What is the Necessary and Proper Clause

What is the Necessary and Proper Clause
Not many people know the meaning and significance of the necessary and proper clause mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. This Historyplex article will cover some information related to one of the most important laws drafted in the U.S. Constitution.
Historyplex Staff
One of the most debatable and controversial, yet important clauses of of the U.S. Constitution that grants power to the Congress, is the necessary and proper clause. Here is the exact definition covered in Article One of the United States Constitution, section 8, clause 18:

"The Congress shall have Power - 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."


It is also known as the Elastic Clause, the Basket Clause, the Coefficient Clause and the Sweeping Clause. The US Constitution places special powers and duties in the hands of the US Congress. This clause allows the Government of the United States to make all laws that are necessary as well as proper.

The interpretation of the clause was under storm. The Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson debated about the correct interpretation of the clause. According to Hamilton, this clause helped the Congress exercise their powers related to many implied powers. Implied powers include all those powers that are implied in the Constitution, and not stated explicitly. Jefferson argued that one could not allow too much power to rest in the hands of one branch of the government. He said 'necessary' should mean 'essential' in this case. Jefferson's interpretation made the state government more stronger, whereas, Hamilton's interpretation helped in making the central government more strong.

The importance of this clause came to the fore in a landmark US Supreme Court case. This case was the McCulloch V. Maryland, 17 U.S. 316 (1819). In 1791, the First Bank of the United States was established. However, it failed by 1811 as it did not gain the necessary support from the Congress. A new bank was established in 1816 that had many branches in many states. The Bank of the United States cautious policies were not welcomed by many state chartered banks. The state of Maryland imposed a tax on the bank's operation. The cashier of Baltimore's branch James McCulloch, refused to pay the tax and the case went to court.

The US Supreme court then decided after careful considerations that the act of Congress could not be undermined by any state. On the basis of necessary and proper clause, it was stated that the state governments were subordinate to the Federal government. Thus, helping the Congress exercise the implied powers as and when necessary and proper.