Liberty, Education, and the Economic Interpretation of the Constitution: The Charles Beard Thesis at the Century Mark (1913–2013)


This conference, marked the centenary of Charles Beard's An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, examined the “Beard thesis” by reading key selections of Beard's original book, important critiques of Beard by Forrest McDonald, Martin Diamond, and others, and then considered the resurgence of “neo-Beardianism” among contemporary historians and political scientists.


Conference Readings

Adair, Douglass. Fame and the Founding Fathers: Essays by Douglass Adair. Edited by Trevor Colbourn. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998.

Beard, Charles Austin. An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States [with a new introduction by Forrest McDonald]. New York: The Free Press, 1986.

Brown, Robert E. Charles Beard and the Constitution. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1956.

Diamond, Martin. “Democracy and The Federalist: A Reconsideration of the Framers’ Intent.” American Political Science Review 53, no. 1 (March 1959): 52-68.

Ferguson, E. James. “The Nationalists of 1781-1783 and the Economic Interpretation of the Constitution.” The Journal of American History 56, no. 2 (September 1969): 241-261.

Hofstadter, Richard. The Progressive Historians: Turner, Beard, Parrington. New York: Knopf, 1968.

Holton, Woody. Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution. New York: Hill and Wang, 2007.

Main, Jackson T. “Charles A. Beard and the Constitution: A Critical Review of Forrest McDonald’s We the People.” The William and Mary Quarterly (January 1960): 86-102.

McDonald, Forrest. We the People: The Economic Origins of the Constitution. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1992.

McGuire, Robert A. To Form a More Perfect Union: A New Economic Interpretation of the United States Constitution. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Wood, Gordon S. The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1998.

Wood, Gordon S., “Interests and Disinterestedness in the Making of the Constitution” In Beyond Confederation: Origins of the Constitution and American National Identity, edited by Richard Beeman, Stephen Botein, and Edward C. Carter II, 69-109. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987.