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What Beard omits from his history is the wisdom and dedication of the Founders in overcoming narrow self-interest to produce a masterful guiding document for the country.
A stronger governing document was needed to ease the transfer of tax dollars from ordinary citizens into the pockets of the more affluent Founders. Beard made his reputation with his book and went on to an illustrious career: He authored or coauthored 49 books that had sold more than 11 million copies by 1952.
Thus, according to Beard, the constitutional convention in Philadelphia in 1787 was promoted by “a small and active group of men immediately interested through their personal possessions in the outcome of their labors. During the 1950s, historian Forrest Mc Donald did a more thorough study of the Founders and discovered what can most generously be described as errors in research and, less generously, as fraudulent research.
After systematically studying the lives of the Founders and the state convention delegates, Mc Donald wrote , which debunked Beard completely.
“No correlation” exists, Mc Donald discovered, “between their economic interests and their votes on issues in general or on key economic issues.” In fact, Mc Donald emphasized that in Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and New York “most [public] security holders opposed ratification.” How could Beard have erred so badly?
Oddly enough, one of the most outspoken writers on this topic was Charles Beard.
He has entered the annals of American historiography as perhaps the quintessential economic-school historian.How can we be sure that Beard was blinded by his ideology?One indication is that he seems to have willfully distorted his evidence to suggest that certain signers of the Constitution owned more public securities (and other forms of wealth) than they actually did. Each state had to vote on ratifying the Constitution, and Beard offered evidence that “the leaders who supported the Constitution in the ratifying conventions represented the same economic groups as the members of the Philadelphia convention.” The Founders, Beard conceded, did not write the Constitution merely to make money, but nonetheless, “The Constitution was essentially an economic document.” Beard’s thesis, seemingly well researched, was presented in a tentative way, but it soon swept the historical profession and became gospel in college classrooms by the 1920s. Those who opposed the Constitution owned fewer public securities.He would undoubtedly stress the labor-management strife of the 1930s and the oppression of Indians and blacks as well if he were writing today of the history of the Great Depression.He would probably explain the western movement as a result of oppressed factory workers leaving the factory in order to find opportunity in the West (this comment is offered as evidence of Beard''s odd-man-out status within the "progressive school").But in writing the Constitution, they were above all trying to apply principles of natural rights and limited government to create a durable nation that would be a bastion of freedom in an unfree world.James Madison and other Founders diligently studied ancient and modern republics to learn from their mistakes what safeguards to employ to protect liberty while allowing elected politicians enough authority to effectively lead the nation.The first step in getting Americans to disregard the Constitution is to get them to distrust the men who wrote it. The Constitution, professors suggested to their students, was not a document worthy of special respect.This assault on the Founders, subtle at first, began in earnest almost 100 years ago. It was a product of self-interest that should be interpreted loosely and changed as the Progressives saw fit.