We the People: The Economic Origins of the Constitution
By Forrest McDonald 2017
About the Author
Forrest McDonald was Distinguished Research Professor of History at the University of Alabama. He was the Sixteenth Jefferson Lecturer in the Humanities in 1987 and was awarded the Ingersoll Prize in 1990. Dr. McDonald was the author of many books, including the Pulitzer Prize finalist, Novus Ordo Seclorum: The Intellectual Origins of the Constitution, as well as Alexander Hamilton: A Biography, and The American Presidency: An Intellectual History.
About the Book
Charles A. Bear’s An Economic Interpretation of the United States Constitution was a work of such powerful persuasiveness as to alter the course of American historiography. No historian who followed in studying the making of the Constitution was entirely free from Beard’s radical interpretation of the document as serving the economic interests of the Framers as members of the propertied class. Forrest McDonald’s We the People was the first major challenge to Beard’s thesis. This superbly researched and documented volume restored the Constitution as the work of principled and prudential men. It did much to invalidate the crude economic determinism that had become endemic in the writing of American history.
We the People fills in the details that Beard had overlooked in his fragmentary book. MacDonald’s work is based on an exhaustive comparative examination of the economic biographies of the 55 members of the Constitutional Convention and the 1,750 members of the state ratifying conventions. His conclusion is that on the basis of evidence, Beard’s economic interpretation does not hold. McDonald demonstrates conclusively that the interplay of conditioning or determining factors at work in the making of the Constitution was extremely complex and cannot be rendered intelligible in terms of any single system of interpretation.
McDonald’s classic work, while never denying economic motivation as a factor, also demonstrates how the rich cultural and political mosaic of the colonies was an independent and dominant factor in the decision making that led to the first new nation. In its pluralistic approach to economic factors and analytic richness, We the People is both a major work of American history and a significant document in the history of ideas. It continues to be an essential volume for historians, political scientists, economists, and American studies specialists.
The book’s Contents are:
INTRODUCTION TO THE TRANSACTION EDITION
PART ONE: INTRODUCTION
Chapter One CHARLES A. BEARD’S PIONEER INTERPRETATION OF THE MAKING OF THE CONSTITUTION
PART TWO: THE PHILADELPHIA CONVENTION
Chapter Two POLITICAL FACTIONS AND GEOGRAPHICAL AREAS REPRESENTED IN THE CONVENTION
Chapter Three ECONOMIC INTERESTS OF THE ATTENDING DELEGATES
Chapter Four ECONOMIC INTERESTS AND THE VOTES OF THE ATTENDING DELEGATES
PART THREE: RATIFICATION
Chapter Five IN STATES GENERALLY FAVORABLE TO THE CONSTITUTION
Chapter Six IN STATES DIVIDED ON THE CONSTITUTION
Chapter Seven IN STATES GENERALLY OPPOSED TO THE CONSTITUTION
PART FOUR: SIGNIFICANCE OF THE DATA
Chapter Eight A REVALUATION OF THE BEARD THESIS OF THE MAKING OF THE CONSTITUTION
Chapter Nine ECONOMIC INTEREST GROUPS AND THEIR RELATION TO THE CONSTITUTION
Chapter Ten ECONOMIC INTERPRETATION AND THE CONSTITUTION
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