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In this famous study, the author turned the hagiography of many earlier American historians on its head. Unlike those writers, who had stressed idealistic impulses as factors determining the structure of the American government, Beard questioned the Founding Fathers' motivations in drafting the Constitution and viewed the results as a product of economic self-interest. Brim In this famous study, the author turned the hagiography of many earlier American historians on its head. Unlike those writers, who had stressed idealistic impulses as factors determining the structure of the American government, Beard questioned the Founding Fathers' motivations in drafting the Constitution and viewed the results as a product of economic self-interest. Brimming with human interest, insights, and information every student of American history will prize, this volume — one of the most controversial books of its time — continues to prompt new perceptions of the supreme law of the land. "A staple for history and economics collections." — Library Journal. "Replete with human interest and compact with information of importance to every student of American history or of political science." — Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.


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In this famous study, the author turned the hagiography of many earlier American historians on its head. Unlike those writers, who had stressed idealistic impulses as factors determining the structure of the American government, Beard questioned the Founding Fathers' motivations in drafting the Constitution and viewed the results as a product of economic self-interest. Brim In this famous study, the author turned the hagiography of many earlier American historians on its head. Unlike those writers, who had stressed idealistic impulses as factors determining the structure of the American government, Beard questioned the Founding Fathers' motivations in drafting the Constitution and viewed the results as a product of economic self-interest. Brimming with human interest, insights, and information every student of American history will prize, this volume — one of the most controversial books of its time — continues to prompt new perceptions of the supreme law of the land. "A staple for history and economics collections." — Library Journal. "Replete with human interest and compact with information of importance to every student of American history or of political science." — Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.

30 review for An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States

  1. 4 out of 5

    Martin

    This book was considered very controversial when first published in 1913. An admittedly superficial study of the 55 or so men who attended the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 as well as the economic and financial interests in the colonies under the Articles of Confederation (our first government from 1783 to 1789), "An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States" by Charles Beard remains a worthy read, especially for any student of the Constitution. Althoug This book was considered very controversial when first published in 1913. An admittedly superficial study of the 55 or so men who attended the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 as well as the economic and financial interests in the colonies under the Articles of Confederation (our first government from 1783 to 1789), "An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States" by Charles Beard remains a worthy read, especially for any student of the Constitution. Although the prose is academic and dry, the book moves along well; and at only 325 pages it won't seem a burden to finish. The book was controversial because Beard dared to view the "Founding Fathers" as men, not gods, who had their own economic self-interest at stake in the reform of the government, and sought to discard the Articles with a new instrument not out of abstract ideological ideas but a keen awareness of the economic and financial interests of the nation, interests that were poorly served by the Articles. That is not to say that the "Founders" wrote the Constitution to enrich themselves. Alexander Hamilton owned very few public securities, for example. But their own interests made the framers of the Constitution acutely aware of the necessity of the new government to be able to discharge its debt or regulate commerce. Turn on Cable TV today or open a newspaper and you are bound to find someone or some group invoking -- or more likely exalting -- the Founders of the country. But during their day, with the possible exception of the exalted George Washington, the authors and supporters of the Constitution during the ratification debate were commonly attacked as aristocrats who wished to control the majority of the nation's wealth through the new instrument of government. So, who were these men and who did they really represent? Beard identifies four main property groups that generally supported and in many cases urgently petitioned for a reform of the Articles of Confederation: money, public securities, manufactures and trade and shipping. For the first two groups, the creation of a strong central government and stable financial system would greatly enhance their own positions as well as establish a sound foundation for the new government. What would have become of our nation had its government continued to fail to pay its debts because it could not raise tax revenues without the consent of the "sovereign states?" What would have become of our nation if those states could continue to print depreciating paper money, and pass laws that favored debtors instead of creditors and that allowed for the violation of contracts? The new Constitution prohibited states from issuing anything other than hard currency, gold and silver coins, and forbid states' legislatures from assaulting contracts through legislation. For the second two groups, the Articles of Confederation were an utter failure because the Congress (there was no executive or judicial branch) was unable to regulate commerce in the form of protective tariffs. Naturally, some states would oppose and some would favor protection against British and other foreign imports. Only a government of a NATIONAL CHARACTER with the authority to regulate commerce could pass the protective tariffs demanded by manufacturers and shippers. You may be surprised to learn in Beard's survey that most small farmers opposed the ratification of the Constitution, but supporters did attempt to demonstrate to this group how they would benefit from the overall prosperity of the country under the Constitution. To Beard, the Constitution is an economic document. While he states his case convincingly, his study is limited by the scarcity (in 1913 anyway) of documentary evidence of the Treasury Department under Hamilton, the Convention itself, the state ratifying conventions, and other record books that would have tracked tax payments, property ownership, debts paid, etc etc. Because my.. ahem, constitutional scholarship is limited, I can only guess that the past century of research has unearthed more evidence to either support or refute Beard's argument. In my view, his thesis remains worthy of serious consideration. The degree to which economics shaped the Constitution is important to measure if we are to understand the Founders "intent." Beard quotes liberally from Madison, Hamilton and Marshall and these are among the most entertaining sections of the book. His bias in favor of the Constitution is clear, but he gives ample space to the arguments that were made in 1789 against its ratification. For Americans today whose understanding of the "intent of the Founders" is clouded by the utter nonsense they hear on cable TV or at Tea Party rallies, this book would be rather useful, if they are able to open their minds. To those who talk a lot about the history of the "free market" or "limited government," a book about how the framers sought to limit the authority of state legislatures and authorize Congress to pass protective tariffs (one of the first acts it undertook); a study of Madison's intent to grant the federal government authority to nullify any state legislation and Hamilton's desire for a lifetime executive (neither idea made it into the final draft, as we know), may prove to be a splash of cold water in the face.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    I read Beard on the recommendation of Dad who had studied him at Grinnell College. Consequently, a term paper being assigned for junior year American History in high school, I picked up his book on the formulation of the Constitution and McDonald's critique of it, We the People, writing a pretty simple compare/contrast kind of paper. The teacher, Mr. Ellenberger, also a Grinnell graduate, was impressed. I was impressed also, by Beard and by this, my first serious exposure to historiography. Beard I read Beard on the recommendation of Dad who had studied him at Grinnell College. Consequently, a term paper being assigned for junior year American History in high school, I picked up his book on the formulation of the Constitution and McDonald's critique of it, We the People, writing a pretty simple compare/contrast kind of paper. The teacher, Mr. Ellenberger, also a Grinnell graduate, was impressed. I was impressed also, by Beard and by this, my first serious exposure to historiography. Beard's penchant for always looking for economic motives when explaining the actions of persons and collectivities in history struck me as a powerful heuristic tool. Not only did it make sense of history, but it, when treated in terms of interest groups or classes, provided a useful framework for explaining those revolutions all our history teachers seemed so fond of, primarily the American, French and Russian. It certainly served me well. Employing this technique of class analysis and economic motives I aced pretty much every history paper throughout the end of high school and into college. As regards Beard in general, his writing is always good, always clear and easy to understand. He was obviously an idealist. There is implicit to his economic analyses of this, that and the other event a subtle tone of disapproval, a sense that this is how people normally act, but they oughtn't. That appealed to me. So did his use of instances, all of which, when applied to the Founding Fathers, attacked cherished icons, making the oh hum American history of elementary school, our nation's secular religion, become interesting.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    2.5 stars. This is on my list to "re-read" in the not to distant future at which time I will do a more in depth review. I do recall thinking the subject matter was interesting and that the book was very accessible.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Brian Anton

    An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States by Charles A. Beard is a survey of the economics behind the formation and ratification of the United States Constitution. The work, originally published in 1913, gives insight into the demographics of those participating in the Constitutional Convention and theorizes that their socioeconomic status altered the foundations of the Constitution. Beard attempts to prove that the Constitution is the product of the small, upper-class An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States by Charles A. Beard is a survey of the economics behind the formation and ratification of the United States Constitution. The work, originally published in 1913, gives insight into the demographics of those participating in the Constitutional Convention and theorizes that their socioeconomic status altered the foundations of the Constitution. Beard attempts to prove that the Constitution is the product of the small, upper-class minority of the United States as opposed to the agrarian majority. He states that the framers created the Constitution primarily in order to preserve their own interests thus opposing the popular belief that the framers were creating a truly democratic form of government. Separated into twelve chapters, Beard's book can be grouped into the five following sections. Chapter I, titled “Historical Interpretation in the United States” outlines the different types of interpretation used in writing United States history. The first, attributed to Hubert Howe Bancroft, “explains the larger achievements in our national life by reference to the peculiar moral endowments of a people acting under divine guidance” (1). Beard names the second interpretation Teutonic, “because it ascribes the wonderful achievements of the English-speaking peoples to the peculiar political genius of the Germanic race” who set an example for the world by creating “free” government (2-3). The third interpretation, “classifies and orders phenomena, but does not explain their proximate or remote causes and relations” (4). He goes on to suggest a new fourth theory: economic determinism, which he believes has been largely neglected (6). Eventually, Beard goes on to state his thesis in the chapter writing that, “the Constitution – is a secondary or derivative feature arising from the nature of the economic groups” (13). In Chapter II, “A Survey of Economic Interests in 1787,” Beard examines three major groups. Those who did not have the right to vote: the slaves, the indentured servants, the mass of men who could not qualify under property tests imposed by state legislatures, and women. These groups were not represented in the Constitutional Convention. He goes on to explain that there were two other groups at the time that were allowed vote based on state laws: those with real property and those with personal property. Chapter III, “The Movement for the Constitution” explains the role of social class in the conception of the Constitutional Convention. Those with large capital and personal property, opposed to those with real property, did not benefit from the current Articles of Confederation, and because of the lack of legal channels to secure amendments to it, they decided instead to “revise” the document (63). In Chapter IV, “Property Safeguards in the Election of Delegates” Beard explains that, “the choice of delegates was afforded by the property qualifications generally placed on voters and legislatures by the state constitutions and laws in 1787” (65). The chapter goes on to outline the specific laws that kept those without property from voting and participating in the formation of the new government and eventually in those chosen to represent them in that government. Chapter V, “The Economic Interests of the Members of the Convention” makes up a significant portion of the book. Beard outlines each member of the Convention’s personal holdings of property concluding that those involved would directly benefit from the creation of a new constitution (149). In Chapter VI, “The Constitution as an Economic Document,” Beard elaborates on the fact that the, “concept of the Constitution as a piece of abstract legislation reflecting no group interests and recognizing no economic antagonisms is entirely false.” It was instead, “ an economic document drawn with superb skill by men whose property interests were immediately at stake”(188). In this chapter, Beard emphasizes the point that the Constitution does not contain economic qualifications in its’ words and that the document protected the property of those involved in the Convention because of the suffrage requirements of the states at the time. Chapter VII, “The Political Doctrines of the Members of the Convention,” goes into the political perspective of each member of the Convention at length. Chapter VIII, “The Process of Ratification” goes in depth into the framers plan for ratification of the new Constitution. Beard explains that the chief problem for the Convention was whether there was more likelihood of securing a confirmation by the state legislatures or by state conventions (219). Eventually, the members of the Convention decided that they would use state conventions because the state legislatures were not likely to approve of the loss of their own power. Again, there were economic qualifications for those involved in the new state conventions allowing only those legally allowed to vote to participate. Chapter IX, “The Popular Vote on the Constitution,” and Chapter X, “The Economics of the Vote on the Constitution,” continue providing facts supporting Beard’s conclusion that most of the population was not allowed to vote on ratification because of their social standing and state laws preventing them to do so. Finally, in chapter XI, “The Economic Conflict,” Beard summarizes his findings found throughout the book. On one hand, Beard writes in a way that is manageable and the topic is very interesting due to the original point of view that he uses in interpreting the Constitution and the events that led up to its ratification. He is forward in his approach and provides support for his thesis making the work one that is easy to understand and follow. He acknowledges the fact that his viewpoint has not been explored and that economic elements are the chief factors in the development of political institution, especially that of the United States government. They are instead discussed as a philosophic theory and have not been applied to the study of American history at large (6). Beard’s work is a significant addition to the study of American history due to his original perspective of the Constitution being the effect of the framers’ self-interests. On the other hand, two chapters of the book are dull due to Beard’s daunting task of explaining the holdings and political interests of each member of the Convention. Chapter V, titled, “The Economic Interests of the Members of the Convention” and Chapter VII, titled, “The Political Doctrines of the Members of the Convention” outline each member’s real and personal property and perceptions of government respectively. The chapters provide necessary insight into the demographics of each member of the Convention but do it in a fashion making it difficult to keep the attention of the audience. Beard’s use of alphabetical organization makes sense but the examples are monotonous due to the depth of explanation of each member’s demographic. In the preface of the book, Beard writes that the work is fragmentary and is “designed to suggest new lines of historical research rather than to treat the subject in an exhaustive fashion” (i). Throughout the book, he reiterates and criticizes himself because he is not as detailed as he should be. The self-criticism is unneeded due to the extensive use of primary sources, especially The Federalist and financial records from the Treasury Department in Washington. He uses excerpts from The Federalist throughout his work due to the fact that it, “presents in a relatively brief and systematic form an economic interpretation of the Constitution by men best fitted, through an intimate knowledge of the ideals of the framers to expound the political science of the new government . . . and whoever would understand the Constitution as an economic document need hardly go beyond it” (153). Beard uses the records from the Treasury Department are in Chapter V to give insight into the possessions, personal property, and real estate of each member present at the Convention. The findings that come out of those records conclude that a majority of the members of the Convention were lawyers by profession, not one represented the immediate personal economic interests of the small farmer or mechanic classes, and that at least five sixths of the members were economic beneficiaries of the ratification of the Constitution (149). Overall, the book provides support from outside sources to support his theory but seems to be limited to the documents listed above and may be due to the fact that many pertinent records have either been destroyed or never existed. Overall, Charles A. Beard’s An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States explains an original point of view, differing from the usual perspective of observing those who wrote the Constitution as selfless and faultless individuals. His theory that the framers, as the minority, built the United States’ government in their own self-interest is unique and support for his thesis fills the book. The work is interesting and sheds a different light on our government, which according to Beard, is not a true representation of the entire United States and is hypocritical of the first three words of the Constitution.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Steven Peterson

    4 stars for being an historically important book. Fewer for ending up proposing a thesis that was later found to be deficient. Basic argument: The Constitution was an undemocratic document drawn up and ratified in an undemocratic way. Further, it was designed to advance the interests of one group--personal property interests (public securities, manufacturing, shipping, money loaned at interest--in short, capital). Over timne, the work of Brown, McDonald, and Main undercut his economic thesis. Non 4 stars for being an historically important book. Fewer for ending up proposing a thesis that was later found to be deficient. Basic argument: The Constitution was an undemocratic document drawn up and ratified in an undemocratic way. Further, it was designed to advance the interests of one group--personal property interests (public securities, manufacturing, shipping, money loaned at interest--in short, capital). Over timne, the work of Brown, McDonald, and Main undercut his economic thesis. Nonetheless, this is an important historical work, helping to raise the question of the hard politics of the ratification struggle and that the Founders were not simply ethereal "demi-gods."

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jim Drewery

    An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States by Charles A. Beard, shattered previous visions of the revolutionary era long promulgated by nineteenth century historians when it was first published in 1913. It was criticized roughly for degrading the constitution, sullying American ideals, and its marxist leanings which suggested an elitist conspiracy to check what they saw as an unbridled gallop toward mob rule and anarchy by the unwashed and illiterate masses. It was widel An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States by Charles A. Beard, shattered previous visions of the revolutionary era long promulgated by nineteenth century historians when it was first published in 1913. It was criticized roughly for degrading the constitution, sullying American ideals, and its marxist leanings which suggested an elitist conspiracy to check what they saw as an unbridled gallop toward mob rule and anarchy by the unwashed and illiterate masses. It was widely accepted by the progressive minded of the day who were more than willing to see the suggested vision of the self interested hypocrisy of the founding generation and heralded it as a shining example progressive historical investigation. This is completely understandable, given the dominance of progressive thought within both the academy and the nation at large during that era, hinged with the growing fears of anarchists and communism influence as well. Any criticism of the work appears largely misplaced however, given the author's humble admission in the preface that the work was“frankly fragmentary” and meant “to suggest new lines of historical research rather than to treat the subject in an exhaustive fashion.”(v) Thus clearly Beard intended this to be the beginning, rather than the end of the quest of the full truth of our nation's founding and from that perspective it has been an unqualified success this reviewer feels. As suggested by its title this is in a sense a detective story of following the trail of money and influence backwards from the adoption of the constitution and the establishment of the American republican democracy. Central to the study were then newly available records of the US Treasury, which documented the means by which many of the constitutional signers, made striking personal gains via bonds which were issued for the public funding the collective war debts amassed during the revolution. The author makes use of contemporary letters, pamphlets, and other primary sources presented in eleven chapters of well researched if not page turning prose to convincingly substantiate four main conclusions. First that the Constitution was chiefly advocated by a handful of special interests he described as,“money, public securities, manufactures, and trade and shipping.” Secondly there was no popular vote to call the Constitutional Convention, nor to draft the document and even if there had been the “large property-less mass” was disenfranchised by existing law anyway. Perhaps most ruffling to the feathers of many in the field though was his final assertion that nearly all of the convention delegates were “immediately, directly, and personally interested in, and derived economic advantages from, the establishment of the new system.”(324) The work is clearly directed at an academic audience, which Beard wrote that he hoped “may be encouraged to turn away from barren "political" history to a study of the real economic forces which condition great movements in politics.”(v) Thus an objective viewer can well surmise that far from being upset at having much of his thesis refuted by future generations of consensus and intellectual historians, including most notably Forrest McDonald, the author was probably quite happy to see them finally taking up the trail of academic inquiry for which he had laid the basis. The very fact that a just over a hundred years after it was written, Beard's work is still on the reading lists and being discussed in graduate seminars in American history stands as a fitting testament to the work's influence on the field. As is the host of new fields and sub-fields of social, economic, and other specializations which have progressive roots which have since sprang forth and flourished. Regardless of which side of the historiographical fence one views American history from, this should be considered an important piece of scholarship which boldly challenged existing ideas and encouraged the enrichment of the field. Thus it will likely remain a must read for all scholars interested seriously in the genre and was selected to be digitized to preserve it and insure it will continue to be freely accessible by future generations of scholars. Beard, Charles A. An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States. 1921. New York: Macmillan, Digitized 2008. Google Books. Web. 21 Feb. 2014.

  7. 4 out of 5

    C. Scott

    Scholarly writing is very difficult for me to get through, but I was very happy that I forced myself to plow through this volume. Beard's message is as important now as it was when it was written 100 years ago. The founders weren't all saintly patriots working for the love of their brand new country but rather they were some of the new nation's wealthiest and most powerful working in their own self-interest for their own benefit. It defies logic for us to think otherwise. Of course these men had Scholarly writing is very difficult for me to get through, but I was very happy that I forced myself to plow through this volume. Beard's message is as important now as it was when it was written 100 years ago. The founders weren't all saintly patriots working for the love of their brand new country but rather they were some of the new nation's wealthiest and most powerful working in their own self-interest for their own benefit. It defies logic for us to think otherwise. Of course these men had something to gain by writing the Constitution the way they did... why else toss aside the Articles of Confederation? This doesn't mean that they didn't create something of value. It does mean that they were not gods walking among men, which seems to be the perception of some tricorn fetishists who live among us today.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Frederick Widdowson

    This is an outstanding book and as Mr. Beard says, its just one interpretation of the origins of the constitution. I've read several reviews of this books and it looks as if either people haven't actually read it or they've decided beforehand that its wrong. The book is very thorough and doesn't make too many assumptions. Its definitely worth reading if you are a history buff.

  9. 5 out of 5

    James

    While I only give this book 3 stars, this book set me on a journey that has since changed my life. Economics moves people to act and change the course of history. Once you understand that, the world just makes a lot more sense (and the people who fail to realize it make even less sense).

  10. 4 out of 5

    Joshua

    Not even sure what "dated" would mean in relation to this book. But if people are still reading anything I write 97 years later, I'll be a happy ghost.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Shane Avery

    “Economic elements,” according to Charles Beard, “are the chief factors in the development of political institutions.” (6) Beard lamented the fact that economic factors had been ignored in historical studies, particularly in the field of private and public law. With this orientation Beard produced his influential work "An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States i in 1913. Since nearly all branches of law, including constitutional law, concern property relations among men “Economic elements,” according to Charles Beard, “are the chief factors in the development of political institutions.” (6) Beard lamented the fact that economic factors had been ignored in historical studies, particularly in the field of private and public law. With this orientation Beard produced his influential work "An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States i in 1913. Since nearly all branches of law, including constitutional law, concern property relations among men, “the primary object of a government, beyond the mere repression of physical violence, is the making of the rules which determine the property relations of members of society, the dominant classes whose rights are thus to be determined must perforce obtain from the government such rules as are consonant with the larger interests necessary to the continuance of their economic processes.” (13) Thus the methods and nature of economic control become the fundamental purpose of constitutional law. With this intellectual framework Beard challenges traditional mytho-historical notions concerning origins of the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution was not created by a group of demigods who were committed to abstract notions of justice and liberty. On the contrary, the call for a national Constitutional Convention, the debates within that convention, the election of delegates to that Convention and to the state conventions which followed, can all be understood in terms of class and group divisions and contending interests. Members of the constitutional and state conventions who influenced the framing of the document and who supported its ratification understood the impact it would have on their personal fortunes. Beard roughly divides property holders into two categories: the interests of real and personal property. He classifies the real property holders into three general groups: small farmers, manorial lords, and the slaveholding plantations holders of the South. Beard argues that the manorial lords and the small farmers, primarily a debtor class, generally opposed the ratification of the Constitution, while the slaveholding planters generally supported its adoption. The other type of property holders, denominated as personal property holders, strongly supported and pushed for a new constitution. Read: it was a coup! These property holders held personalty in public securities, shipping and manufacturing, and money at interest. The representatives of these interests tried to secure amendments to the Articles of Confederation, which would safeguard the value of these sorts of capital. Failing in this effort, this group attempted to secure the necessary changes to safeguard their property through a convention by creating and lobbying for the adoption of a new constitution. In the second half of his book, Beard looks at the economic interests of each member of the 1787 constitutional convention in Philadelphia. He asks this basic question: “did the men who formulated the fundamental law of the land possess the kinds of property which were immediately and directly increased in value or made more secure by the results of their labors at Philadelphia?” Beard looks at the admittedly fragmentary evidence in the Department of Treasury and answers this question in the affirmative: “we are forced to accept the profoundly significant conclusions that [the members of the constitutional convention] knew through their personal experiences in economic affairs the precise results which the new government that they were setting up was designed to attain.” (151) Beard also provides a lengthy treatment of the Federalist Papers, reaching the conclusion that “every fundamental appeal” therein “is to some material and substantial interest.” (154) Wow! So it's all a sham, ya dig?

  12. 5 out of 5

    thethousanderclub

    Adam C. Zern shares his thoughts . . . "Academia is notorious for existing within a vacuum. Every area of study becomes so constricted from every other subject of study it's almost as if other considerations don't exist. Charles A. Beard's An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States could not be any more perfect of an example of that pedagogical approach. As the name of the book implies, An Economic Interpretation attempts to explain the motivations of the framers of the Adam C. Zern shares his thoughts . . . "Academia is notorious for existing within a vacuum. Every area of study becomes so constricted from every other subject of study it's almost as if other considerations don't exist. Charles A. Beard's An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States could not be any more perfect of an example of that pedagogical approach. As the name of the book implies, An Economic Interpretation attempts to explain the motivations of the framers of the Constitution and those who ratified it solely through their economic concerns and leaves mountains of historical information and context abandoned conspicuously on the floor. To begin with, Charles A. Beard repeatedly commits an intellectual sin, which is one my greatest grumbles against academia; to wit, he announces he doesn't have all of the data necessary to make a confident judgment and then proceeds to make judgments, conjectures, and theories, not to mention write an entire book based on his admittedly lacking foundation. He presents some interesting facts, but it does little to provide a perspective that is anywhere near comprehensive. Granted, that's hard to do regardless of the historical approach one takes, but An Economic Interpretation is so skewed and limited in its approach it's an absolute necessity that readers balance their reading of it with other historical works of the same time period and personalities. One valuable thing the book does do, however, is present how important private property was to the framers. Private property as a human right in America has undergone a brutal erosion over the past 100 years, and An Economic Interpretation does a fine job showing it was a huge consideration during the convention and during the ratification debates. What An Economic Interpretation does not correctly illustrate is that for most of those involved the concern over private property was one based more on ideology rather than personal gain. I would only read An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States if one has a strong background in constitutional history or is willing to get one. An Economic Interpretation presents a very, very warped and scanty view of the Constitution and those involved in its creation and eventual ratification. I'm glad it's a part of my collection of constitutional and American history books so now I can definitely point at it and say confidently: ‘that's what I do not believe.’ By way of full disclosure, I first heard about An Economic Interpretation when I read Ezra Taft Benson's speech God's Hand in Our Nation's History, and his judgment of the book was not positive; therefore, my initial perception of the book was similarly not positive" http://thethousanderclub.blogspot.com/

  13. 5 out of 5

    Shibi Sanjeev

    Throughout American history we have seen various interpretations of one of the most influential documents of our government: The Constitution. In his own interpretation, Charles A. Beard developed the theory that the Constitution was not made a group of abstract political thinkers. Instead he argues that it was created by a group of men who intended to develop a government that would further their own economic interests. Beard’s thesis is extremely well supported throughout the whole study. He Throughout American history we have seen various interpretations of one of the most influential documents of our government: The Constitution. In his own interpretation, Charles A. Beard developed the theory that the Constitution was not made a group of abstract political thinkers. Instead he argues that it was created by a group of men who intended to develop a government that would further their own economic interests. Beard’s thesis is extremely well supported throughout the whole study. He examines many different sources of his time. He begins by looking at the various groups of people that did and did not support the Articles of Confederation and analyzes the economic similarities and differences between them. This provides a solid platform for the intense analysis of every member of the Constitutional Convention and their private holdings. This helps him show the Constitution as something that was created for the sole purpose of saving the framers from losing money. Beard does a good job of keeping the reader interested through his strong, and sometimes extreme, opinion of the Founding Fathers. He is continuously citing facts, statistics, and quotes from the time period that are often centered around many of the famous creators of our government: George Washington, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin to name a few. In the first few chapters, Beard makes points that seem almost unrelated, but then he brings them all together to create the groundwork for a powerful argument that looks at crucial events of the construction and ratification of the Constitution in a new light. One of the most consistent examples of this was the requirement that for anyone to take part in any of the defining events of the creation of the Constitution, they must own some form of property. The individuals who decided that a Constitutional Convention was necessary had to own land, the delegates in the convention itself had to own land, the state representatives during the ratification process also had to own land. We had always been taught that this was just a form of discrimination. Beard states that this requirement was used to force people who stood to lose large sums of money with the Articles of Confederation were the only ones taking part in the creation of the new government. This is only one of the many arguments that Beard makes to prove that the Constitution was created for the sole purpose of protecting a few individual’s chances for economic gain.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Brandon

    Charles Beard's analysis of the process of the framing and ratification of the Constitution of the United States influenced the way historians examined not only the Constitution but also other facets of American history. Beard argued that the delegates to the Constitutional Convention were not disinterested participants in the process. They had immediate economic interest in seeing its adoption. Originally published in 1913 during the tumultuous years of the Progressive Party, Beard's book is Charles Beard's analysis of the process of the framing and ratification of the Constitution of the United States influenced the way historians examined not only the Constitution but also other facets of American history. Beard argued that the delegates to the Constitutional Convention were not disinterested participants in the process. They had immediate economic interest in seeing its adoption. Originally published in 1913 during the tumultuous years of the Progressive Party, Beard's book is a revision of the earlier "jurist" period in which historians argued that the Constitution emerged from "the whole people." Beard, a Progressive historian, argued that this interpretation did not give a clear picture of the divisiveness of the Constitution. He argued that economic interests largely determined who supported and who opposed the Constitution. Beard further argued that this study was not a definitive study. He acknowledged that it would generate more questions than it answered. His purpose was, in large part, to suggest future avenues of inquiry. While Beard's book does introduce an important facet in the framing of the Constitution, I think it does have limitations. Economics clearly influences the course of history, but Beard's dualistic approach is problematic. In keeping with Progressive historiography, he portrays history as an on-going battle between a narrow wealthy class and everybody else. While there is clearly some truth to this model, it is extremely simplistic. The book was lacking in research as well, a limitation Beard acknowledged. It served its purpose, however, in highlighting an economic facet of the process of the framing and ratification of the Constitution of the United States.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Masrur

    Charles A. Beard’s An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States is, as the title suggests, a focus on the economic formulation of the constitution. This approach, that of economics, is one that has been wrongfully neglected without being given the rightful study that it is due. Beard claims that there has been very little written in way of an Economic interpretation of the constitution, not even the elementary level of collating information. This perhaps gives reason as to Charles A. Beard’s An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States is, as the title suggests, a focus on the economic formulation of the constitution. This approach, that of economics, is one that has been wrongfully neglected without being given the rightful study that it is due. Beard claims that there has been very little written in way of an Economic interpretation of the constitution, not even the elementary level of collating information. This perhaps gives reason as to why Beard refers to his work as a “survey” throughout his book, with his intentions being to bring together basic information for others to build upon. Many have accepted Beard’s work in this field to accepted knowledge, and calls for it to be part of the reading of anyone studying American history. It is fair to say that Beard’s work has made a strong contribution to the historiography in this study. Overall, the argument put forth by Beard is a logical, well evidenced one. It is important to realise that this area of history was not much ventured into in 1913, nor were records as available as they are today. However, one question springs to mind, what importance does it hold to us whether or not the fathers of the constitution were economically motivated? The fact of the matter remains that the constitution is still being applied to this day and fairly successfully. Nonetheless, the argument put forward by Beard is logical, and convincing to any rational reader.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    Charles A. Beard, an early 19th–century historian, proposes the concept of examining the motivations of establishing and writing the United States' constitution the way it was written—with an emphasis on property rights—by examining the framers' economic conditions both before and after the founding of the newly unified nation. What he argues is that the most influential of the framers were members of the social and economic classes which were most directly benefitted from the protections as writ Charles A. Beard, an early 19th–century historian, proposes the concept of examining the motivations of establishing and writing the United States' constitution the way it was written—with an emphasis on property rights—by examining the framers' economic conditions both before and after the founding of the newly unified nation. What he argues is that the most influential of the framers were members of the social and economic classes which were most directly benefitted from the protections as written in the States' founding document. Published in 1913, most of the topics discussed come with a very admitted incompleteness. The study was put together as an introduction to a new way of thinking about founding history; intended to inspire other historians to look at the seemingly untouchable characters of our founding era with a skeptical eye, examining their motives and actions as they were, not as we wish them to be. I would not recommend this volume to those looking to take their first dive into American founding history. It's rife with unfiltered quotations, charts and balances copied straight out of treasury documents and almost no introduction to concepts of 17th century class distinctions and treasury bond investments. If you're familiar with founding history already, this is a great study which will open you eyes to new possibilities.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bradley Farless

    My rating is probably partially the result of the fact that the copy I read, the Kindle eBook copy, was horribly formatted. It was a straight-up scan, with footnotes mixed directly into the text and no spacing between chapter titles, subsections and the text itself. It was very difficult to read, on top of the material itself just being terribly dry and horribly organized. The author addressed different topics in a list format, turning entire chapters into something akin to encyclopedia entries. My rating is probably partially the result of the fact that the copy I read, the Kindle eBook copy, was horribly formatted. It was a straight-up scan, with footnotes mixed directly into the text and no spacing between chapter titles, subsections and the text itself. It was very difficult to read, on top of the material itself just being terribly dry and horribly organized. The author addressed different topics in a list format, turning entire chapters into something akin to encyclopedia entries. He would have been better off addressing each state in turn, in a flowing, linear narrative. As for what he proposes, it's very interesting and it's a take on American history that I haven't seen before, not that I'm particularly well read in American history. Every course I've taken up to now has been on Middle Eastern and South Asian history. It is very unfortunate that my first intro to college level American history is a graduate historiography course. That being said, I can't tell if his arguments are valid or not, but from the information he presents, it's certainly something worth looking into more, and something that probably has been addressed by later authors. I would not recommend this as a starter book on American constitutional history though.

  18. 4 out of 5

    LovGov

    I read this book on recommendation, as I have always been interested in the economic implications of the Constitution. The copy I found in father's library had a preface from Forrest McDonald, and he cautioned that Beard's thesis has been in part disproven due to the increased access to primary source documents in state libraries. I was initially dissuaded from reading on, but took a chance. After all, McDonald said that much of the thesis has survived, it has just been updated to reflect that t I read this book on recommendation, as I have always been interested in the economic implications of the Constitution. The copy I found in father's library had a preface from Forrest McDonald, and he cautioned that Beard's thesis has been in part disproven due to the increased access to primary source documents in state libraries. I was initially dissuaded from reading on, but took a chance. After all, McDonald said that much of the thesis has survived, it has just been updated to reflect that the economic classes were more complex and numerous than realty (real estate and land) versus personalty (investment in state and national papers, merchants, and shipping). My reading has revealed some great, easy to read excerpts that illuminate different aspects of the AP GOPO curriculum. Chapter 4 discusses voting rights, showing how elitism and voting rights can impact policy... Chapter 6 gives a very readable interpretation of Madison's Federalist 10... The reading has motivated me to look into McDonald's We the People and Robert McGuire's A More Perfect Union, both updating Beard's thesis.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Frederick

    The author insists that this is just one of many possible interpretations of the Constitution and not even the only economic interpretation possible. However, as much as I could believe his basic thesis I do not think he proves it well. Certainly, statements made at the time show that one of the primary foundations on which the Constitution rests is economic. But, you can't prove that by trying to tally up the number of politicians who may or may not have benefited from it. I think the greatest The author insists that this is just one of many possible interpretations of the Constitution and not even the only economic interpretation possible. However, as much as I could believe his basic thesis I do not think he proves it well. Certainly, statements made at the time show that one of the primary foundations on which the Constitution rests is economic. But, you can't prove that by trying to tally up the number of politicians who may or may not have benefited from it. I think the greatest thing about this book is his complete history of the United States from many different angles in the last section of the book. There are lots of good insights there and this book would be a good textbook from which to teach American history in an undergraduate survey course or in high school.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Emily Ekins

    Excellent Excellent! I don't understand why people call him a marxist. I think his historical analysis is an example of the embodiment of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations. It's not the baker's altruism that puts bread on the table, its his self interest. The same goes for the framers of the Constitution. They structured such solid institutions because the lack of federal government intervention in the early colonies helped various groups get rich. It makes a lot of sense that those same groups wou Excellent Excellent! I don't understand why people call him a marxist. I think his historical analysis is an example of the embodiment of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations. It's not the baker's altruism that puts bread on the table, its his self interest. The same goes for the framers of the Constitution. They structured such solid institutions because the lack of federal government intervention in the early colonies helped various groups get rich. It makes a lot of sense that those same groups would want to help solidify institutions which helped them maintain and increase their wealth. It turns out that the same institutions that helped make them rich made the country rich too.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lucas

    Archaic language and references abound in this volume, so it requires careful study and patience. The evidence gathered together by the author gives a plausible account of the origin of the Federalist coalition. Although this work can tend towards vulgar Marxism, it seems to have explanatory power, and all history readers should be familiar with its arguments.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Quentin

    I think of this book anytime that anyone uses the phrase "...the way the founders intended". Beard makes clear that the founders intended to create a merchant/industrial capitalist paradise, free from royal meddling, and to re-write the laws of the land to implement it. Everything else in the constitution was just gravy.

  23. 5 out of 5

    sologdin

    famous text, this, regarding the economic interests that controlled the drafting of the constitution. preface by modern scholar attempts to throw author's argument under the bus. although it may be that the direct correlation to convention-goer's business to preferred provisions is difficult to maintain across the board, whatever. author probably could've used a nice dose of Marxism, though.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    A fair amount of this is rather dry, and probably out-of-date. But it presents some very obvious and necessary points. The information about the financial dealings of the confederation period was eye-opening.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Michael Huang

    The 4 stars rating is for making unconventional arguments while backing it up with sound logic and evidences. The book itself is not always fun to read as there's a lot of "raw evidence" even a hardcore historian will not necessarily find interesting.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    LOVED THIS BOOK. Truly a must read for historians and economists.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    The heart of the book is chapter 5 "The Economic Interests", being a prosopographical study of the 55 men involved in the drafting of the 1787 Constitution.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    Who was the richest guy in the US when the Constitution was being written? Same guy who cut down the apple tree. Smart, ground-breaking take on the $ behind the document.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Fredrick Danysh

    Beard addresses economics in relationship to the US Constitution and how economics impact its interpretation. Should be read with a copy of the Constitution handy.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Smith

    An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States by Charles A. Beard (2004)

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