I found Beard’s interpretation of the Constitution surprising yet thoughtful and interesting. I cannot fully agree that the Constitution is not an ideological but a completely economic document; however, I support many of Beard’s points. For instance, Beard noticed many individual connections between the people who were creating the Constitution and certain regulations. The Constitution seems to only have followed the desires and aims of these 55 men. It is important to note that 40 of these people had some valuable property when they entered the Constitutional Convention. This fact already makes me believe that the economic perspective must have been one of the most important (if not the most important) angle when working on the Constitution.
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This is supported by the shocking fact that four major groups were completely disregarded in the process of negotiation of the Constitution. Women, black people, indentured servants, and people who did not own property were missing from the Constitutional Convention. This means that the Constitution was not created by “people of the US” – instead, it was written by a small group who established a set of rules for their own benefit. Beard, as well as many other historians, realizes that any historical process is shaped by clashes in society and between people. Particularly, there is always a great tension between the rich and the poor. This is what was happening during the formation of the Constitution – rich people did everything for their own benefit, completely disregarding the needs of the less wealthy. It is also important to take into account corporate capitalism which was prospering at the time. Following its principles, the 40 framers with valuable property had a motive to come up with a document which could help them gain more resources and occupy more land.
The primary aim of the Constitution was to unite the nation and create a number of regulations suitable for all kinds of people, which is why the framers tried to reach compromises in every question. However, some decisions were rather confusing with most remarkable example being the one about slave trade. This issue was significant at the time as most of the country was still accepting slavery. The framers could not decide whether to count slaves as property or as citizens. Thus, they developed a solution known as three-fifth compromise, which established that one slave was going to be counted as three-fifth of a person. Judging from a nowadays perspective, this decision seems to be a severe human rights violation. I think it is extremely hard for the black race to recover from the fact that they were once counted as only a third of a person.
However, this is not the most confusing part. The framers decided to count slaves as people, and they established that they will tax them. Nevertheless, they determined that fugitive slaves had to be brought back to their owners – which means counting slaves as property. Thus, it is safe to say that the compromise was not reached. Subsequently, institution of slavery prospered, and it is important to note that most of the framers had a personal interest in the issue as they were slave owners. Once again, this justifies Beard’s claim that the Constitution is an economic document. The framers of it were driven by material forces and the usage of the document ensured the protection of the assets of those parts of the society which were represented in the convention.
Except from many questionable regulations, the process of creating the Constitution raises many concerns. First of all, nobody ever voted to call the convention. It was an initiative of the men who, after the creation of the document, directly benefited from implementation of the new set of laws. Second, what came as quite a shock to me was the fact that less than one-sixth of men voted in the process of ratification of the Constitution. In general, the voting process was confusing as if the framers did not care to ask people from different states their opinion on the new document. This fact proves that the framers had their personal intentions which they strived very hard to accomplish.
These major problems that were brought about by the approving of the Constitution are reflected in the contemporary world up until now, as there are still issues with establishing and protecting the rights of black people and women. Many movements, such as #MeToo or Black Lives Matter support my claim. The Constitution was created 233 years ago, yet different movements appear today, signifying that the problem has not been solved since 1787. The unfortunate compromises are mirrored in the statistics between white and black people to this day. For example, African Americans still occupy fewer working places, they earn less, and the crime rate among Afro-Americans is higher than among white people.
In conclusion, Beard’s thesis confirms that there has always been a class division in the US and the power elite has always implemented the policies they wanted. I think Beard destroyed the illusion the Founding Fathers were trying to create – that the Constitution was made for the sake of peace and equality, and that new regulations would have benefited all. Instead, rich people became richer and poor people remained not represented, suppressed, and, subsequently, got poorer.