Law and Politics

Start Free Trial

Compare and contrast the arguments of Beard and Roche regarding the writing of the Constitution and the motives of the Founding fathers.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Both men were scholars of the period who examined the motivations behind the men who led the Constitutional Convention. Roche examines the compromises and formation of the Constitution as a collection of practical agreements which were meant to expand the number of voices in government. He saw the agreements between...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Both men were scholars of the period who examined the motivations behind the men who led the Constitutional Convention. Roche examines the compromises and formation of the Constitution as a collection of practical agreements which were meant to expand the number of voices in government. He saw the agreements between the Framers as being practical compromises meant to get the agreement finished with as little animosity as possible. The Framers were also looking for the best agreements that the states would approve of as well; after all, the Constitution was not an official document until it was ratified by the states. The Framers therefore kept this in mind as they worked to hammer out the agreement. Roche's view of the Framers was that they were hoping to gain support through the compromises.

Beard examines the Constitution as a means to keep the rich in charge of American politics. This meant that half of the legislature were not voted on by the people themselves but by those who would hopefully have the needs of the landed classes in mind. The Founders distrusted the common man, thinking he could be easily swayed and would vote for his own interests at the expense of the country. The Founders sought to keep as much power in their class as possible because they considered themselves the only class with enough time and personal disinterest to rule over the country fairly. For them, the document was meant to avoid the chaos of having the common man rule. Beard's view of the Framers was that they were trying to preserve the social and economic status quo with their Constitution.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Charles A. Beard and John P. Roche both wrote analyses of the founding fathers and the framing of the Constitution. Both men attempted to synthesize the motivations of the framers in order to contextualize the socioeconomic pressures they felt.

On one hand, Roche contends the framers of the Constitution set out to create a government that would allow differing viewpoints and compromise. This is a very pragmatic and democratic view which recognizes the inherent change of culture and society and aims to enact a set of laws that would can withstand the winds of change with future generations. By not codifying slavery, this argument extends to portray the idea that the Constitution would progressively apply to more and more people. In short, this view is that the framers were an inclusive group of founders.

On the other hand, Beard contends that the framers were an exclusive group. This wealthy group was not concerned with promoting democratic ideals but rather were concerned with consolidating and solidifying power away from the poor, who could easily turn into a mob. This group had just seen their taxes and rights stripped by King George III, and they wished to enact a government that would not be able to seize their property.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Beard believed that the Founding Fathers were motivated to craft the Constitution in an effort to prevent the mob from taking away their private property. According to Beard, the framers were largely from the elite class of landowners and bondholders and wanted the Constitution to protect their rights as opposed to the rights of the majority of Americans. In his view, the Framers were undemocratic and sought to advance the interests of their class to prevent any type of leveling or greater equality.

Roche, on the other hand, thought that the framers were practical in their approach and wanted to promote nationalism by seeking compromises that resulted in the ratification of the Constitution. In his view, the Constitutional Convention of 1789 was a democratic reform caucus, meaning that the framers, who were at their core consummate politicians, had to work out a delicate compromise to win public approval for their document. While abstract ideas, such as those by Locke and Montesquieu, informed their thinking, the Founding Fathers were committed to working out a compromise in what he describes as a "makeshift affair." He believed that the Constitution was not undemocratic but that it had established a practical type of democracy.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

John Roche and Charles Beard had differing views about the motives of the Founding Fathers when they wrote the new plan of government created in the Constitution. John Roche believed the Founding Fathers recognized there were different viewpoints about how the government should be structured in the new plan of government they were creating. As a result, he believed the Founding Fathers were being practical in looking for various compromises to resolve some of the differences that existed. He believed the Founding Fathers felt these compromises were necessary in order for the Constitution to be developed and then to be approved.

Charles Beard believed the Founding Fathers were trying to protect the people who owned property. They were all property owners, and they were afraid they might lose their property to the masses of people who didn’t own land. As a result, they saw the development of the new plan of government as a way to protect the interests of the wealthy and of the property owners.

Both men had very different views on the motives of the Founding Fathers when they wrote the Constitution.

 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The difference is a little more stark than that. The Beards indeed argued that the Framers were driven by economic motives, but their motive was not simply to create a strong economy for everyone. Rather it was to benefit their own economic interests, and those of people whom they believed to share their class interests. John Roche dismissed the idea that class had much of anything to do with the framing of the Constitution, suggesting, as the preceding post says, that the document represented a reconciliation of varying interests. He essentially said that though the Framers only represented a wealthy elite, they formed a document that, in its completed form, was reflective of a national consensus. This ideal of national political unity trumped whatever self-interest, or class interest, they may have felt. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The main difference between Beard and Roche’s theories of the constitution’s creation is the idea of motivation.  Beard believed that the constitution was created for economic reasons, and that its sole purpose was to balance economic interests and create a strong economy.  Roche, on the other hand, believed that the motivation in how the constitution was written was compromise, to make sure all factions and interests were balanced.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team