Charles A. Beard

From Wikiquote
Jump to: navigation, search
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.
  • If I were compelled to state in a single sentence the most significant contribution of our movement to modern civilization, I should say that it is the application of the idea of continuous and experimental research, found so effective in economic enterprise, to the business of public administration intimately and in a deep-thrusting sense, a contribution to the processes by which modern mankind is striving with all its resources to emancipate itself from the tyranny of rules of thumb and the blind regimen of nature, becoming conscious of its destiny as an all conquering power.
    • Charles A. Beard, cited in: Dwight Waldo. The Administrative State, 1948, p. 33

"Administration, A Foundation of Government", 1940[edit]

Charles A. Beard, "Administration, A Foundation of Government", American Political Science Review, XXXIV, No. 2 (April, 1940), 232.

  • I present, for what it is worth, and may prove to be worth, the following bill of axioms or aphorisms on public administration, as fitting this important occasion.
  1. The continuous and fairly efficient discharge of certain functions by government, central and local, is a necessary condition for the existence of any great society.
  2. As a society becomes more complicated, as its division of labor ramifies more widely, as its commerce extends, as technology takes the place of handicrafts and local self-sufficiency, the functions of government increase in number and in their vital relationships to the fortunes of society and individuals.
  3. Any government in such a complicated society, consequently any such society itself, is strong in proportion to its capacity to administer the functions that are brought into being.
  4. Legislation respecting these functions, difficult as it is, is relatively easy as compared with the enforcement of legislation, that is, the effective discharge of these functions in their most minute ramifications and for the public welfare.
  5. When a form of government, such as ours, provides for legal changes, by the process of discussion and open decision, to fit social changes, then effective and wise administration becomes the central prerequisite for the perdurance of government and society — to use a metaphor, becomes a foundation of government as a going concern.
  6. Unless the members of an administrative system are drawn from various classes and regions, unless careers are open in it to talents, unless the way is prepared by an appropriate scheme of general education, unless public officials are subjected to internal and external criticism of a constructive nature, then the public personnel will become a bureaucracy dangerous to society and to popular government.
  7. Unless, as David Lilienthal has recently pointed out in an address on the Tennessee Valley Authority, an administrative system is so constructed and operated as to keep alive local and individual responsibilities, it is likely to destroy the basic well-springs of activity, hope, and enthusiasm necessary to popular government and to the following of a democratic civilization.
  • As cited in: John M. Gaus, Reflections on public administration, 1947, p. 7-8

External links[edit]

Wikipedia has an article about:
Wikisource has original works written by or about: