Aggressive Nationalism: McCulloch V. Maryland and the Foundation of Federal Authority in the Young Republic

Overview

McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) has long been recognized to be one of the most significant decisions ever handed down by the United States Supreme Court. Indeed, many scholars have argued it is the greatest opinion handed down by the greatest Chief Justice, in which he declared the act creating the Second Bank of the United States constitutional and Maryland's attempt to tax it unconstitutional. Although it is now recognized as the foundational statement for a strong and active federal government, the immediate ...

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Aggressive Nationalism: McCulloch v. Maryland and the Foundation of Federal Authority in the Young Republic : McCulloch v. Maryland and the Foundation of Federal Authority in the Young Republic

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Overview

McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) has long been recognized to be one of the most significant decisions ever handed down by the United States Supreme Court. Indeed, many scholars have argued it is the greatest opinion handed down by the greatest Chief Justice, in which he declared the act creating the Second Bank of the United States constitutional and Maryland's attempt to tax it unconstitutional. Although it is now recognized as the foundational statement for a strong and active federal government, the immediate impact of the ruling was short-lived and widely criticized.

Placing the decision and the public reaction to it in their proper historical context, Richard E. Ellis finds that Maryland, though unopposed to the Bank, helped to bring the case before the Court and a sympathetic Chief Justice, who worked behind the scenes to save the embattled institution. Almost all treatments of the case consider it solely from Marshall's perspective, yet a careful examination reveals other, even more important issues that the Chief Justice chose to ignore. Ellis demonstrates that the points which mattered most to the States were not treated by the Court's decision: the private, profit-making nature of the Second Bank, its right to establish branches wherever it wanted with immunity from state taxation, and the right of the States to tax the Bank simply for revenue purposes. Addressing these issues would have undercut Marshall's nationalist view of the Constitution, and his unwillingness to adequately deal with them produced immediate, widespread, and varied dissatisfaction among the States. Ellis argues that Marshall's "aggressive nationalism" was ultimately counter-productive: his overreaching led to Jackson's democratic rejection of the decision and failed to reconcile states' rights to the effective operation of the institutions of federal governance.

Elegantly written, full of new information, and the first in-depth examination of McCulloch v. Maryland, Aggressive Nationalism offers an incisive, fresh interpretation of this familiar decision central to understanding the shifting politics of the early republic as well as the development of federal-state relations, a source of constant division in American politics, past and present.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A firm narrative that will be fascinating to the general reader"—Maryland Historical Magazine

"Richard E. Ellis has once again earned great admiration from all students of American history. Lucid, forceful, and important, Aggressive Nationalism will fundamentally change the standard views of emerging American nationalism and the fascinating politics that lay behind it. It is a major contribution from a consistently impressive and pioneering historian."—Sean Wilentz, Princeton University

"Richard Ellis always finds new ways of understanding familiar topics - with the added, singular virtue of being so right. A judicious historian, Ellis determinedly renders historical events in real time and place. John Marshall's McCulloch v. Maryland opinion—long a chestnut of constitutional interpretation and analysis—endures as a bold statement for perennial problems of federalism and constitutional interpretation (despite Justice Scalia's misguided disdain). Ellis effectively challenges Marshall's questionable determination to protect the Bank of the United States; but Ellis also properly recognizes that Marshall's striking language remains the standard for a wise, pragmatic, and evolving interpretation of the Constitution. We can be grateful for this extraordinary book."—Stanley Kutler, author of Privilege and Creative Destruction: The Charles River Bridge Case

"Both scholarly and readable, this study puts the great case of McCulloch v. Maryland in a clear historical context. It will enlighten both students and specialists."—Michael Les Benedict, Ohio State University

"The Ellis text offers insightful analysis of how individual states fared before, during, and after the national bank controversy."—Law and Politics Book Review

"a detailed account of one of the most important U.S. Supreme Court cases in the early nineteenth century...Ellis is adept at using the story of McCulloch to illuminate the broader politics of the middle Jeffersonian era...Ellis's careful attention to the conflicted feelings about the loss of control over credit and revenue in the states in the 1810s is most welcome."—The Journal of American History

"Ellis's book should be read for its valuable exploration of sub-state versus federal constitutional politics."—The American Historical Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195323566
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 8/22/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard E. Ellis is Professor of History at the University of Buffalo, SUNY. Among his published works are The Jeffersonian Crisis: Courts and Politics in the Young Republic (1971) and The Union at Risk: Jacksonian Democracy, State's Rights, and the Nullification Crisis (1987). He has held grants from The John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Council of Learned Societies.

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Table of Contents

Introduction
1. The U.S. Supreme Court versus the States
2. The Second Bank of the United States
3. The States versus the Second Bank of the United States
4. McCulloch v. Maryland
5. Virginia's Response to McCulloch v. Maryland
6. Ohio and the Bank of the United States
7. Ohio and Georgia before the U.S. Supreme Court
8. Coda
Notes
Index

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