An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States

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9780029024706: 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 States was motivated primarily by the personal financial interests of the Founding Fathers. More specifically, Beard contends that the Constitutional Convention was attended by, and the Constitution was therefore written by, a "cohesive" elite seeking to protect its personal property (especially bonds) and economic standing. Beard 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 Washington was the wealthiest landowner in the country, and had provided significant funding towards the Revolution. Beard traces the Constitutional guarantee that the newly formed nation would pay its debts to the desire of Washington and similarly situated lenders to have their costs refunded.

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About the Author:

Louis Filler (1911-1998) was a Fulbright fellow at the University of Bristol and taught as a visiting professor in literature and history departments from the City University of New York to the University of California, San Francisco. His books include the classic Muckrakers, best-selling Crusade Against Slavery, Dictionary of American Social Reform, Unknown, Edwin Markham, Dictionary of American Conservatism, Vanguards and Followers, Distinguished Shades: Americans Whose Lives Live On,and Abolition and Social Justice in the Era of Reform, among many others, as well as biographies of Randolph Bourne and David Graham Phillips.



Charles A. Beard (1874-1948) is regarded as one of the most influential American historians in the first half of the twentieth century. He is famous for his evaluation of the founding fathers of the United States, who he believed were motivated by economics as opposed to philosophical principles. Some of his works include An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, Economic Origins of Jeffersonian Democracy, and The Administration and Politics of Tokyo.

Review:

"Here again is the original constitutional skeptic to remind Americans that our republic's authors had not only intellects but interests. Charles Beard set out to jolt his contemporaries out of their pious admiration of the constitution's framers. His economic interpretation remains a lively, surprisingly humorous and sharp-witted analysis of the nation's beginnings. Reading it today, the book aims a keen and pointed thrust at the originalism of our own age." (Professor Eric Rauchway, University of California Davis Department of History)

"One hundred years after it first appeared, Charles Beard's An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution still commands our attention as a classic of historical scholarship -- not because every view Beard put forward has stood the test of time but because the questions he raised about the intersections of economic and political power are just as relevant today as when he wrote." (Professor Eric Foner, Columbia University Department of History)

"This is the book that started us all on the journey to understanding the complex motives and conflicting interests that shaped our constitution. 100 years after its publication, it still has the power to excite and exasperate, to stir fierce debate and to inspire new interpretations." (Carol Berkin, Presidential Professor of History, Emerita, Baruch College & The Graduate Center, CUNY)

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Charles Austin Beard
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