Discuss Beard's arguments in Framing the Constitution.

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mkoren's profile pic

mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Charles Beard presented a different view of the motives of the Founding Fathers who wrote the Constitution. He argued that the writers of the Constitution were mainly concerned with economic factors. He believed they were trying to preserve the rights of property owners. He argued that the rights of property owners were being challenged in the state legislatures. By giving some powers to the federal government while denying some powers to the state governments, the Founding Fathers were able to protect the rights of the property owners.

Since the Founding Fathers were property owners, it could be argued that the Founding Fathers were actually acting in an undemocratic manner because they were protecting their own interests instead of thinking about what was good for the majority of people in the country

Charles Beard’s view is considered an unorthodox one. Many historians don’t believe this was the motivation of the Founding Fathers.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I would say that most modern historians believe that Beard went too far.  Beard looks at the Framers and argues that they were acting as they did for selfish reasons.  But it is possible to act in a way that promotes the interests of your class but is not selfish.  If you truly believe that a system that helps your class will help everyone else as well, you are not being selfish.  Most historians today would argue that this is what the Framers were doing and I tend to agree with them.

rrteacher's profile pic

rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Beard argued that the Framers of the Constitution were interested more in furthering their own economic interests than in creating a truly representative government. If anything, he argues, the government they created was anti-democratic, formed with the interests of holders of securities in mind, not those of the people as a whole. Many of the Framers did, in fact, stand to benefit from the establishment of a government that could raise revenue to finance its own debt, but subsequent generations of historians have pointed to a number of flaws in his argument, especially the selective use of sources to make his case. However, Beard's (actually the Beards', since his wife Mary collaborated with him on many of his works) view of the Constitution as a fundamentally conservative, even anti-democratic document is accepted, at least on some level, by most modern historians.

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