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Craig v. Missouri


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4 Pet. (29 U.S.) 410 (1830), argued 2–3 Mar. 1830, decided 12 Mar. 1830 by vote of 4 to 3; Marshall for the Court, Johnson, Thompson, and McLean dissenting. Craig demonstrated the transitional character of the late Marshall Court. The question presented was whether a Missouri statute authorizing loan certificates issued by the state violated Article I, section 10's ban on bills of credit. Arguing for Missouri, Senator Thomas Hart Benton, a leading critic of judicial nationalism, urged the Court to uphold the statute as a legitimate exercise of state sovereignty. He also argued that section 25 of the Judiciary Act of 1789, under which the case came up to the Supreme Court, was unconstitutional, an argument that strengthened those in Congress working for its repeal.

Speaking for a bare majority, Chief Justice John Marshall struck down the statute, grounding his reading of the constitutional prohibition of state paper money in the history of the Confederation. He also reaffirmed the Court's jurisdiction under section 25, contending as he had done in Cohens v. Virginia (1821) that the justices had no discretion in taking jurisdiction. Justices William Johnson, Smith Thompson, and John McLean dissented, finding enough latitude in the wording of the statute to exempt it from the operation of the constitutional bar.

Just seven years later, the dissenters won the day in Briscoe v. Bank of Kentucky (1837), when the Court, now under Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, upheld a variant currency scheme, by which a state bank's notes served as a circulating medium.

R. Kent Newmyer

Subjects: Law.


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