Lesson Plan: Landmark Supreme Court Case: McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)

The Historical Background of McCulloch v. Maryland

Law professors Mark Killenbeck and Farah Peterson talked about the events preceding the 1819 Supreme Court case McCulloch v. Maryland. Specifically, they discussed the role that the Second Bank of the United States played in the court case.


McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) is one of the most important Supreme Court cases regarding federal power. In a unanimous decision, the Court established that Congress had implied constitutional power to create a national bank and that individual states could not tax a federally chartered bank. The Court stated Congress was authorized to pass laws "necessary and proper" in order to carry out its duties. This lesson explores the background of the case, the arguments for each side and the results and legacy of McCulloch v. Maryland.


  • STEP 1.

    As a class, view the following video and answer the questions below to lay the foundation for students to understand this case:

  • VIDEO CLIP: The Historical Background of McCulloch v. Maryland (4:34)

    • Describe the historical and economic background preceding the McCulloch v. Maryland case.

    • What were the issues that McCulloch v. Maryland addressed? How were these issues representative of the country at the time?
  • STEP 2:

    Students can either work independently or in groups to view the following video clips. They can either take notes using the handout below or answer the questions associated with each question:

    Handout: Supreme Court Case: McCulloch v. Maryland (Google Doc)

  • VIDEO CLIP: How McCulloch v. Maryland Got to the Supreme Court (2:05)

    • Describe the events that led up to the McCulloch v. Maryland Supreme Court case.

    • What is meant by McCulloch v. Maryland being a "contrived case?"
  • VIDEO CLIP: John Marshall and the Supreme Court During McCulloch v. Maryland (4:34)

    • Explain the location and atmosphere during the McCulloch v. Maryland Supreme Court Case.

    • Who was John Marshall and why is he so important to the history of the Supreme Court?

    • Describe how the Supreme Court worked together at the time of McCulloch v. Maryland.
  • VIDEO CLIP: The Arguments in McCulloch v. Maryland (2:41)

    • What does federalism mean? Why is it important now?

    • Describe the arguments given by McCulloch.

    • Describe the arguments given by Maryland.
  • VIDEO CLIP: The Legacy of McCulloch v. Maryland (2:39)

    • How does the ruling in McCulloch v. Maryland impact federal powers listed in the Constitution?

    • Describe how McCulloch v. Maryland addressed the issue of conflicts between the state and federal government.

    • Why is McCulloch v. Maryland still relevant to the United States today?
  • STEP 3:

    As a class, review and discuss the significance of this case, the precedent it set, and its legacy.


    Mock Trial- Using the arguments provided for each side have the students participate in a mock trial for this case.


    Argumentative Essay Free Response Question- Respond to this writing prompt (Google Doc) presented in the style of the Argumentative Question component of the redesigned AP Government and Politics exam.

    Additional Writing Prompts:

    • Does McCulloch v. Maryland infringe on 10th Amendment protections that are given to the states? Provide support for your answer.

    • Choose a current topic or issue and explain how it relates to the ruling in McCulloch v. Maryland.

    • How would the powers of Congress be different if the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Maryland?

Additional Resources


  • Commodities
  • Constitution
  • Constitutionality
  • Corporations
  • Federalism
  • Implied Powers
  • Imports
  • Inflation
  • Jurisdiction
  • Louisiana Purchase
  • Necessary And Proper Clause
  • Panic Of 1819
  • Second Bank Of The United States
  • Sovereign
  • Stamp Tax
  • Supreme Court
  • Tariffs


Constitutional FoundationFederalism and State IssuesSupreme Court CasesU.S. History


High SchoolUniversity