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An Economic Interpretation of the…

An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of The United States (1913)

by Charles A. Beard

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Fascinating deconstruction of the motivations of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention. Beard carries his thesis that the US Constitution did not originate out of high-minded, disinterested patriotism, but rather from practical, economic interests. Even though this was a cursory look intended to spur further inquiry, Beard delves relatively deeply into the data. This was the other facet of the book that really appealed to me, it's data driven rather than narrative driven. (Or, couched that way, at least).

At the very least, I'd recommend this as a counterpoint to too brief history of the constitution I received in high school. ( )
  encephalical | Mar 22, 2015 |
This is a classic text but now seriously criticized, rightfully so, for its limited view that the Founders were more simply interested in their own financial advantage in the drafting of the Constitution. If that were true, then why did many of them lose their fortunes, Robert Morris the financier comes to mind, and they sacrificed their lives,their fortunes, and their sacred honor in the cause of Revolution.
  gmicksmith | Jan 2, 2012 |
A very old book that had an intro full of a kind of pre-Communist Socialist thinking; wasn't too sure I wanted to wade through that. Didn't finish. ( )
  ORFisHome | Jul 13, 2009 |
Beard's 1913 history is a classic of historical revisionism. The author puts down his thesis that the context of the constitution is to be found in economic phenomena. It was a fad in all history at that time, and the book is now very dated. ( )
  patito-de-hule | Dec 20, 2008 |
A very old book that had an intro full of a kind of pre-Communist Socialist thinking; wasn't too sure I wanted to wade through that. Didn't finish. ( )
  IFREF | Jun 20, 2007 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charles A. Beardprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
McDonald, ForrestIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The following pages are frankly fragmentary. They are designed to suggest new ideas of historical research rather than to treat the subject in an exhaustive fashion.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0029024803, Paperback)

In his piercing introduction to An Economic Interpretation the author wrote that “whoever leaves economic pressures out of history or out of discussion of public questions is in mortal peril of substituting mythology for reality.” It was Beard’s view that the founding fathers, especially Madison, Jay, and Hamilton, never made such a miscalculation. Indeed, these statesmen placed themselves among the great practitioners of all ages and gave instructions to succeeding generations in the art of government by their vigorous deployment of classical political economy.

In this new printing of a major classic in American historiography, Louis Filler provides a sense of the person behind the book, the background that enabled Beard to move well beyond the shibboleths of the second decade of the twentieth century. While the controversies over Beard’s book have quieted, the issues which it raised have hardly abated. Indeed, one can say that just about every major work in the politics and economics of the American nation must contend with Beard’s classic work. Beard’s work rests on an examination of primary documents: land and slave owners, geographic distribution of money, ownership of public securities, the specific condition of those who were disenfranchised as well as those who were in charge of the nascent American economy.

The great merit of Beard’s work is that despite its incendiary potential, he himself viewed An Economic Interpretation in coldly analytical terms, seeing such a position as giving comfort to neither revolutionaries nor reactionaries. Attacked by Marxists for being too mechanical, and by conservatives as being blind to the moral purposes of the framers of the constitution, the work continues to exercise a tremendous influence on all concerned. The fact that Beard wrote with a scalpel-like precision that gripped the attention of those in power no less than the common man is, it should be added, no small element in the enduring forces of this work.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:15 -0400)

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This famous study ? one of the most influential in the area of American economic history ? brought a halt to Americans' uncritical reverence for their country's revolutionary past. Questioning the Founding Fathers' motivations in drafting the Constitution, it viewed the results as a product of economic self-interest. Perhaps the most controversial books of its time.… (more)

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