Define the Necessary and Proper Clause and state its objective. Why are these powers also known as Implied Powers? How did the Supreme Court interpret the Necessary and Proper Clause in McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)?

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McCulloch vs. Maryland was a Supreme Court case presided over by chief justice John Marshall, whereby the court decided that the state of Maryland could not tax the Second Bank of the United States. This decision set a precedent whereby the authority of the federal government would be respected over that of the states. Marshall evoked the Necessary and Proper Cause in making his decision. This clause, which can be found in Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution, reads:

The Congress shall have make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

Marshall had argued against the position of Maryland, which tried claiming that the government was merely an executive extension of the decision-making power of the states. Marshall countered by claiming that the government “though limited in its powers, is supreme within its sphere of action.” What this meant in practice was that the federal government had certain “implied powers” not explicitly granted to it in the Constitution. Germane to this case was the right of the government to create a national bank (Marshall, a federalist, generally supported legislation that strengthened the role of the central government). Marshall interpreted the Necessary and Proper Clause in such a way as to imply that the government can and must act with a prerogative that lies outside of the strict language of the Constitution, provided that this action does not violate federal law.

Maryland, which had wanted to place a tax on the bank, could not do so, because Marshall’s interpretation had allowed the federal government to claim its exclusive right to create a national bank, and the power of no individual state was able to supersede the power of the government. Thus, the “implied power” (unwritten in the Constitution but assumed to be a part of federal jurisdiction) of the government allowed it to create the bank, and set a future precedent that would allow it to make decisions that fell within an assumed purview of its function as the primary law-making body of the nation.

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