This assault on the Founders, subtle at first, began in earnest almost 100 years ago. It was a product of self-interest that should be interpreted loosely and changed as the Progressives saw fit.
The first historian to challenge the motives of the Founders was Charles Beard in (1913). The constitutional separation of powers, for example, according to Woodrow Wilson—a friend of Beard’s and a fellow Ph. in history—was a “grievous mistake” by the Founders.
Different degrees and kinds of property inevitably exist in modern society; party doctrines and “principles” originate in the sentiments and views which the possession of various kinds of property creates in the minds of the possessors; class and group divisions based on property lie at the basis of modern government; and politics and constitutional law are inevitably a reflex of these contending interests.
Those who are inclined to repudiate the hypothesis of economic determinism as a European importation must, therefore, revise their views, on learning that one of the earliest, and certainly one of the clearest, statements of it came from a profound student of politics who sat in the Convention that framed our fundamental law.
Now, if it were possible to have an economic biography of all those connected with its framing and adoption,– perhaps about 160,000 men altogether,– the materials for scientific analysis and classification would be available.
Such an economic biography would include a list of the real and personal property incumbrances, money at interest, slaves, capital invested in shipping and manufacturing, and in state and continental securities.
In fact, the inquiry which follows is based upon the political science of James Madison, the father of the Constitution and later President of the Union he had done so much to create.
This political science runs through all of his really serious writings and is formulated in its most precise fashion in as follows: “The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests.
Further than this, economic interpretation cannot go.
It may be that some larger world process is working through each series of historical events; but ultimate causes lie beyond our horizon.