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Personalty interests at the Constitutional Convention: new tests of the Beard thesis


  • Jac C. Heckelman

    () (Department of Economics, Wake Forest University, 110 Carswell Hall, Winston-Salem, NC 27109, USA)

  • Keith L. Dougherty

    () (Department of Political Science, Baldwin Hall, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA)


Charles Beard ([1913] 2004) argued that the U.S. Constitution was created to advance the interests of people who owned personalty, particularly those at the Constitutional Convention. Because delegate votes on individual clauses at the Constitutional Convention were not publicly recorded, prior empirical analyses have been limited to inferred votes on a specific set of unrelated clauses. We extend this inquiry by inferring votes related to currency and debt issues which Beard put forth as the prime issues for those who owned personalty. Our analysis on these votes generates little support for a narrow version of the Beard thesis, which states that all personalty groups voted in a unified coalition at the Convention and supported the Constitution. Our analysis provides some support, however, for a broader interpretation that personalty and realty interests affected delegate voting behavior at the margin.

Suggested Citation

  • Jac C. Heckelman & Keith L. Dougherty, 2010. "Personalty interests at the Constitutional Convention: new tests of the Beard thesis," Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC), vol. 4(2), pages 207-228, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:afc:cliome:v:4:y:2010:i:2:p:207-228

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    More about this item


    US Constitution; Constitutional Convention; Money creation; Debt; Fiscal federalism;

    JEL classification:

    • D7 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making
    • H1 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • H4 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods


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