Constitutional Convention of 1787
A Spatial Analysis of Delegate Voting at the Constitutional Convention
Journal of Economic History forthcoming
Abstract. Previous studies of the U.S. Constitutional Convention have relied on votes recorded for the state blocs or a relatively small number of delegate votes. We construct a new dataset covering delegate votes on over 600 substantive roll calls, and use the data in several ways. First, we estimate a single dimensional position for the delegates which reflects their overall voting patterns. Next, we explain these positions using a variety of delegate and constituent variables. Finally, we suggest a method for identifying state and floor medians, which can be used to predict equilibrium outcomes at the Convention.
A New Dataset of Delegate Positions on all Substantive Roll Calls at the U.S. Constitutional Convention
Historical Methods 45: 135-141, 2012
Abstract. Delegate level analysis of the U.S. Constitutional Convention has been limited because the Convention did not record delegate votes. This paper introduces the Constitutional Convention Research Group Data Set (CCRG dataset), which contains inferred delegate votes on 620 substantive roll calls at the Convention. The CCRG dataset represents a significant improvement over previous datasets such as those compiled by McDonald (1958), Dougherty and Heckelman (2009), and datasets based on votes recorded for state blocs (Jillson 1981, 1988).
Cliometrica 4: 207-228, 2010
Abstract. Charles Beard ( 2004) argued that the U.S. Constitution was created to advance the interests of people who owned personalty, particularly those at the Constitutional Convention. Because delegate votes on individual clauses at the Constitutional Convention were not publicly recorded, prior empirical analyses have been limited to inferred votes on a specific set of unrelated clauses. We extend this inquiry by inferring votes related to currency and debt issues which Beard put forth as the prime issues for those who owned personalty. Our analysis on these votes generates little support for a narrow version of the Beard thesis, which states that all personalty groups voted in a unified coalition at the Convention and supported the Constitution. Our analysis provides some support, however, for a broader interpretation that personalty and realty interests affected delegate voting behavior at the margin.
- AWARDED GORDON TULLOCK PRIZE FOR BEST ARTICLE IN PUBLIC CHOICE BY YOUNGER SCHOLARS
Public Choice 136:293-313, 2008
Abstract. This paper provides the first empirical study of delegate voting behavior on issues of slavery at the U.S. Constitutional Convention. We analyze two categories of votes: those related to apportionment and those related to the regulation of the slave trade. Although it is widely believed that delegates voted consistent with the interests of their states on issues of slavery, we find that for votes on apportionment, the effect of state interests was enhanced by both the delegate's personal interest and his religious background. For votes regulating the slave trade, state interests had a significant effect but only within specific regions.
Journal of Economic History 67: 829-848, 2007
Abstract. Empirical studies of delegate voting at the Constitutional Convention have relied on the same 16 roll call votes. This paper re-examines various assumptions used in the collection of these data. We first create a baseline regression. We then consider the effect of dropping delegates not in attendance, re-inferring the votes from primary sources, examining various sub-samples of the roll calls, and reconstructing constituency variables to include state districts. Our findings suggest that for decision making at the Constitutional Convention, personal interests were indeed important but constituent interests were less important than previously claimed.
American Political Science Review 100: 297-302, 2006
Abstract. Robertson (2005) argues that Roger Sherman was surprisingly influential at the constitutional convention. Using empirically estimated ideal points, we show that Sherman was indeed a pivotal voter from a pivotal state. However, we also demonstrate that if the votes were tallied by delegates individually, rather than grouping them by home state, then Sherman would have been less pivotal. This suggests that the voting procedures adopted at the constitutional convention may have affected Sherman’s ability to get his interests enacted. Such institutions might have been more responsible for making Sherman influential than his legislative abilities.