Summary of Major Supreme Court Decisions Under Marshall and Through Taney

How to Use This Webpage: This is a tool for seeing the patterns in the Supreme Court under Marshall and Taney—and how corporations, contracts, and the national government (including the Supreme Court) got its power. It is for reference.


What’s on This Page:

Summary of What the Supreme Court Said. 1

Decisions of the MarshallCourt 1

Decisions of the Taney Court 2

Want to Read the Source? What Does the Constitution Say?. 2

Contract Clause¾Article 1, Section 10. 2

Interstate Commerce Clause¾Article 1, Section 8. 2

Implied Powers Clause¾Article 1, Section 8. 2





Summary of What the Supreme Court Said

Click on the link to see the section from the Constitution; for example, click on Contract to read that clause from the Constitution.

Read the Situation column. Then ask yourself what you would decide and then read the court’s decision.

Decisions of the Marshall Court

Chief Justice Marshall, a Federalist and a person who pushed for the power of the Supreme Court, the national government (not the states), and for corporations, was appointed by John Adams (and approved by the Senate of course). He served from 1801 until his death in 1835.


Situation of the Case Before the Supreme Court

Decision Made by the Supreme Court

If You Want to Know the Name of the Case

Possibility of corruption of the state legislature (GA) occurred leading to the contract. The next legislature trying to undo the action by taking back a grant of land.

Contract is valid even when corruption occurs. (Unanimous decision.)

Fletcher v. Peck (1810)

State legislature wanted to revise a private college charter (a contract creating a monopoly, such as the charters creating the Virginia and Massachusetts Bay colonies). The private college would have become a state university. (College’s attorney, Daniel Webster )

Contract is inviolable. A state government cannot change a previously given contract.

Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819)

State claimed highest review of a case in state court is in-state, even when state was a party

The highest review is of state court decisions is not the highest state court, but the national Supreme Court

Cohens v. Virginia (1821)

States (among them Maryland) opposed the national bank (a bank created by the implied powers clause) with prohibitions or confiscatory taxation. (Bank’s attorney, Daniel Webster)

A national institution cannot be taxed by a state. Reason: “Power to tax is the power to destroy.” (Phrase written by Daniel Webster)

McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)

There were two monopolies (contracts)granted to create a ferry business (ferry to carry, as in across a river):

  • By a state (New York) to a ferry business) which subcontracted the work to Ogden (one name in the case)
  • By the United States Congress to Gibbons (the other name in the case)

Nationally granted monopoly (a (granted through the interstate commerce clause) is over a state-granted monopoly.

Ogden v. Gibbons (1824)

Decisions of the Taney Court

Chief Justice Taney was appointed by Andrew Jackson, a Democrat. Later cases to place Chief Justice Taney in perspective: Dred Scott Case in 1857, a factor leading to the Civil War; and Ex Parte Milligan in 1861, a case protecting civilian rights in wartime. He served from 1836 to 1864.





Opponents in the dispute:

  • The first had a state charter and monopoly (a contract), and charged a toll (a fee for using the bridge)
  • The second had a state charter and monopoly (a contract),but no toll--thus rendering the above charter to have less value

A state could issue the second charter without a toll

Taney:  “We must not forget that the community also have [an older style of use of that verb] rights.

Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge (1837)



Want to Read the Source? What Does the Constitution Say?

Contract Clause¾Article 1, Section 10

No state shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; emit bills of credit; make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts, or grant any title of nobility.

Interstate Commerce Clause¾Article 1, Section 8

To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes

Implied Powers Clause¾Article 1, Section 8

To 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.


Copyright C. J. Bibus, Ed.D. 2012


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