- 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 Stateswas motivated primarily by the economicinterests of the Founding Fathers. More specifically, Beard contends that the Constitutional Conventionwas 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 Washingtonwas 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.
Forrest McDonaldin "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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