Beard Thesis Of The Constitution

Beard Thesis Of The Constitution-38
The Constitution was ratified by a vote of probably not more than one-sixth of the adult males.It is questionable whether a majority of the voters participating in the elections for the state conventions in New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Virginia, and South Carolina, actually approved the ratification of the Constitution.

The most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property.

Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society.

The protection of these faculties in the first object of government.

From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results; and from the influence of these on the sentiments and views of the respective proprietors, ensues a division of society into different interests and parties…

The leaders who supported the Constitution in the ratifying conventions represented the same economic groups as the members of the Philadelphia Convention; and in a large number of instances they were also directly and personally interested in the outcome of their efforts.

In the ratification, it became manifest that the line of cleavage for and against the Constitution was between substantial personalty interests on the one hand and the small farming and debtor interests on the other.This assault on the Founders, subtle at first, began in earnest almost 100 years ago. It was a product of self-interest that should be interpreted loosely and changed as the Progressives saw fit.The first historian to challenge the motives of the Founders was Charles Beard in (1913). The constitutional separation of powers, for example, according to Woodrow Wilson—a friend of Beard’s and a fellow Ph. in history—was a “grievous mistake” by the Founders.Suppose it could be shown from the classification of the men who supported and opposed the Constitution that there was no line of property division at all; that is, that men owning substantially the same amounts of the same kinds of property where equally divided on the matter of adoption or rejection–it would then become apparent that the Constitution had no ascertainable relation to economic groups or classes, but was the product of some abstract causes remote from the chief business of life–gaining a livelihood.Suppose, on the other hand, that substantially all of the merchants, money lenders, security holders, manufacturers, shippers, capitalists, and financiers and their professional associates are to be found on one side in support of the Constitution and that substantially all or the major portion of the opposition came from the non-slaveholding farmers and the debtors–would it not be pretty conclusively demonstrated that our fundamental law was not the product of an abstraction known as “the whole people,” but of a group of economic interests which must have expected beneficial results from its adoption?Thus, according to Beard, the constitutional convention in Philadelphia in 1787 was promoted by “a small and active group of men immediately interested through their personal possessions in the outcome of their labors. During the 1950s, historian Forrest Mc Donald did a more thorough study of the Founders and discovered what can most generously be described as errors in research and, less generously, as fraudulent research. Each state had to vote on ratifying the Constitution, and Beard offered evidence that “the leaders who supported the Constitution in the ratifying conventions represented the same economic groups as the members of the Philadelphia convention.” The Founders, Beard conceded, did not write the Constitution merely to make money, but nonetheless, “The Constitution was essentially an economic document.” Beard’s thesis, seemingly well researched, was presented in a tentative way, but it soon swept the historical profession and became gospel in college classrooms by the 1920s.The requirements for an economic interpretation of the formation and adoption of the Constitution may be stated in a hypothetical proposition which, although it cannot be verified absolutely from ascertainable data, will at once illustrate the problem and furnish a guide to research and generalization.It will be admitted without controversy that the Constitution was the creation of a certain number of men, and it was opposed by a certain number of men.It may likewise be shown, to take an extreme case, that the English nation derived immense advantages from the Norman Conquest and the orderly administrative processes which were introduced, as it undoubtedly did; nevertheless, it does not follow that the vague thing known as “justice” was the immediate, guiding purpose of the leaders in either of these great historic changes.The point is, that the direct, impelling motive in both cases was the economic advantages which the beneficiaries expected would accrue to themselves first, from their action.


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