McCulloch v. Maryland


When it comes the Necessary and Proper Clause of the Constitution, McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) said Necessary means convenient.

in Baltimore, Maryland, the state of Maryland sued James McCulloch, a local bank teller, for not collecting a state tax from the United States Bank in 1819.

When it comes to the issue in McCulloch v. Maryland, does Congress have authority to set up a bank under the Constitution?

Because of this case, the Supreme Courts set up the following rule: When it comes to the enumerated powers of Article 1, Section 8 in the Constitution, Congress can pass laws which are Necessary and Proper to carry out the foregoing powers of taxing and spending, which may include chartering a bank. Moreover, the Constitution is the supreme law of the land.

In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Marshall summed up the meaning of the Necessary and Proper Clause in the Constitution. He said: “Let the end be legitimate, let it be within the scope of the Constitution, and all means which are appropriate, which are plainly adapted to that end, which are not prohibited, but consist with the letter and spirit of the constitution….” Basically, the Necessary and Proper Clause is ultra vires; that is, any foregoing power carried into execution must fit within the scope of the Constitution.

Furthermore, Justice Marshall talked about a “great substantive independent power”. He said: “The power of creating a corporation, though appertaining to sovereignty, is not, like the power of making war or levying taxes or of regulating commerce, a great substantive and independent power which cannot be implied as incidental to other powers or used as a means of executing them.” He said some powers might be too great for Congress; therefore, they are not proper under the Necessary and Proper Clause.

In this case, Justice Marshall adopts Alexander Hamilton’s meaning of necessary. Here, Hamilton’s meaning of necessary is convenient. In doing so, Justice Marshall rejects Thomas Jefferson’s meaning of necessary as absolutely necessary. Justice Marshall uses a monarchist meaning of necessary.

In summary, this case is part of the constitutional law cannon. It gave us the current meaning of the Necessary and Proper Clause. It gave us the meaning of powers too great for the Necessary and Proper Clause. This case cited whenever the Necessary and Proper Clause is used in law.