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McCulloch v. Maryland

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• Supreme Court
John Marshall
Bank of the United States
Marbury v. Madison
Gibbons v. Ogden


Definition: Chief Justice John Marshall wrote the opinion for this landmark case defining the powers of a state over the federal government.

The facts are these:

  • The United States, at this time (1819) had a federal bank, the Bank of the United States.
  • The State of Maryland voted to tax all bank business not done with state banks. This was meant to be a tax on people who lived in Maryland but who did business with banks in other states. However, the State of Maryland also sought to tax the federal bank. Andrew McCulloch, who worked in the Baltimore branch of the Bank of the United States, refused to pay the tax. The State of Maryland sued, and the Supreme Court accepted the case.
  • Writing for the Court, Chief Justice John Marshall wrote that the federal government did indeed have the right and power to set up a federal bank. Further, he wrote, a state did not have the power to tax the federal government. "The right to tax is the right to destroy," he wrote, and states should not have that power over the federal government.

Related Resources:
McCulloch v. Maryland
Go more in-depth with the famous case.

The Supreme Court
Learn more about the nation's top court.

The 19th Century
Get a glimpse of what life was like in the exciting 1800s.

Elsewhere on the Web:
Encyclopedia Article: McCulloch v. Maryland
Just the facts.

Text of the Opinion
Read it for yourself.

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