The Taney Court (1836–64)


In what decision did the Taney Court strike down a provision in a state constitution?

The Taney Court ruled 6–3 in Dodge v. Woolsey (1856) that the provision of the Ohio Constitution that increased taxes on banks violated the Contract Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which provides: “No State shall … pass any … Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts.” The Court majority, in an opinion written by Justice James Wayne, reasoned that the Ohio Constitutional provision in 1851 and subsequent statute in 1853 impaired the contractual obligation that the state had with banks pursuant to an 1845 law that provided for a lesser tax.

In other words, the Court determined that the state of Ohio impaired its contractual obligation with banks in 1845 by passing a new law that raised taxes. Justice John Campbell dissented, arguing that the Court had invaded the province of state governments.


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