John Marshall: Opinion in McCulloch v. Maryland(1819)
In the present as in the past, Supreme Court decisions are apt to be immediately judged by the public based not on the legal principles established but on the specific outcomes in the cases at hand. The particular issue of state taxation of the Second Bank was in fact short lived, becoming wholly moot when the bank's charter expired in 1836.
Despite the diminished polarization concerning federalism and the prevailing acceptance that the bank was constitutional, Marshall's opinion nevertheless generated some intense reactions on federalism grounds. Spencer Roane, a judge of the Virginia Court of Appeals, published a series of popular essays attacking the decision for adopting a broadly nationalistic conception of federalism that, in his view, threatened the continued viability of the states. Criticism of McCulloch on that basis was sufficiently serious, in fact, to induce Marshall himself to take the highly unusual step of defending his own opinion in his own series of...
McCulloch v. Maryland (National Archives and Records Administration)View Full Size