Summation and Evaluation

Although McCulloch v. Maryland and Gibbons v. Ogden were expressions of a single thesis, the supremacy of the national government, their development after Marshall’s death has been sharply divergent. During the period when Gibbons v. Ogden was eclipsed by the theory of dual federalism, the doctrine of McCulloch v. Maryland was not merely followed but greatly extended as a restraint on state interference with federal instrumentalities. Conversely, the Court’s recent return to Marshall’s conception of the powers of Congress has coincided with a retreat from the more extreme positions taken in reliance upon McCulloch v. Maryland. Today, the application of the Supremacy Clause is becoming, to an ever increasing degree, a matter of statutory interpretation; a determination whether state regulations can be reconciled with the language and policy of federal enactments. In the field of taxation, the Court has all but wiped out the private immunities previously implied from the Constitution without explicit legislative command. Broadly speaking, the immunity which remains is limited to activities of the government itself, and to that which is explicitly created by statute, e.g., that granted to federal securities and to fiscal institutions chartered by Congress. But the term “activities” will be broadly construed.