Sunday, January 8, 2012

McCulloch v. Maryland

I may not know what you're going thru
But time is the space
Between me and you

Marbury v. Madison established that the Supreme Court possessed authority for judicial review--a principle wholly consistent with the Constitution's basis in natural law. However, the downside to Marbury was that it gave the Court huge trumping power. Judges with federalist visions could sway law in favor of expand centralized government thru their 'interpretations' of the law.

An early case that demonstrated the court's power to expand federal government was McCulloch v. Maryland in 1819. At issue was whether the United States could charter a bank (polically desirable to inflate away war debts). McCulloch was an employee in the Baltimore branch of the federal bank who refused to pay state taxes that were being levied on federal bank employees. Maryland claimed that the federal bank was not an instrument of the United States because the power to establish a bank is not listed in Article 1, Section 8.

McCulloch (the feds) claimed that the power did exist under the infamous Necessary and Proper clause trailing the end of A1S8. The Supreme Court, still headed by John Marshall of Marbury fame, sided with the feds. The crucial difference between Marbury and McCulloch is that in the former, judicial review was necessary to keep the federal government from expanding, while in the latter, judicial review was applied to expand the scope of federal government.

Marshall's reasoning was flawed on many levels. Marshall argued that the Constitutional Convention created a social compact between the federal government and individual citizens. States, Marshall claimed, do not represent a check on Congress. Marshall's argument was clearly erroneous, as the ratification process itself was state driven, requiring at least 9 state conventions to ratify the Constitution before the documents became the supreme law of the land.

Marshall also argued that, while the Constitution did not explicitly authorize the charter of a federal bank, the Necessary and Proper clause granted Congress implied powers. In his view, Congress has the right to choose any means not expressly prohibited by the Constitution to carry out its powers. This of course violates principles of natural law and the clear intent of the Framers who were clearly suspicious of large central governments. If passages such as the Necessary and Proper clause can be interpreted to empower the federal government with virtually unlimited options, then why go to great lengths to draft a Constitution to begin with?

Marshall's ruling in McCulloch paved the way down the slippery slope toward expanding central government power and contracting local power.

1 comment:

dgeorge12358 said...

The jury has the right to determine both the law and the facts.
~Samuel Chase