Federalism Court case Comparison

Marbury v. Madison & McCulloh v. Maryland

Marbury v. Madison (1803)

  • Was a landmark in case in United States law which helped to define the boundary between the American government's constitutionality separate executive and judicial branches.
  • The case resulted from a petition to the Supreme Court by William Marbury, who President John Adams had appointed as Justice of the Peace in the District of Columbia during his final days of office in an effort to weaken the incoming Democratic-Republican Congress.
  • The Democratic-Republican administration under Jefferson had no desire to seat John Adam's Federalist "midnight judges", and they refused to deliver the remaining commissions to these judges.
  • Marbury sued the Jefferson Administration, and the case eventually landed before the Supreme Court. Chief Justice John Marshall, himself a Federalist, ruled against the government in the case of Marbury v. Madison.
  • The case established the precedent of judicial review, which is the power of the judicial branch to prohibit actions of the other two branches when they contradict the Constitution.

McCulloh v. Maryland (1819)

  • Was a Landmark case that ruled that Congress had implied powers under the necessary and proper clause of Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution to create the Second Bank of the United States and that the state of Maryland lacked the power to tax the Bank.
  • Arguably Chief Justice John Marshall's finest opinion, McCulloh not only gave Congress broad discretionary power to implement the enumerated powers, but also repudiated, in ringing language, the radical states' rights arguments presented by counsel for Maryland.
  • For McCulloh: The creation of a national bank had been fully debated in Congress as a means for conducting the financial operations of the nation, and Congress had deemed its establishment "necessary and proper." Minute details of national operations cannot be specified in a document like the Constitution, which provides only a framework. As such, many legitimate powers of government are implied by, rather than stated, in the Constitution. The bank was a legitimate federal function with which no State may interfere. The Maryland tax on the national bank, therefore, was unconstitutional.
  • For Maryland: As a sovereign State, Maryland was vested by its people with all authority to regulate business and to tax institutions inside its borders. The regulation of banks was long accepted as a necessary means to prevent financial abuses. Since the Federal Government had created a number of statues to regulate State banks, what should prevent Maryland from regulating federal banks? Furthermore, since no authority to charter a federal bank is included in the Constitution, the Bank of the United States was, the State argued, unconstitutional.
  • Marshall rejected Maryland's Argument, going on to say that the Constitution was meant to be an outline of basic ideas, easily understood by the general public, and open to interpretation. Marshall went on to argue that while the powers of government are limited, the "necessary and proper" clause was meant to enlarge the ability of Congress to carry out its enumerated powers.