Charles Beard vs. the Founders

The attack on America and the Founding Fathers by the New York Times is not the first attempt to radically rewrite history.  Before the Times tried to persuade Americans that they were all racists and the nation was founded on racism, Charles A. Beard proposed another theory almost as libelous.

In his 1913 book An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, the progressive historian argued that the Founders were not idealists interested in freedom and liberty, but merely a bunch of greedy capitalists.

Beard, a supporter of the New Deal, died in 1948, and 20 years later, historian Richard Hofstadter pronounced Beard's theories dead.

Close examination showed that Beard's explanations did not hold water.  As any reading of the Federalist Papers would show, the Founders were, in fact, highly literate and idealistic but also quite practical and knowledgeable in the affairs of men.  They understood that what fools call "greed" generally is the universal desire of every human to improve his life.  It is the reason humans came out of the jungles and created civilization.  They also knew that the notion of giving up your freedoms to serve the State is a guarantee of less prosperity for everyone.

Liberals don't like individual freedom and hate the Constitution, which recognizes and guarantees essential freedoms.

The dotty idea that the Founders were racists because slavery existed and they didn't eliminate it evidences such shallow thinking that the racists who support it should be ashamed, if they had that capability.  Slavery has existed for over 4,000 years, worldwide.  It wasn't going to be eliminated by a brand-new nation at the potential cost of preventing that nation from existing.  In their wisdom, the Founding Fathers knew that it would be corrected, and it was.  It existed in the United States from 1789 to 1865, a remarkably short time, and finally was eliminated at a terrible cost.  Hundreds of thousands of people died, most of them with white skin, to free those with black skin.

Beard's reputation among liberals suffered when he accused the liberal icon Franklin D. Roosevelt of steering the U.S. into war with Japan, a much more plausible theory than the one accusing George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and the others of creating a nation for their own benefit.

In the 1950s, revisionist historians led by Forrest McDonald demonstrated that the progressive interpretation was factually incorrect.  Using new research in federal, state, and local archives, McDonald showed that Beard had misinterpreted the economic interests involved in writing the Constitution.

Because of the combined wisdom and common sense of our Founders, we have the strongest, fairest society and culture ever devised, guaranteeing equal opportunity for everyone.

Beard's attempts to defame and discredit America's Founding failed, and the current effort also will fail as its senseless intolerance and false claims are revealed.  But it is notable that those who want to fundamentally transform America seem to always start with its roots.

Image: Library of Congress.