Intellectual development of Charles A. Beard,1874-1923
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Cazares Lira, Victor Manuel
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This dissertation traces the development of Charles A. Beard’s social, political, legal and historical thought. It covers his early education in Indiana, his cosmopolitan postgraduate studies at the University of Oxford, Cornell University and Columbia University, and professional work as political scientist and as expert on municipal government. By following thematically and chronologically the relationship between Beard’s historical writings and his early life as teacher of politics and government, this dissertation offers both a reinterpretation of the meaning of Beard’s interpretation of the origins of the U.S. Constitution and a glimpse of the shifting intellectual trends in political thinking that emerged during the Progressive era. Contrary to the idea that Beard was a moral absolutist interested in denouncing the interference of economic interests in government, this thesis argues that Beard developed a pluralistic, functionalistic, and anti-majoritarian conception of politics that was at odds with many Progressive thinkers. Most previous research on Beard has lacked archival research and has ignored Beard’s teachings on politics at Columbia University, thus projecting into Beard’s thought concepts and values he did not adopt. In this study Beard appears as an early advocate of a new pluralistic ethics and utilitarian morality that allowed him to picture the framers of the Constitution as modern pragmatic politicians interested in creating a strong government by the art of integrating the major economic interests of the society in the process of law-making. This dissertation also reveals a broader intellectual world informing Beard’s scholarly work and highlights his readings in modern sociology at DePauw and German sociological jurisprudence as two key factors in understanding Beard’s conception of law and politics. As such, it offers a much more complicated image of Beard’s thought and his intellectual world.