December 18

Blog #93 – Historiography of the Constitution

Historiography is the history of the history, or how interpretations of an event have changed over the years.  Usually, historians reflect the main concerns of the time period in which they write (for instance, Progressive historians are concerned about economic factors driving events because they wrote during the reform-minded era, the Progressive Era -1900-1915).  Sometimes, enough historians write in a similar viewpoint that history scholars call them historical schools of thought (Nationalist, Progressive, Consensus, New Left, etc.).  And sometimes, these schools of thought are dominated by an historian who writes an incredibly influential book on that subject (Charles Beard, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution).  One of the things that I hope you understand from this look at historiography is that the history of events and their interpretations can and are constantly changing.  Here is a link to a wikipedia page on general U.S. historiography –

Before the Civil War (1861-65), many people were focused on who the Constitution put in charge of the nation: the states or the federal government?  Also, many controversies surfaced in whether they should interpret the Constitution literally as written (strict interpretation) or to interpret the Founders’ intent (loose interpretation).  It seems that the writers of this document weren’t ready to answer those questions either in Philadelphia in 1787 and wanted to leave some wiggle room for interpretation for future generations (this is my loose interpretation).  The Civil War ended this controversy with the federal government enforcing its supremacy over the  states in the defeat on the Confederacy.

Nationalist School (post Civil War – 1900)

George Bancroft began writing his epic history of the U.S. before the Civil War and continued until 1887.  His first volume, found here, covers from the early voyages to the New World until the Glorious Revolution in England in 1688 (for us in APUSH, this history ignored the Native Americans in Ch. 1 and focused primarily on the Spanish and the founding of the colonies up until 1688 – over 600 pages in his first volume!).  Bancroft and other historians wrote American history reflecting the Gilded Age and American economic growth, railroad expansion, the closing of the interior frontier, and their beliefs in Anglo-Saxon superiority.  Nationalist writers believed that “the orderly progress of mankind toward greater personal liberty” was due to white Christian people and their inherent ability to build strong governments.  

Nationalists viewed the creation of the Constitution as an extension of the Revolution.  The Articles of Confederation were too weak to deal with internal threats and problems (Shays Rebellion, economic depression) or with external threats (Spain and England).  The American people were divinely picked by God (“City on a hill”?  American exceptionallism?) to create a perfect republic, and the men at Philly were creating a new government for the betterment of the nation.

Progressive School (1900 – 1930s) 

This time period saw many people concerned about the effects of massive wealth redistribution that widened the gap between rich and poor, in addition to the negative effects of urbanization and industrialization (slums, poor working conditions, low wages).   This era saw a huge uptick in reforms that attempted to solve these problems.  Carl Becker saw the Revolution as two concurrent changes: one to break away from British rule, and another as to who will rule at home (which culminates in the Constitution).  Charles A. Beard was the one of leading historians of the time with his popular 1913 book, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the U.S. (found here).  

Beard found that the men who made the Constitution had strong economic motives to ensure a powerful federal government because “most of these men held public securities, a form of personal property that would increase dramatically in value” if a new government was strong and improved its credit rating.  These conservative men had economic interests in banking, public securities (or bonds and promissory notes to Revolutionary war soldiers), manufacturers, and merchants involved in shipping and trade.  All of these economic interests declined because of the weakness of the Articles of Confederation.  Those who opposed the Constitution were working men and small farmers who were deep in debt.  Our new document was designed to protect private property against state assemblies that were much more democratic and likely to protect small farmers and debtors.  Beard also saw the creation of the Constitution as undemocratic because there were no “common men” involved, and the proceedings were done in secret.  Also, there was no bill of rights protection for Americans, unlike many state constitutions.  Beard’s primary focus in his history is class conflict.

Consensus School (1940s – 1960s)

After World War II, some historians moved away from the class conflict interpretation of American history and shifted toward consensus.  Because we were engaged in the Cold War with Russians (a country whose ideology is steeped in class conflict – Marxism), consensus historians de-emphasized class conflict and taught that our conflicts are steeped in competition of businessmen and entreprenuers that has made America great.  These historians are somewhat throwbacks to the Nationalist school who wanted to strengthen America “as a world leader with a history as a strong and united country free from class-based oppression”.  “The cement holding us together is our widespread prosperity and universal acceptance of the principles succinctly summarized in the first parts of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  Our political struggles have always been within the center rather than between the left and right extremists.”

They saw the Revolution and Constitution as one continuous movement (as opposed to Beard’s democratic revolution against the British and a conservative counter-revolution for private property with the Constitution), and that the state constitutions were created by the same people who signed the Declaration of Independence.  Consensus historians saw the Constitution as primarily a political document, not economic like Beard.  The delegates at the convention were primarily concerned with making a better government than the Articles, one that was based upon “representation, fixed elections, a written constitution that is a supreme law and contains an amendment clause, separation of powers and checks and balances, a bicameral legislature, a single executive, and a separate court system.”  These historians challenged Beard’s assertion that the poor didn’t have a say in the Constitution, stating that 2/3 of men at this time owned enough property to vote in state elections, many of whom were small farmers.  These historians include two of my favorites, Daniel Boorstin and Richard Hofstadter (author of the extra article on the Founding Fathers: The Age of Realism).

Intellectual or Republicanism Historians (1950s – 1980s)

This group of historians is dominated by Gordon Wood and Bernard Bailyn.  These two assert that Americans adopted many British ideas like anti-authoritarianism, written constitutions, compact theory, and human rights.  Both the Federalists and Anti-Federalists shared a major distrust of central government, and that the 1770s and 80s saw a big push for egalitarianism (push for equality) that the Constitution tried to restrain.  The Constitution, essentially, was a rescue attempt to save the Revolution from failure by restraining its democratic excesses.   

Revolutionary Republicanism was centered on limiting corruption and greed. Virtue was of the utmost importance for citizens and representatives. Revolutionaries took a lesson from ancient Rome, they knew it was necessary to avoid the luxury that had destroyed the Empire.[33] A virtuous citizen was one that ignored monetary compensation and made a commitment to resist and eradicate corruption. The Republic was sacred; therefore it is necessary to served the state in a truly representative way, ignoring self-interest and individual will. Republicanism required the service of those who were willing to give up their own interests for a common good. According to Bernard Bailyn, “The preservation of liberty rested on the ability of the people to maintain effective checks on wielders of power and hence in the last analysis rested on the vigilance and moral stamina of the people.” Virtuous citizens needed to be strong defenders of liberty and challenge the corruption and greed in government. The duty of the virtuous citizen become a foundation for the American Revolution.”

New Left / Neo-Progressive School (1960s – 1980s)

These historians were shaped by the social and political changes going on in the U.S. like the Civil Rights and women’s rights movement and the student protest movements against the Vietnam War.  They are a throwback to the Progressive Era, but some writers thought that Beard had oversimplified things with his strictly economic approach.  Beard did not include many of the people who were not part of the political process in the Revolutionary Era: blacks (both free and slave), women, and Native Americans.  Social historians began to weave their stories within the tapestry of American history and present a fuller picture. “The “new” theoretically differentiates them from the unimaginative, Socialist Party orientation of the old left of the 1930s and 1940s.  The “left” signifies an orientation toward methods and concepts that focus on the masses and their experiences, “history from the bottom up,” as it is called.  Unlike the old left, the New Left avoids the preconceived molds of Marxist theories, which distorted the facts to fit a foreign doctrine.  The historians of the New Left demand the inclusion of those features of our history that explain how we came to be a violent, racist, repressive society.”  Some of these historians are Gary Nash (you read his essay, “Radical Revolution from the Bottom Up”) and Howard Zinn.

This video is here just for your interest.  

Nash, in particular, looks at both Northerners and Southerners deeply involved in making the Constitution a stamp of approval for slavery since it guaranteed slavery with a fugitive slave clause and the South’s boost in Congressional representation with the 3/5 Compromise.  Other historians argued against the Consensus historians’ assertion that our political legacy is basically liberal and democratic.  The time period of the 1780s -leading up to the Constitutional Convention – was time of disruption, overtaxation, and heavy economic hardships.  The poor were forced to pay their taxes in gold and silver (extremely hard to get) and not allowed to use paper money.   This school’s approach refocuses on class conflict in which different segments argued over who’s responsible for fixing the economy, “which segment should sacrifice for the good of the whole.”

I’ve presented you with four different schools of historiography concerning the Constitution.  Your job is to explain, with plenty of examples from class and your readings: 1. Which school of history do you agree with most and why?;  2. Which school of history do you disagree with most and why? 

Due Wednesday, December 21, 2016 by class.  300 words minimum. 


Interpretations of American History, ed. by Francis Couvares, et. al.

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Posted December 18, 2016 by geoffwickersham in category Blogs

68 thoughts on “Blog #93 – Historiography of the Constitution

  1. Jordan L

    1) I agree with the Nationalist school the most because I believe it was an extension of the Revolution. Critical thinkers were called together to think of a new plan for America because the Articles of Confederation didn’t work because of it’s weakness towards internal and external conflicts. The thought that Nationalist believe that America was built from white Christians because they have a good instinct towards building strong governments is very false. However, I do believe that white Christians have pretty good values and the creation of the Constitution did better America because it gave rights to the people that no other country had ever seen at that time and it created a fair and logical structure off Government that we still see today. The founding fathers were not trying to be greedy, they were only trying to create the best and most free ever from the Constitution. Also, the creation of the Constitution was only by white male Christians so it is easily seen as so. Overall, I I don’t agree with every idea of the Nationalist school because on their views of a white Christian built government but I do agree with the fact that the Constitution works for everyone and it doesn’t matter what race or gender you are. The Constitution doesn’t have eyes so it cant be racist nor feminist and plus the Constitution was only made for political standards not for economic.

    2) The school that I disagree with the most is the New Left/ Neo Progressive school because I disagree with the implementing of social factors. Social factors does not affect peoples class and economic and political position, hard work and dedication does. People of the New left/ Neo Progressive school think that America was made off the backs of women, Native Americans, and blacks but in fact it really wasn’t. Women could’t even vote until 1920 and they had barely any say in the government. Blacks were treated as slaves and were even considered 3/5 of a man so I don’t see how they could be associated with the creation of America. Lastly, The Americans and the Spanish killed 90% of Native Americans and tried their best to keep them off American soil. If you think about it, whites have made more accomplishments than blacks in regards to the creation of America and the Constitution and men have done more than women too. America is not racist, it is just made off of hard work which some people don’t have and they blame it on the opposite side.

  2. Zacharie Chentouf

    I agree the most with the Consensus School (1940s-1960s). This School believed that the Revolution and Constitution was one continuous movement, and that the Constitution was mostly a political document, not economic like Beard saw. The argued the point that the poor did not have a chance to participate in the ratification of the Constitution, since two-thirds of men owned property and were able to take part of state elections. I agree that the Revolution and Constitution were one continuous movement in the sense that developed continuously, and that the Revolution directly affected the way that the Constitution was formed and formulated. I believe that the Revolution made the American people that they could have what they want and please their personal desires without the need of law, especially in the period from 1776 to 1786. We see this, for example, in Shays’ Rebellion. I believe this problem of rebelling against the British government switched to the need of reconstructing, and the Americans realized somewhat late, especially in 1787. I believe this is why the fifty-five delegates met at the Constitutional Convention, as they realized that they could not amend or fix the Articles of Confederation, but would be better off making a completely new government. This is because they realized that the Articles of Confederation were formed in a time of fear of strong federal governments, especially because of how Americans felt about the British government. However, by 1787, these delegates realized that the time was not only for revolution, but there was also a time needed for reconstruction, and that a strong federal government was needed, and that did not necessarily mean having a British government, or one as “tyrannical” or as strong. Ralph Burton Perry discusses this in Puritanism and Democracy (1944). I still see this as one continuous movement because I believe that the idea of having the ability or feeling to do whatever you wanted for your desires directly after the Treaty of Paris of 1783, and even somewhat before, caused the wealthy elite and educated to realize that a stronger and more organized government would be needed, hence the forming of the Constitution, and the ideals of the Revolution would not be forgotten, as the delegates would be careful not to make the same mistakes as the “tyrannical” British government. This also portrays that the Constitution was made mostly to be a political movement, not economic. The fifty-five delegates at the convention, over half being educated, realized that the Articles of Confederation were not strong enough, and wanted stronger laws and new representation in the government to make sure that the states did not have chaos and anarchy everywhere, especially fearing mob rule, which we see under the Articles of Confederation in the form of Shays’ Rebellion. Shay’s Rebellion happened in the summer of 1786. The farmers owed money to the colonial merchant, and owed tax money to the state, but could only pay in specie, gold and silver, not paper money. Deflation depressed the value of crops, and ex-soldiers hadn’t been paid for their service, and instead had been given promissory notes, which would pay the soldiers once the government and economy were stable. Because of this, the farmers could not make enough money from their crops, the states seized their farms and livestock to pay back taxes, which triggers the rebellion, and American merchants couldn’t sell any more goods to farmers. The merchants owed money to the British ones, but could not obtain money to pay their dues because they cannot sell their goods, so they close up their shops, making many urban workers unemployed. The merchants are demanding farmers to pay in gold and silver because they owe so much money to the British merchants. Because of this mess, Daniel Shay and other farmers in Massachusetts decide to close courts to stop seizing and foreclosing farms. They tell sheriffs to stop, enforcing mob rule. The sheriffs are turned away from houses with weapons and mobs, all this happening in the summer of 1786. By January 1787, the farmers decided to raid Springfield to get more weapons, but the Massachusetts’ governor had anticipated this, and had made a militia. Wealthy merchants pay for the militia, as they want the farmers to have to pay them. The farmers fight against the militia, some of the farmers are killed, some receive distances, but receive pardons because the government does not want there to be martyrs to the cause, the rebellion is dissolved, and the poor are set aside and stopped once again. This is extremely similar to Bacon’s Rebellion early in the colonies’ lives. I do believe that the Constitution was made based on some economic interest, but it was almost completely political. For example, the Three-Fifths Compromise made at this Constitutional Convention considered African Americans three-fifths of a person. This was argued, at the Constitutional Convention, said that they were more than half human, but not completely. The North had wanted them to not count slaves at all, as they didn’t have nearly as many, and argued that they should count livestock, too, if they counted slaves, but the South, especially Virginia, countered that the women and children, who were not treated as complete citizens, were counted and part of the population, so slaves and African Americans should be, too. Mostly, the South wanted the slaves to be counted not for economic reasons, but mostly political, as then the Southern states would have the most representatives possible in the House of Representatives, and would be able to overwhelm the North, especially on decisions involving slavery. The Great Compromise creating the Senate with two representatives for each state, and the House of Representatives with representatives based on population, was also based on political reasons, as the delegates at the Convention wanted every citizen to have equal power in the states, but also wanted every state to have equal power, hence the two houses. The Electoral College was instituted in order to make sure that presidency, the fight for political power, is not a popularity contests, and one person can win that is not educated or qualified for the job. Back then, the winner would become president, and the runner-up would become vice-president. It is true that most of these, and the rest of the Constitution, did benefit the delegates economically as a strong government would keep a strong economy with order, and the farmers would have to pay merchants, but that was not their primary reasons for doing this. Their primary reasons were political, not wanting anything like Shays’ Rebellion to happen again, and because they wanted everyone, every state, to feel like they were represented in the government. They were extremely careful to not make the mistakes of being too weak like in the Articles of Confederation, or become “tyrannical” as the British government had. You could argue that the poor did not have an ability to participate in the making of the Constitution, but many of these were still reveling or focused on the revolutionary principles and feared a strong federal government everywhere, and did not recognize the need for a strong government, reconstruction. Many of these were already losing a lot of money with the Articles of Confederation, forced to foreclose their farms because of the inflation and deflation, and would not want any stronger government. In conclusion, the Consensus School and I both agree on the one continuous movement of the Revolution and Constitution, and that the main points made by the Constitution were political, not economical.

    I disagree the most with the National School (post civil war-1800). This School believes in Anglo-Saxon superiority, that white Christians had the inherent ability to create strong governments, and that the Constitution was an extension of the Revolution. First, Anglo-Saxons are not superior to any other people, as all men are created equal, as even Thomas Jefferson, the writer of the Declaration of Independence, says often, that all men are created equal and that slavery should not even be in this world. No race is superior to another, and no religion is either. This School also believes that Christians had the inherent ability to create strong governments. The British government, especially in the 1700s, led by the Christian King George III in the later stages of the 1700s, and his predecessors in the early stages, was not strong in the way that it dealt with the colonies. It lost the thirteen colonies after the Treaty of Paris of 1783 and were not able to keep their subjects submissive, especially after the Declaration of Independence of 1776. This was, in part, due to decades of salutary neglect in the 17th century, which let the colonists loose, and did not impose the same taxes, rights, or liberties on them. They were not applying the Navigation laws, and were not enforcing the Navigation Acts. The colonists became accustomed to this freedom, and this caused them to have no problem with smuggling, as we see with the Dutch tea just before the Boston Tea Party, when the Townshend Duties and Tea Act were enacted. This School could argue that Christians do have the inherent ability to create strong governments, some just don’t use it, and just look at how strong the Constitution was. The Constitution did provide a strong government in some ways, but this was so for white males mostly, and politically, and economically. It was not strong morally at all, as the African Americans were discriminated against heavily, as we see with the Three-Fifths Compromise, and as we see with women, who were not treated completely like citizens. Finally, the Constitution was not extension of the Revolution, but was actually restraining the idealist principles that appeared in the revolution. I believe the Articles of Confederation were an extension of the Revolution, and that the Constitution opposed it. The Articles of Confederation made for strong state governments, and a weak federal government, as the colonists feared a government that would be so strong that it would become “tyrannical”. In the Articles of Confederation, each state would get one vote, there were no executive or judicial branches, there was a two-thirds vote needed for major decisions including taxes and war, leading to very little being done, to change or “amend” them, a unanimous vote was needed, making it almost impossible, and it could not regulate commerce for the country with others, or interstate commerce. States could put taxes on each other for each other’s items to incite someone to buy from them, and not another state. The inability for this first government to make major decisions, its inability to change itself, it inability to regulate trade, and the fact that it was not structured made it extremely weak, which is exactly what the revolutionary principles wanted, as in the revolution, the colonists were rebelling against the oppressing British government, and the colonists did not want to create the same thing in the colonies. However, by May 25,1787, the educated saw the frailties in the Articles of Confederation, especially with Shays’ Rebellion, and decided to go in a completely different reaction, making it go in a different direction from the revolutionary principles on which the Articles of Confederation were based on. This was still the same movement as the weakness of the Articles of Confederation from the revolutionary principle made the delegates at the Constitutional Convention see the need for a stronger federal government, in which they created the Constitution. Therefore, I disagree completely with the National School in Anglo-Saxon superiority, in the belief that white Christians have the inherent ability to make strong governments, and that the Constitution was an extension of the Revolution.

  3. A A ron Stottlemyer

    While I can see and respect the viewpoints of each school, I must side with the Nationalist School of thought. This is mostly due to their idea that that the Constitution was simply a continuation of the Revolution, as it can easily be tracked back to it within 6 degrees of separation. First of all, by the time the US successfully separated from the King, the revolution left all of the now-American people with a hatred of any form of aristocratic or monarchical form of government, something we would swear to stamp out of our own government by any means possible, thus leading to the Articles of Confederation. The Articles of Confederation gave the states massive power, and at the same time, they greatly restricted the federal government. This restriction led to manifold problems, this being that the federal government could not regulate both internal and external affairs, such as tax or trade of any kind. People soon realized this, and soon saw the founding fathers retrace their steps, and hold the Constitutional Convention. However, the convention was hidden away from the public, and any decision made was private. Soon after, the Constitution was drafted. The constitution was for the betterment of the whole; we purposely designed the Constitution to protect farmers and the working class, which was the main protest of the Articles of Confederation. Secondly, while hard to admit, most (but definitely not all) of the United States history was built by the white Christian male. While many minorities played a factor (some of which just being poorer or richer white Christian males), especially during recent times, the fundamental foundations of America, be it Industrial or Territorial growth, were accomplished by the white Christian male. However, the fact that one group of people played the largest role in the development of American really fits into: do the ends justify the means? We as a country have developed so many technological advancements. The amount of land we were able to conquer and maintain after our independence from out restrictive motherland was (and still is), a major achievement in the global scale.
    Moreover, I bring to the point that I disagree with Progressive school of thought. I disagree with the idea that the Constitution was designed to maintain and increase the wealth and property of the people who wrote it. The founding fathers weren’t just a group of wealthy people who got together and kicked out any non-wealthy, common men; they were all people of very high stature, and most of them could be considered intellectuals. Furthermore, the idea that the constitution was written to oppress the lower class seems very absurd; the constitution was and is intended to be a living document, and has/will continue to change with the times. Although it allowed the recapturing of slaves, at the time, half of the continent was pushing for that, and would have surely done something violent had it not been the case. However, the document also set a time limit for the Slave Trade, giving it 20 years until it was completely stopped.

  4. Lizzie Potocsky

    1.) I agree most with the New Left/ New Progressive interpretation of the Constitution. I like the Progressive ideas as well, but I feel as though the New Left teachings take them further into detail. I agree that the Constitution was written with class conflict, but not just in an economic way like Beard states. The New Left teachings focus on all people, despite their gender, economic standing, race, etc. Unlike the Nationalist School, New Progressives think of the Constitution and the Revolution as two completely separate events. The New Left teachings include all people (whites, blacks, women, Native Americans), not just white males like the other progressive group includes. The New Left teachings strive to have everything talked about in our nation’s history; no matter how much we frown upon it (ex: racial injustice, the struggle the Native Americans went through). I agree that the Constitution was an approval for slavery, as this was shown in the 3/5 compromise. Slaves were equal to 3/5 of a white person when representing them in the population. States would want more slaves to include more people in their count for representation. The poor struggled to maintain a quality life in the 1700s. They had to pay in gold instead of paper money. The poor believed that only the rich could talk about fixing the economy, because they do not struggle in that way. I like the idea to study the history of all Americans, not just a certain group of them (white males).
    2.) I disagree most with the Nationalist School of thought. I disagree that only white male Christians should be acknowledged for America’s successes. In my opinion, all people affected how we became who we are today. There were a number people who were not Christian living in America in the 1700s that helped contribute to the creation of our country. The Nationalists isolate Christianity from other people and to exclude others is not showing our history in the truest way.

  5. Lindsay Martin

    I agree with the Neo-Progressive School of history. It takes into account the masses, not only the rich whites. It also accounts for more than economic and political factors- it also talks about social factors. These views came into place because of the Civil Rights movement, women’s rights movements, and the anti-Vietnam movements. These are all things I support, because they worked to give civil rights to those who weren’t born with the same privileges. They interpret all aspects of the constitution- including how it led to the oppressive society that we have. These New Left historians show the constitution as it is. They expose the racist foundation that our society today was built on. They bring light to the fact that the white male’s viewpoint is the one that was expressed throughout all of the American history. It contained more radical and politically correct ideas in its interpretation of the constitution. It explains that there was no representation for lower class or racial minorities in the creation of the constitution; but this is very important today. It is becoming apparent, we have only had one black president, and are still yet to have a female president.
    I disagree most with the Nationalist school. It uses religion as it’s main point for why the Americans created America. It only credits the white Christian males, but in my opinion, America was built upon religious freedom and shouldn’t be classified by the white Christian males. They view the founders as amazing people who had everyone’s best interests with the creation of the constitution, but they created it to help themselves financially. These historians ignored the other genders and races that also played a role in early America. And in America, if they had been picked by a God, why would He have put them through all those wars and hard work it took to create this republic.

  6. Eric Ajluni

    The school of history I probably agree with the most is the Progressive school and a lot of what Charles Beard explains regarding the constitution. Beard looked at it from an economic point of view, and the economy was a major issue for the country to deal with right after coming off a revolution. I agree with what Beard argued regarding the economic interests of the men who formed the constitution. He explains how they had strong economic motives for the country in order to set order to farmers, soldiers and others. However, the people who created the constitution were predominantly rich, white males, so they were often not effected by the issues being dealt with. Another point argued I agree with is how Charles Becker saw the Revolution. Firstly, he saw it as as a break away from British rule which was the main and original goal. Secondly, he saw it as a time to figure out who would rule, which lead to the constitution. I also see it this was as it shifted from focus on freedom to focusing on how the country will be run. Lastly, I agree with Beard when he explains the Constitution had some undemocratic values. Not all people had the same voting rights, no bill of rights protection, and the document itself was formed in secret. I agree with this because it is not democratic and even goes against the words “All men are created equal.”

    The school of history I disagree with the most would probably be the Consensus school. While I do not passionately disagree with any school due to how every mindset was molded because of the time they were living in, the Consensus school had the most principles I did not agree with. Firstly, this school was seen as nearly an opposite of what is explained in the Progressive school. Unlike Beard, they saw the Constitution as a political document, rather than economical. I disagree with this because immediate following the revolution, the economy was a major issue. Taking control of that would make working politics so much easier, as they also would not have to deal with as many conflicts such as Shays’ rebellion. This school also argues that Beard was wrong when saying not everyone had equal values, as about 2/3 of men owned land to vote. I disagree with this because it is supposed to be all men included, not just 2/3rds. Not only this but women and slaves also had limited rights.

  7. Henry Van Faussien

    When it comes to the historiography of the Constitution I side with the Intellectual/Republicanism interpretation. I believe that the Revolution was based around the fight back against the corrupt and overpowered government that was the British crown. I think that I saw the attempt to save the newly born American government by taking the good things from the British, as while they were oppressive they were a wealthy and successful nation. We took ideas from them like a constitution and human rights. The Republican interpretation saw the Constitution as an attempt to save the weltering American government that was failing due to the weak Articles of Confederation. The founding fathers put aside their personal agendas to make the best government possible and the Constitution is and was a living document that could be amended and changed with the times because they knew that not everything was going to be perfect on the first swing and left it up to the future America to fix their mistakes.

    That is why I disagree most with the Neo Progressive New left interpretation. I think that while slavery is wrong it was not the idea at the time that, that was true. Many people owned slaves and saw success with slave labor. Also the people that did not agree with slavery thought that the idea of slavery was dying and that to save their country they would need to appeal to the more racist representatives at the convention. They put in the fugitive clause and the 3/5 clause because they knew that if they acted too quickly and tried to change too quickly they would be unable to get the ratification that they needed. There was no way that the Southern states and other slave states that valued their free labor would ratify a document no matter the circumstances that would take away their slaves. So the anti slavery representatives made a compromise, the compromise of 1808 that stopped the slave trade. The making of the constitution was a battle and each person had a personal agenda that they were trying to push, but the most important thing was passing the constitution as it would save America, so in doing so many compromises were made and not every thing that people wanted was in it. That is why it is a living document so it can change with the times.

  8. Riley Montgomery

    The school of History I agree with most is the New Left/Neo-Progressive School. It recognizes all sides of history and acknowledges everyone, not just wealthy, white men. America is so great today because of the hard work of many peoples, African Americans, Native Americans, women, and the poor. But many historians exclude those people and focus on the wealthy white men. But the slaves worked hard, which made the economy so great at times, and women worked hard for this country too. History does not often tell the stories of the hidden struggles of ignored people who worked hard for this nation. A lot of historians portray the privileged, wealthy, white men as the main characters in the America’s story and the other gender and races as only extras. It’s important to include all aspects of history though. I think it’s important to teach students all parts of history because then they can make sure history doesn’t repeat itself. Social factors, not just political and economic factors affected history.
    I disagree most with the Nationalist school of history because it focused on economic growth and white, wealthy men. White Christians were portrayed as superior to everyone else and it was thought that only they could create a good government. This is unfair because women, Native Americans and African Americans also worked hard for this nation. But none of them are represented in the Nationalist School of History. White men may have been the leaders and lawmakers, but that was because they were the only ones given those opportunities. According to the Nationalist school, the American people were divinely picked by God. I think that National Historians were arrogant or ignorant for thinking that. Also, the Nationalist school of history focused on Economic factors but it’s important to look at all aspects, social and political too.

  9. Ashley A

    I agree with the New Left/Neo-Progressive Historians the most of all the interpretations of the constitution. I agree with the New Left historians because they are showing the constitution in more than one point of view. Many teachers of have ignored the views of women, African Americans, and Native Americans, though these groups of people played major roles in the making of America. The New Left School of Historiography are including the views of the many other people that have often been left out in the history books. They include the blacks who were counted as 3/5 of person and the poor people who couldn’t stop being poor and in debt because they had no gold or silver. The New Left requires that the parts that explain how America became the racist, violent, and repressive society that it is now, are included in the teaching of American history and the constitution. I completely agree with the “history from the bottom up” way that the New Left Historians teach the constitution because it’s necessary in the full understanding of the constitution to see both the good and the bad.

    I do not agree with the Nationalist school of thought’s teachings because I don’t believe that American people were chosen by God to create the perfect republic. The American people went through many hardships to get to the point of making the constitution including excessive British taxes and the French and Indian war. Being Christian was not what carried them through those struggles and being chosen by God doesn’t guarantee that you will win a war. The Nationalist school of thought’s teaches that America’s successful society comes from white Christians. They discredit the blood, sweat, and tears put in by the many Africans, women and other groups of people. The creation of the constitution, though to make the country better, only included the white males and I don’t believe that that is fair when millions of other people were inclusive in creating the foundations of America.

  10. Tania Miller

    I disagree with the Nationalist school. I believe that there should always be a separation between church and state; and Nationalists writers believe that the “progress of mankind toward the greater personal liberty was due to white christian people and their inherent ability to build strong governments”. One, you can say that the Christian faith is all to thank for the progress towards liberty is false. There are many other faiths for example the french catholics that helped to pave our way towards liberty. Also, they cant just say that the white colonists obtained our liberty. We have our Indian allies as well as our French and African American slaves that fought to obtain our freedom.

    I agree with the Neo-Progressive schools. These historians were shaped by the social and political changes going on in the US. For example the Civil rights as well as the Women’s Rights. We really get to see whats real and going on through the eyes of the people instead of the government. Back to the Nationalist schools they only look at the economic approach instead of what was really going on at the time. This looks at everything going on when it comes to African Americans and others. This way of keeping history prevents theories and the “New Left” requires explanation for why things are which way and how.

  11. Caitlyn Moore

    1. I agree with the Progressive School of History the most. During this time period people were very concerned with the distribution of wealth and the large gap in between the rich and poor. As a result of this many people began reform ideas to help with this issue. Charles Beard’s idea of the Revolution and the making of the Constitution was that the men who made it had more self-interest than actual concern for the country. Many if not all of these men were conservative, white, wealthy men with political power. For example, the very idea to meet and discuss the Articles of Confederation was proposed by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, both of which are wealthy and white. Their concern was that the weak federal government and extremely democratic state governments would vote certain things and put certain people into power that would appeal more to a poorer farmer. They also were concerned that with this type of government their political power might not be guaranteed. I agree with Mr. Beard because these men although intelligent and virtuous; their interest at this point however, may not have been for the country, but for themselves since they saw the changes of politics under the articles. Their motives were impure and wrong and as Beard so eloquently stated; the making of our constitution was controlled by the self- interest and narcissism of our wealthy founding fathers.

    2. I disagree with the Nationalist School of History the most because it portrayed America as a country founded by ever so kind Christian, white men who fought hard and long and never did anything wrong. They ignored the American Indians entirely and stated that God gave them this land as a way to spread his word even though they nearly destroyed the natives with their diseases while taking their land from them every place that they settled. They think that they were divinely picked by God to create a perfect nation and the people in Philadelphia were just doing God’s will. They felt that the Christian people had a superior ability to build a strong government. I disagree with this because while God may have granted them this land I know that God didn’t intend for them to destroy and kill the Natives or enslave Africans in his granted land. They have a certain cockiness that is disheartening and this idea of Nationalist history is full of lies.

  12. Jacob Kroll

    1. The school of historiography I agree with most, is the school of Republicanism Historians. They adopted many of the British’s values, but only the good ones. They believed in a set of things that are very straight up with set human rights and government. They also believe in written constitutions just like we have today. Written constitutions work very well because they can be not only added to, but are kept on record so they cannot be changed or bent because they are already clearly written down. The constitution was most definitely a rescue attempt from failure by restraining democratic excesses because once the articles failed, many people felt the need to revolt (shays rebellion) so the constitution was needed to stop the revolt and save the country from falling apart by restricting the democratic excess. Although I agree with most of the republicanism views I do still disagree with one in particular which is the fact that they also believe that the constitution was a way to stop egalitarianism. I believe that the democracy needed to be limited a little, but not to the point where equality is being lost.

    2. The school of historiography that I disagree with most is the Progressive school. The progressive school focuses on two main things, breaking away from the British, and who will rule the newly formed country. They believe that the people who created the constitution were exceptionally wealthy, white, landowning males in which they had the best motives for the country. They wanted to protect the private property and increase banking and public securities. The flaw in this plan is the fact that they are only appealing to about a quarter to the population, and not the rest of the country who were farmers, merchants, and manufacturers. Another big flaw in this large plan was the fact that the focused so hard n class conflict that they never created a bill of rights in their constitution, because today America is basically defined by it’s Bill of rights, in which it separates the US from other countries.

  13. Joshua Salter

    After looking over these 5 schools interpretations of the constitution, I think I agree with the consensus school, consensus school believed that the constitution was a document made for political gain not economic gain. The founding fathers were good people and had a good reputation, I feel that the founding fathers would try to keep their reputation strong and make a government not for themselves but for the people of the colonies. For example George Washington was always worried about his reputation, he did anything to keep his name positive on the streets of the colonies. The Articles of Confederation was not a great way of governing, everyone knew that it wasn’t, and with shays rebellion and the depression in the economy at the time, this had a correlation with not making the government for the economy. The continental congress was all elite white men, but this doesn’t mean that they only tried to make it better for whites, they tried to make it better for everybody, no matter what your skin color was. During this time everyone was in a bad economic and financial state as we had a simulation Tuesday in class about it, and the continental congress fixed the economy with the new government they provided for the people (constitution).
    The school that I can’t really relate to or necessarily agree with is progressive school. The progressive school is just about polar opposites then the school that I do prefer (consensus). This school looks at the constitution with a bias and that bias is economical, that’s the only way they look at the constitution and I don’t believe that it’s true. Also it basically says that Washington and the founding fathers made the constitution for their economical gain. This isn’t true because not only did it help the people at the continental congress economically but it also helped the lower class economically to, for example it helped the lower class farmers from shayes rebellion get economically stable. Also this school points to the poor areas effected by the constitution but this also isn’t the case because there were poor areas for everybody. This is why I believe that consensus interpretation is correct and why I don’t agree with progressive.

  14. Bryce Ulep

    I mostly agree with the New Left/ Neo-Progressive School. I agree that the constitution was more than just a political document. There is a certain vibe given off by this schools article that talks about a more social are than the others. Other schools failed to include the social side of the constitution development while this school left the social in. The school also mentioned minorities and how they effected the war. The school believed that it was not only white males who created the government. The school believed that many people contributed to the creation and the success of the government. In class we usually only focus on the rich white side of the story and occasionally mention poor minorities. Poor people and various minorities impacted the outcome of the revolution and the creation of the government greatly. The Old left kind of school denied the countries past and the truth about the past. The New Left school does the exact opposite. They use their past as a way to review on old things and make sure that they can improve. A lot of the bad things in history could be fixed if people look at the past and attempt to fix the mistakes of others. This is the kind of outlook the New Left has on the world. They realized that they should talk about social problems and that is why it appeals the most to me.
    I disagree the most with the Nationalist school. They’re statement, “the orderly progress of mankind toward greater personal liberty” has a direct correlation with white people founding the government. I interpreted that the statement meant that the white people made the government and only whites are good at making strong governments. As I stated before I totally disagree with this statement because although only white people had a say, there were enough minorities to have some impact. I believe that so many of these statements that they stated in their article were wrong that I had to put it as my most disagreed article.

  15. Jason S

    the Intellectual or Republicanism Historians (1950s – 1980s) is probably the school of choice, but with some changes. Now this school is not majorly focused on the new or old parts individually of history which should be better for teaching, but it also teaches people to accept others (different ethnicities and thought process’ that do not coincide with your own) but without taking away the “don’t be a whip” aspect of it. This way of teaching also shows that the American revolution is a good thing and that the people can change it if they must, or if it going downhill, so I would say I give a more patriotic viewpoint to everything without twisting history’s words.

    2. I am at a crossroad with this two of them are at a tie of terribleness to it one way more leftist, and the other more to the far right (probably because of the time they were made). the New Left / Neo-Progressive School (1960s – 1980s) was, and is too new and front focused, and leftist to be a school that everyone goes to, the new problems should not be the forefront of the teachings, it also focuses on who fixes the problems, and not how they are fixed. Now this could make the new students complainers, and hippies this could completely change our way of government, for the better or worse but also the way most people are told to think, and how they think. but this is the complete opposite for the Nationalist School (post-Civil War – 1900) they are to back facing, and not focused on the new things, and more of a what we could be thought process which could destroy us in the future due to people who want to make us the best we could be, but with no opposing views to correct some things that were not mentioned in the books that were printed, and could show a twist of words made by a historian, or the history its self-I.E. the Boston massacre could have been everything the colonists made it out to be when it was and is not really known how it exactly went down (and yes the soldiers are most likely innocent for means of law).

    Jason S

  16. Beau

    I agree most with the Consesus school of thought for a number of reasons. I believe that the revolution and the Constitution are indeed related, as the school of thought suggests. The revolution was a highly driven, highly motivated movement that is understood through the constitution. The people who lead the revolution had motives to start a new country, and judging by the writing of the constitution, you can tell that the people who wrote it wrote it knowing that history had it’s eyes on them. The constitution was certainly more of a political document than an economic one, judging by the lack of economics discussed in the constitution and the Delceration of Independance (except for talk about taxes). The school of thought that I disagree with most is the Progressive school. While I do believe the Founding Fathers did have economic motives for their words in the Constitution, I also do not think that inequality was a major issue at the time, mostly due to the slave economy. I also do not believe that the founding fathers were very concerned with economics in general during the writing of the Constitution,

  17. Danielle Lutz

    1. The school that I agree most with is the New Left/Neo-Progressive school. I agree with the fact that they acknowledge the way everyone sees the Constitution, not just wealthy, white, men. In some places the way African Americans, women, and other minorities feel is ignored. The United States is always changing and the people at the Neo-Progressive school accept that and change with society. The way this school sees America is they have made many mistakes in the past but need to acknowledge those mistakes and use it to move forward. Bad things can be avoided if we use our past as a reference for what not to do. America’s social problems have always been around and the Neo-Progressive school is ready to talk about those issues. Things like racism and male superiority can be talked about so that kids can see the mistakes that have been made to help the country move forward taking this information into account so that history doesn’t repeat itself. It is important to see both the good and bad parts of our Constitution and our history and that is why I agree with the New Left/Neo-Progressive school.
    2. The school that I disagree most with is the Nationalist school. The idea that God chose these people to create a union is not something that I believe. The American people went through many troubles to reach a certain point in history. Gaining independence from Britain was not easy and although people probably got through it with a little faith from God, white Christian males are not the only people who deserve credit for the creation of America. Women, African Americans, Indians, all contributed to the start of this great country. Another great thing about America that isn’t taken into account is the idea that America was made for religious freedom and we never forget that.

  18. Brooklyn Scott

    Before Andrew Jackson’s presidency, America had many other presidents. But unlike Jackson, past presidents were very unlike the majority of American people. By unlike, I mean they were apart of the small percentage of high upper-class men who spoke, dressed, and acted differently then the majority. Jackson on the other hand was like the majority of Americans, the majority being the ‘poor‘ working class. Andrew Jackson didn’t grow up rich like all the other presidents; in fact, he grew up as an orphan. He was very different from past presidents, for example his inauguration was a monstrous party. He allowed the common people in the White House, and even changed the inauguration song from “elegant” to “hillbilly”. So when Robert Remini says that Jackson “altered the essential character of the presidency.” he is referring to the change from high upper class like president to a president who was and acted like the majority of the American people. Senator Daniel Webster from the Whig party said that past presidents had a limited representation of the majority, but with Jackson, he was a direct representation of the majority. Webster believed this to be dangerous because A.J could consider himself as the “sole representative of all American people” and that was too much power.

    thank you davit

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