The Journal of Economic History


An Economic Interpretation of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 Revisited

Jac C. Heckelmana1 and Keith L. Doughertya2

a1 Professor and Reinsch/Pierce Faculty Fellow, Department of Economics, Wake Forest University, 110 Carswell Hall, Winston-Salem, NC 27109. E-mail:

a2 Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, 104 Baldwin Hall, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602. E-mail:


Empirical studies of delegate voting at the Constitutional Convention have relied on the same 16 roll call votes. This article 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 subsamples of the roll calls, and reconstructing constituency variables to include state districts. Our findings suggest that personal interests were indeed important for decision making at the Constitutional Convention, but constituent interests were less important than previously claimed.


We thank Bill Abrams, Michael O'Keefe, and Robi Ragan for research assistance and Robert McGuire for sending updated data used in his book To Form a More Perfect Union (2003). Funding for this research was partially supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation, SES-0418254.