Review of Charles A. Beard's The Constitution: A Minority Document

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In “The Constitution: A Minority Document,” Charles A. Beard argues that the Constitution was written by a small group of Americans with specific economic and political interests. According to Beard, the Constitution therefore reflects these interests, which were not necessarily the same as those of the general population. During his discussion, Beard mentions that one of the Framers’ largest fears was what was then called “popular distempers” – the fear that the people of a democratic government would corrupt the government. In fact, those without property were often excluded from voting, and elections often occurred indirectly to limit the power of the uneducated masses. In fact, our system of checks and balances was created not to protect us from corrupt officials as much as to protect the people of America from themselves. This fear may surprise modern readers but was legitimate two centuries ago, especially in the wake of an inflation crisis in many states where officials elected debtors deliberately printed paper money so the value would decrease. Thus, it can be concluded that not all Americans at the time were as interested in the country as a whole as much as the benefits that a democracy could provide to them individually. They often voted for laws (such as inflationary ones) that provided individual benefit, even though these laws harmed others (such as creditors). Furthermore, without some method of restraint, a certain group of states could dominate another and pass laws helping the former group at the expense of the latter. The numerous agreements between the states are a testimony to this fear; for example, direct taxation was only permitted if it was proportional to population to prevent the populous northern states from pushing legislation through Congress to raise taxes based on property. Thus, the “compromises” at the Convention were not always mutual concessions but rather mutual guarantees against oppression. Thus, the Constitution was,...
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