An Economic Interpretation of the Founding Fathers

Interpretation of the Founding Fathers

American Government: Roots and Reform references, “An economic Interpretation of the United States Constitution by Charles Beard. In it, Beard claimed that the Framers’ intentions and considerations in drafting the Constitution were motivated self-interest. Until Beard wrote “An Economic Interpretation in 1913, the standard account of the Founding Era was that the Framers acted out of idealism and determination to create democratic institutions. Beard debunked this theory, and argued that the adoption of the Constitution itself constituted a triumph for those who were concerned with the protection of private property.

Beard advanced three main lines of argument. First, he explained the conflict between Federalists and Anti federalists as a clash of class interests between possessors of “personality” (merchants, creditors, public securities holders, and large slave owners) who tended to favor the Constitution, and owners of “realty”(yeoman farmers, debtors, and even the property-less) who often opposed it. Realty may be defined as the land and buildings thereon and anything permanently affixed to the land or the building. Personally on the other hand is anything which does not fit within the definition of realty

In support of his thesis, Beard analyzed the property holdings of the Constitutional Convention delegates, concluding that holders of personality, especially public securities, tended to become Federalists because they believed that the new central government would establish more effective protection for their property than the state governments, which had tended to adopt policies injurious to holders of personality.

Further, Beard argued that Federalist political thought reflected the economic interests protected by the Constitution. Specifically, Beard contended that Madison’s “Tenth Federalist,” paper with its emphasis on the Constitution’s ability to control factions, was directed particularly at controlling economic factions or classes in order to protect the rights of property.

Finally, Beard concluded that the Federalists were essentially anti-democratic elitists, out to reverse the democratic tendencies of the early state constitutions and the Articles of Confederation. Beard noted that Federalists favored restricting suffrage to property owners, granting unelected judges the power of judicial review over legislation, electing the President and the Senate indirectly, and limiting the power of the popularly elected House of Representatives by making it inferior to the Senate.

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