05 May 2015

Skewed Power Structure

An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States by Charles A. Beard, 1913, Edited Excerpts

The protection of property rights lay at the basis of the new system. There is in the Constitution no provision for property qualifications for voters or for elected officials and representatives; however, nearly all of the state constitutions then in force provided real or personal property qualifications for voters. Only one branch of new government, the House of Representatives, was required to be elected by popular vote.

The House of Representatives springs from the mass of the people whom the states may see fit to enfranchise. The Senate is elected by the legislatures of the states, which were, in 1787, almost uniformly based on property qualifications. The President is to be chosen by electors selected by the legislatures. The judiciary is to be chosen by the President and the Senate, both removed from direct popular control and holding for longer terms than the House.

The taxing power was afforded the revenues that were to discharge the public debt in full. Congress was given plenary power to raise and support military and naval force, for the defense of the country against foreign and domestic forces. These forces were to be at the disposal of the President in the execution of national laws; and to guard the states against renewed attempts of “desperate debtors” like Shays.

These were the great powers conferred on the new government: taxation, war, commercial control, and disposition of western lands. Through them public creditors may be paid in full, domestic peace maintained, advantages obtained in dealing with foreign nations, manufactures protected, and the development of the territories go forward in full swing. Contracts are to be safe, and whoever engages in a financial operation, public or private, may know that state legislatures cannot destroy overnight the rules by which the game is played.

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