McCulloch v. Maryland.

Five years after the decision in McCulloch v. Maryland that a state may not tax an instrumentality of the Federal Government, the Court was asked to and did reexamine the entire question in Osborn v. Bank of the United States.106 In that case counsel for the State of Ohio, whose attempt to tax the Bank was challenged, put forward two arguments of great importance. In the first place it was “contended, that, admitting Congress to possess the power, this exemption ought to have been expressly asserted in the act of incorporation; and not being expressed, ought not to be implied by the Court.”107 To which Marshall replied: “It is no unusual thing for an act of Congress to imply, without expressing, this very exemption from state control, which is said to be so objectionable in this instance.”108 Secondly, the appellants relied “greatly on the distinction between the bank and the public institutions, such as the mint or the post office. The agents in those offices are, it is said, officers of government. . . . Not so the directors of the bank. The connection of the government with the bank, is likened to that with contractors.”109 Marshall accepted this analogy but not to the advantage of the appellants. He simply indicated that all contractors who dealt with the government were entitled to immunity from taxation upon such transactions.110 Thus, not only was the decision of McCulloch v. Maryland reaffirmed but the foundation was laid for the vast expansion of the principle of immunity that was to follow in the succeeding decades.


22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 738 (1824). [Back to text]
22 U.S. at 865. [Back to text]
22 U.S. at 865. [Back to text]
22 U.S. at 866. [Back to text]
22 U.S. at 867. [Back to text]