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Journal Article

Economic Interests and the American Constitution: A Quantitative Rehabilitation of Charles A. Beard

Robert A. McGuire and Robert L. Ohsfeldt
The Journal of Economic History
Vol. 44, No. 2, The Tasks of Economic History (Jun., 1984), pp. 509-519
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2120727
Page Count: 11
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Economic Interests and the American Constitution: A Quantitative Rehabilitation of Charles A. Beard
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Abstract

An important change in the structure of U.S. institutions occurred when the government under the Articles of Confederation was replaced by a new government under the Constitution. In 1913, Charles A. Beard proposed a view of the formation of the United States Constitution-an economic interpretation-that remains a much discussed yet unresolved explanation of the behavior and motives of the men who wrote the document. This paper provides the first rigorous statistical test of this issue. We summarize the preliminary results of a statistical analysis of the relationship between the voting behavior of individual delegates involved in the making of the Constitution and their economic and personal characteristics. Contrary to current historical wisdom, significant patterns related to economic interests are found in the voting, with the division of interests generally consistent with that outlined by Charles A. Beard seventy years ago.

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