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McCulloch v. Maryland

Citation. 17 U.S. 316, 4 Wheat. 316, 4 L. Ed. 579 (1819)
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Brief Fact Summary.

The State of Maryland sued the Maryland branch of the Bank of the United States for non-payment of state taxes levied against it.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The United States Constitution (Constitution) is the supreme law of the United States and state law must defer to it.


The Bank of the United States was a controversial entity in the early years of the country. The State of Maryland, unhappy with the Bank, attempted to levy a crippling tax on the Maryland branch of the Bank. When the Bank’s cashier, McCulloch, refused to pay the tax, the state sued for payment.


May state action dismantle a federal institution?


No. Reversed and remanded.
The Constitution is ratified by the People, and hence emanates its authority from the People, not the states. As such, it is the supreme law of the United States.
The government of the Union is one of limited and enumerated powers. However, the constitution is not one of exhaustive powers. To enumerate all powers delegated to the Union “would partake of the prolixity of a legal code.” Only the “great outlines” of these powers should be delineated.
“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, are constitutional.”
“[A] power to create implies a power to preserve

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