An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States


An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States

"An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States" is a 1913 book by American historian Charles A. Beard. It argues that the structure of the Constitution of the United States was motivated primarily by the economic interests of the Founding Fathers. More specifically, Beard contends that the Constitutional Convention was attended by, and the Constitution was therefore written by, a "cohesive" elite seeking to protect its property and economic standing. Beard painstakingly examined the occupations and property holdings of the members of the convention from tax and census records, contemporaneous news accounts, and biographical sources, demonstrating the degree to which each stood to benefit from various Constitutional provisions. Beard pointed out, for example, that George Washington was the wealthiest landowner in the country, and had provided significant funding towards the American Revolutionary War. Beard traces the Constitutional guarantee that the newly formed nation would pay its debts to Washington's desire to have his costs refunded.

Criticism

Forrest McDonald in "We The People: The Economic Origins of the Constitution" (1958) argued that Beard had misinterpreted the economic interests involved in writing the Constitution. Instead of two interests, landed and mercantile, which conflicted, McDonald asserted that there were three dozen identifiable interests that forced the delegates to bargain.


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