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Paperback An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States Book

ISBN: 0029024803

ISBN13: 9780029024805

An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States

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A CONTROVERSIAL INTERPRETATION OF THE FOUNDERS' INTENTIONS Beard's interpretation proposes that the Framers of the Federal Constitution were motivated primarily by economic concerns. This argument was... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

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Charles Beard is actually a relative of our family. My mother had an original copy long lost. I'd qu

I want to share this with my friends as the true history of the founders of this nation. Mr. Beard tells us the Quaker version of our nations founders. Totally different than the Government version.

A fresh and critical look into those who founded the United States

Glancing through most American history textbooks, many students would read stories of the Founding Fathers having been intellectuals, statesmen, and individuals striving for justice in protection of their fellow Americans. "These framers are represented as untainted by economic or financial interests, founding a government on abstract speculations of political philosophy." However, Charles Beard's account offers very different ideas and conclusions on, what he feels, the true intention of those who are credited for the creation of the United States and it's Constitution. Likely one of the most important works on early American history, Beard makes several points in An Economic Interpretation. His original 1913 argument is that the forming of the United States Constitution was an effort by the newly formed, affluent American social class to establish a government that would protect their interests and raise the value of the government's obligations in their possessions. Other historians have refuted this idea claiming it to be secondary in the goals of the framers, however Beard asserts this as their primary intention in creating the Constitution. Not only was the Constitution created to protect their interests but Beard argues that it was a direct assault on the lower and middle classes and "not one member represented in his immediate personal economic interests the small farming or mechanic classes" (149). The Constitution has no mention of a Bill of Rights (later ratified on Dec 1791) and was opposed "almost uniformly... from the agricultural regions and from the areas in which debtors had been formulating paper money and other depreciatory schemes" (291). Beard does receive some criticism in that "the controversy was based in large measure on state pride, state patriotism, state jealousies and state dislike of a nationalism which would devour the state" rather than placing the mistrust in economics. In addition, the Constitutional Convention was never submitted to a popular vote nor was it submitted for popular ratification (239). Beard's ideas are well supported and documented with extensive research of primary documents such as correspondence, treasury documents, newspapers and a careful analyzation of the Constitution. "The correspondence shows the exact character of the evils which the Constitution was intended to remedy; the records of the proceedings in the Philadelphia Convention reveal the successive steps in the building of the framework of the government under the pressure of economic interests; the pamphlets and newspapers disclose the ideas of the contestants over the ratification; and The Federalist presents the political science of the new system as conceived by three of the profoundest thinkers of the period, Hamilton, Madison and Jay" (152-53). In his summation of An Economic Interpretation, Beard voices what he has intended to say throughout, the largest of which that the Constitution was designed to protect the

Reviewing the Founding Fathers

This book was first issued in 1913 during the Progressive Party era. Theodore Roosevelt questioned the power of the judiciary to declare laws unconstitutional and suggested the people should have the right to recall that decision (`Introduction to the 1935 Edition'). [Abraham Lincoln had similar concerns.] James Madison wrote Federalist Number 10 to speak on how politics are based on economic interests. In the late 19th century historian talked about "state's rights" or "a strong central government". Charles A. Beard investigated the original sources and found the discussions over economic interests. His book was praised by Progressives and condemned by conservative Republicans. Beard just gathered the facts in an impartial manner. This is not a biased outlook (p.xlvx). The idea of economics affecting politics is in Aristotle's writings and the Federalist paper No. 10. You can decide for yourself what part economics plays in "protective tariffs, foreign trade, transportation, industry, commerce, labor, agriculture, and the nature of the Constitution itself" (p.xlix)! [Your local newspaper may report on zoning changes but not who benefits from them.] Ignoring economic issues in history leads to confusion (p.lii). Law is primarily concerned with the ownership of property and the way it is passed from one person to another. Different kinds of property creates different classes with different views (Chapter I). Investigating the economic interests of the supporters and opponents of the Federal Constitution will test Beard's theory (p.17). Chapter II lists the difficulties in learning about the state and continental public securities and their owners, and other facts. Merchants and manufacturers wanted a protective tariff. Four powerful groups wanted a new government: the money powers, holders of public securities, manufacturers and shippers, and speculators in western lands (Chapter III). The men who wanted the new Constitution chose to have it ratified by state legislators rather than popular vote (Chapter IV). Property qualifications limited the electorate. Chapter V discusses the economic interests of the convention members. Would they benefit under the new Constitution? Were they working under the guidance of abstract principles of political science? Jonathan Dayton of New Jersey was a notorious speculator (p.86). Alexander Hamilton organized the groups to support the new Constitution (p.101). George Washington was the richest man in the US (p.144). The Constitution was created by lawyers and the wealthy (p.151). "The Federalist" shows an economic interpretation of the Constitution (Chapter VI). The Supreme Court was designed to check the Legislature (p.163). Chapter VII discusses the political doctrines of the convention members. The Constitution was a compromise by a committee. It was a revolutionary plan (Chapter VIII), but would be ratified by popular votes for delegates to a state convention. Chapter IX discusses the percentage who voted.

A Good Place to Begin Thinking About What it Means to be an American

Jumping to the end of Charles Beard's book, his conclusions state the following: i) The US constitution was enacted to protect the interests of: a) the moneyed classes (the rich), b) the bond and stock holding classes (the rich speculators), c) the manufacturing interests (rich capitalists), and trade and shipping interests (the rich capitalist speculators). ii) The constitution was the result of an elite group of men representing the aforementioned interests. iii) The constitutional convention held in Philadelphia was organized undemocratically by the aforementioned elite group of men to secure the aforementioned interests. iv) Those not holding the aforementioned interests (the poor) were excluded from participation in the constitutional process. v) Those participating in the Philadelphia convention personally benefited from the outcome of that convention (the constitution). vi) The US constitution is a document protecting private property rights over that of a democratic people and/or its government. vii) These assertions are on record as evidenced by the property and monetary interests of those who proposed and passed the US constitution. viii) In the ratification of the US constitution, 3/4 of the qualified voters were excluded by some means or another, aiding the 1/4 who benefited from the passage of the constitution. ix) The ratification of the US constitution was further narrowed down to where only 1/6 of the qualified voters participated in its passing. x) Therefore, the majority of qualified voters did not participate in the ratification of the US constitution. xi) This 1/6 who ratified the constitution were the same minority who held large holdings in money, bonds and stocks, manufacturing, and trade and shipping. xii) The main societal divisions in the ratification of the US constitution were among classes cited in i) and the farming and debtor classes at that time. xiii) The constitution was therefore not created by "the people," but by the those motivated by the monetary interests cited in i). To see why Beard thought this you must read this book, which is a laundry list of those participating in the Philadelphia convention and the ratification process, and a catalogue of their documented monetary interests. After reading Beard, then you can read the introduction by Forrest McDonald holding Beard's thesis up to the crucible of historical criticism. After reading Beard and McDonald you can begin to reflect on the implications of Beard's materialist hypothesis and the host of corroborating and refuting philosophical considerations, then form your own conclusions, then repeat the cycle over and over. This is probably a good departure point to begin examining your personal beliefs and expectations of what it means to be an American.

The real story, told by a brave man, an essential book for all,

Beard was a courageous man, not afraid to say the truth, not afraid to look into reality of American life and see the abuse of power, the denial of justice, and the real social interests at stake. This book establishes the real context of the constitution, displacing the usual hero worship of the "founders" as demigods and showing them as real men who served their class interests. Beard situates the constitutional convention in the great social struggles that went on in the period after the achievement of independence. Without such an understanding the struggle over the adoption of the constitution, and the role of the Bill of Rights are simply not understandable. Post independence America was a place of economic crisis for the farmers, workers, and small tradesmen who had been the bulwark of the revolutionary struggle. Montarization of economic exchange in villages and towns where a large amount of the exchange had been based on barter, a massive inflation, and a growth of the power of the banks and other money lenders spread like a plague, particularly in the Northern States, especially New England. Farmers were losing their land; tradesmen were losing their shops; goods not made on the farms and villages became too expensive for many working people and farmers. The power of the state governments, squarely in the hands of the merchants and planters, stood behind the seizure of the lands of farmers who could no longer pay the banks and merchants. Farmers and small tradesmen rose against this. Desperate farmers and their supporters shut down courts that met to authorize confiscation of farms. With no Bill of Rights, in Massachusetts set up kangaroo courts made up of merchants and bankers that made no attempt to be fair to the farmers. Newspapers and speakers who criticized the state government and the banks and big merchants were charged with treason. Full-scale civil war broke out in Massachusetts, with the plebian rebels coming close--it is said only prevented by the delay of one detachment by a snowstorm--to seizing the national arsenal in Springfield. It was these threats to property that threatened the power of the wealthy and the order that had been established after the revolution. This is why the constitutional convention gathered, not some abstract interest in more ethereal and philosophical forms of government. Whatever is said about divine motivations, the constitutional convention which gathered the wealthy and powerful, would have had to have been a bunch of insane dreamers, not to have had the interests of their wealth and power first in their minds in this situation. This Beard shows with abundant documentation. Beard documents that this was by and large a gathering of the wealthy men of the country who had profited from the revolution and who had profited by the economic disaster farmers and tradesmen faced by buying up certificates for land in compensation for services to the revolution, many farmers

Brilliant -- upheld by recent scholarship

Charles Beard's thesis held sway for decades --and was not attacked in a significant way until after his death in 1948. Major critics were Robert E. Brown (1956) and Forrest McDonald (1958). It should be noted that Charles Beard greatly angered the liberal Establishment in the 1940s with his strong criticism re how Franklin Roosevelt manipulated the US into World War II and provoked the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor.A new book due out in July 2002 -- Robert McGuire's "To Form A More Perfect Union: A New Economic Interpretation of the United States Constitution" will supposedly show that Beard was right re the Founding Fathers/Constitution and his critics were wrong.
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