Supreme Court Cases: Early Republic
In one of his numerous appearances before the Supreme Court, a young Daniel Webster successfully argued and won the case on behalf of Dartmouth College.
Marshall pointed out that while the power to charter banks does not appear in the list of Congress’ enumerated powers found in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, the creation of a bank was a means of executing its enumerated powers: “Although, among the enumerated powers of government, we do not find the word ‘bank,’…we find the great powers to lay and collect taxes; to borrow money; to regulate commerce…” Those enumerated powers, when combined with the power given Congress in Paragraph 18 of Section 8 “to make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers,” authorized Congress’ action. This interpretation broadly expanded the power of Congress to enact laws over subjects not specifically mentioned in the Constitution.
Marshall asserted that the people, not the states, were the agents of the Constitution’s establishment. He invoked the supremacy clause of Article VI, Paragraph 2 of the Constitution in the Court’s ruling that Maryland could not tax the national bank. Marshall noted that “the power to tax involves the power to destroy.” By that he meant that a state could impose a tax so burdensome that the entity, in this case the national bank, would not be able to survive.