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McCulloch v. Maryland | Study Guide

United States Supreme Court

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United States Supreme Court

Year Decided



Primary Source


Law, U.S. Supreme Court Case

At a Glance

  • In 1816 Congress chartered the Second Bank of the United States after a five-year period in which no central banks existed in the U.S. federal banking system. The 20-year charter remained controversial, and some politicians and state bankers strongly opposed the Second Bank.
  • In 1818 Maryland passed a law to tax any bank not chartered by the state. Second Bank agents refused to comply. When Maryland tried to enforce the law, the Second Bank appealed to the Supreme Court, which judged Maryland's law unconstitutional.
  • In rendering its 1819 decision, the court established a broader scope for the federal government's powers. The court asserted that Congress had implied powers not stated explicitly in the Constitution. These powers were to be used to fulfill the express powers granted directly by the Constitution.
  • The court's finding was unpopular with states' rights advocates, who protested the decision in a series of newspaper articles. Chief Justice John Marshall (1755–1835) defended the court's decision in several anonymously published essays of his own.
  • The doctrine of implied powers remains central to American constitutional law. In the 1960s, for example, Congress used its express power to regulate interstate commerce as the basis for federal laws that prohibited discrimination in employment and places of business.


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