The Economic and Intellectual Influences in The
Debate over Ratification of the U.S. Constitution
Rick Riley
PSC 499
Fall 2009
Economic Interests
http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/treasures/images/vc3.8.jpg
The Competing Schools of Thought on
Constitutional History
Economic Model
• Charles A. Beard,
Jackson T. Main
• Progressive/Liberal
• Constitution was
designed to benefit
Founders economically
• Anti-Federalists and
Federalists divided along
class lines
Intellectual Model
• Forrest McDonald
• Conservative
• Constitution had
ideological roots
• Anti-Federalists had
localist tendencies
• Federalists were
Nationalists
McDonald V.S. Beard State by
State
http://amhist.ist.unomaha.edu/module_files/fx12_states_fight_over_ratification_of_the_constitution.jpg
Early Ratification States
State
Farmer
Delegates
Security
Holding
Delegates
Delaware
77%
6 members
Georgia
50%
1 Member
New
Jersey
64%
34%
• New Jersey, Delaware,
Georgia
• All ratified unanimously
• Beard: farming interest not
given enough time to organize,
security holders dominated.
• McDonald: large number of
farmer delegates
• Small number of personality
interests
Southern Opposition States
• Virginia and North
Carolina
• Large number of farmers
• Holders of Confiscated British
wealth in Virginia
• Public security holders support
Constitution
• Debtors divided in North
Carolina
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/22461/22461-h/images/i5.jpg
Agrarian Dominated States
• Connecticut, Maryland, South Carolina,
New Hampshire
• Beard: personality groups dominated conventions
• McDonald: over half of Delegates were farmers in all
states
• Majority of debtors vote for ratification
Personality States
• Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania,
Rhode Island
• Eastern Regions: strong Federalist cities
• Western Regions: majority Anti-Federalist
• Few members of realty interest, yet, strong opposition
http://www.anythinganywhere.com/commerce/coins/coinpics/usa-early.html
Massachusetts Coins
Jackson T. Main’s Class Model
• Federalists were in high leadership
positions
• Anti-Federalists in lower class
• Disproven in many states
McDonald’s Economic Groups
• Beard’s economic interests too rigid
• Economic interest were complex
• Four primary interest groups
-farmers, manufacturers, merchants, professionals
• Numerous subgroups
Farmers
• Subsistence
-permanent group
-potentially commercial
-all from isolated areas
• Commercial
-Slave holding: divided, depending
on situation
-non-slave holding:
mainly Anti-Federalists
http://www.hnet.uci.edu/mclark/HumCore/CoreF2005/WebCoreF05/F05CrevLec.html
Manufacturers
• Service Industries
-Tied to customer’s interests
• Stable producers
-Nothing at stake
• Capitalists
-Heavily Federalist for economic
reasons
http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~prsjr/occupations/occup-idx.htm
Mercantile Interests
• retail
• foreign trade agents
• shipping merchants
• non-shipping
merchants
http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/albany/streets.html
Return of The Experiment, By L.F. Tantillo, Depicts Albany, NY in 1787
Professionals
• Physicians
-Not affected
• Lawyers
-Constitution elevates them
-some with political careers
• Public Office Holders
-Support based on stability of situation
Intellectual Influences
http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/Images/federalist.jpg
McDonald’s Two forms of
Republicanism
http://www.alexanderhamiltonexhibition.org/gallery/images/pic_gouverneur_morris.jpg
Gouverneur Morris
http://www.artexpertswebsite.com/pages/artists/artists_l-z/sully/Sully_PatrickHEnry.jpg
Patrick Henry
Puritanistic Republicanism
• Influenced by ancient republics
and Great Awakening
• Prominent in New England
• Private behavior important to
public virtue
• Community before the
Individual
• Virtues: Industry, Frugality,
Work Ethic
• Prominent Founders: John
Adams (Federalist, MA.),
Richard Henry Lee (AntiFederalist, VA)
http://www.reclaimamericaforchrist.org/john%20adams.JPG
John Adams
Agrarian Republicanism
•
•
•
•
•
•
John Taylor of Caroline
http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=t000086
Influences: 17th and18th Century
theorists and The Anglo Saxon
Myth.
Prominent in the South
Property ownership and right to
bear arms.
Rights of the individual over
community
Vigilance and jealousy of power
Prominent Founders: John Taylor
of Caroline (VA, Anti-Federalist),
Patrick Henry (Va, Anti-Federalist)
Views of History
http://www.historycentral.com/bio/nn/WytheGeorge.jpg
http://www.anistor.gr/english/enback/ahamilton.jpg
Alexander Hamilton
Robert Yates
Views of History
• Federalists
• Anti-Federalists
•
•
•
“new science of politics”
Hamilton, “Federalist No.9,”
• “The science of politics, like
most other sciences, has
received great improvement.”
•
•
Historical patterns of human
nature.
Robert Yates, “Brutus”
“It is a truth confirmed by the
unerring ages that every man, and
every body of men, invested with
power, are ever deposed to
increase it, and to acquire
superiority over every thing that
stands in their way.”
Interpretations of Montesquieu
http://csmh.pbworks.com/f/Baron%20de%20Montesquieu.jpg
Baron de Montesquieu
Interpretations of Montesquieu
• Federalists
• Anti-Federalists
•
•
•
•
•
Ruling elite
Madison, “Federalist No. 51”
Protection from insurrection
Hamilton, “Federalist No.9”
http://www.mackinac.org/media/images/2005/povertyjames.jpg
Madison
•
“Moderate governments” and
states rights
George Clinton, “Cato’s Letter III”
http://www.liberty-page.com/defenders/revolution/georgeclinton.jpg
Clinton
Level of Contact with Outside
World
• Federalists lived in areas were contact with
outside world was common
• Anti-Federalists tended to be from isolated areas
• This divide consistent in most cases
• Exceptions
Conclusion
http://teachingamericanhistory.org/ratification/federalpillars.html
Conclusion
• Multiple and diverse influences
• Economic models of Beard, Main
discredited by fact, but not in all cases
• Diversity of influences
Bibliography
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•
•
•
•
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•
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Beard, Charles A. 1960. An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States of America. New
York. MacMillan
Epstein, David, F. 1984. The Political Theory of the Federalist. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press
Frohen, Bruce. 1999. The Anti-Federalists: Selected Writings and Speeches. Washington, D.C.:Regnery
Publishing.
Main, Jackson Turner. 1961 The Anti-Federalist Critics of the Constitution, 1781-1789. ChapelHill, N.C.: University
of North Carolina Press
McDonald, Forrest. 1979. E Pluribus Unum, The Formation of the American Republic 1776-1790. Indianapolis:
Liberty Press
McDonald, Forrest, 1992. We The People, the Economic Origins of the Constitution. New Brunswick, N.J.:
Transaction Publishers
McDonald, Forrest, 1985. Novus Ordo Seclorum, the Intellectual Origins of the Constituion. Lawrence, K.S.:
University Press of Kansas
Rakove, Jack, N. 1997. Original Meanings, Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution. New York: A.A.
Knopf.
White, Morton, 1987. Philosophy, the Federalist, and the Constitution. New York.: Oxford University Press
.