; that this meaning was intended is clear from the use of that word in conjunction with “proper.” If the Framers intended to impose strict limits on the meaning of the term, they would surely have used the phrase “absolutely necessary,” as they had in the case of imposts and duties.  Finally, the location of the Clause shows that the Framers intended it as a grant of, and not as a limitation on, congressional power. Limitations on powers under the Clause would have almost certainly been set forth elsewhere in the Constitution.


Interested in learning how to get the top grades in your law school classes? Want to learn how to study smarter than your competition? Interested in transferring to a high ranked school?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Landmark Personal Injury Lawsuits and Their Lasting Impact

According to a Forbes article, personal injury lawsuits are civil actions brought by an injured person against the party responsible for the...