The Marshall Court and
Law and Economic Development • Fletcher v. Peck • Pub-
lic Land Cases • The Emergence of the Corporation • Defin-
ing Corporate Rights • The Dartmouth College Case •
Bankruptcy • Conclusion: The Marshall Court's Legacy •
For Further Reading
LAW HAS ALWAYS been closely connected with commerce, and rules of property, contract, and damages play an important role in shaping the forms of business arrangements, as well as the means by which society enforces or refuses to enforce private commercial agreements. John Marshall shared many of Alexander Hamilton's views on the need for a prosperous economy to undergird a strong Union, and he believed the Constitution gave the federal government authority to support national economic development. Not surprisingly, the theme of states' rights versus national power that we examined in the last chapter is present in this area as well.
Commercial growth in the United States proceeded along two intermingled paths, activity within individual states, as well as interstate activity. The Framers understood this distinction, but believed that as the nation grew, the economic ties developed through interstate business would form a powerful cement to bind the Union together. Recognizing that local interests would try to hamper this growth, they wrote into the Constitution specific limits on state regulation and activity in Article I, Section 10, and gave over the power to control interstate commerce to the national government.
Many of the cases discussed in the preceding chapter not only strengthened the U.S. Supreme Court and the national government in general, but also reflected the Marshall Court's determination to pursue the commercial policy it believed had been propounded by the Framers. In McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) it not only upheld the right