Charles A. Beard

Charles Austin Beard.jpg

Charles Austin Beard (November 27, 1874September 1, 1948) was an influential American historian. He stressed the importance of economic factors in American constitutional history.


  • Let us put aside resolutely that great fright, tenderly and without malice, daring to be wrong in something important rather than right in some meticulous banality, fearing no evil while the mind is free to search, imagine, and conclude, inviting our countrymen to try other instruments than coercion and suppression in the effort to meet destiny with triumph, genially suspecting that no creed yet calendared in the annals of politics mirrors the doomful possibilities of infinity.
    • Presidential address to the American Political Science Association at St. Louis, Mo., December 29, 1926[1]: "Time, Technology, and the Creative Spirit in Political Science", The American Political Science Review 21 (1), (February 1927) p. 11.
  • If this statement by Judge Cooley is true, and the authority for it is unimpeachable, then the theory that the Constitution is a written document is a legal fiction. The idea that it can be understood by a study of its language and the history of its past development is equally mythical. It is what the Government and the people who count in public affairs recognize and respect as such, what they think it is. More than this. It is not merely what it has been, or what it is today. It is always becoming something else and those who criticize it and the acts done under it, as well as those who praise, help to make it what it will be tomorrow.
    • With William Beard, The American Leviathan: The Republic in the Machine Age (1931), p. 39.
  • 1. Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad with power.
    2. The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly small.
    3. The bee fertilizes the flower it robs.
    4. When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.
    • Quoted by Arthur H. Secord, "Condensed History Lesson", Readers' Digest, Vol. 38, No. 226 (February 1941), p. 20. Secord reports that "Asked if he could summarize the lessons of history in a short book, [Beard] replied that he could do it in [these] four sentences."
    • The first statement is an adaption of an ancient anonymous proverb, sometimes wrongly attributed to Euripides. The second is from Friedrich von Logau, "Retribution", Sinngedichte III, 2, 24, c. 1654, as translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow(?). The origins of the third and fourth have not been determined.

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