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Framers' Construction/Beardian Deconstruction

Essays on the Constitutional Design of 1787


Shlomo Slonim

Was the constitutional design of 1787 prompted by the desire of the Founding Fathers to protect their economic interests, as alleged by Charles Beard in his pathbreaking study in 1913, or was it perhaps attributable to the Framers’ determination to overcome democratic turbulence in the states, as posited by the currently academically fashionable neo-Beardian school of historical interpretation? Neither thesis, Professor Slonim demonstrates, accords with the documentary record of the Constitutional Convention. Rather, the tension between the overarching need to create an effective national government and the desire to preserve state autonomy shaped the final result at Philadelphia. What emerged was a strong central government within a federal framework. Also analyzed in this volume are several neglected provisions and features of the 1787 constitutional design and their present-day implications.