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Case Basics
Docket No. 
United States
Facts of the Case 

At the urging of dairy farmers, Congress passed an act imposing a tax of 10 cents per pound on oleomargarine that was artificially colored yellow. Noncolored margarine was taxed only one-quarter of a cent per pound. McCray, a licensed dealer, did not pay the higher tax while selling the colored product. After losing his case in lower courts, McCray appealed to the Supreme Court.


Did the congressional act overstep the boundaries of the taxing powers established in the Constitution?


In a 6-to-3 decision, the Court held that the taxes levied on colored and noncolored oleomargarine were constitutional. The Court held that the right of Congress to tax within its delegated powers was essentially "unrestrained," and that "no want of due process of law could possibly result" from exercises of that power. The Court argued that to question the purpose and motive of Congress in exerting its delegated powers would be to "usurp the functions of the legislative in order to control that branch of the government in the performance of its lawful duties."

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MCCRAY v. UNITED STATES. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 26 August 2015. <>.
MCCRAY v. UNITED STATES, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 26, 2015).
"MCCRAY v. UNITED STATES," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 26, 2015,