Forrest McDonald

About Forrest McDonald

Forrest McDonald (1927-2016) was Distinguished Research Professor of History at the University of Alabama. He was the Sixteenth Jefferson Lecturer in the Humanities in 1987 and was awarded the Ingersoll Prize in 1990. Dr. McDonald was the author of countless essays and many books, including the Pulitzer Prize finalist, Novus Ordo Seclorum: The Intellectual Origins of the Constitution, as well as Alexander Hamilton: A Biography, and The American Presidency: An Intellectual History.

“The Speech”: Maintaining Sanity in an Insane World

By |2021-01-08T09:36:34-06:00January 6th, 2021|Categories: Civilization, Culture, Forrest McDonald, Hope, Imagination, Timeless Essays, Wisdom|

I propose to address the question, how does one survive—and I mean survive as something—in a world that may not? How does one remain sane in a world that is insane; how does one live without fear in a world in which the only certainty is that nothing is certain? As the new year arrives, [...]

Reflections on the American Presidency

By |2021-01-06T18:35:20-06:00February 16th, 2020|Categories: Audio/Video, Forrest McDonald, History, Presidency|

“Though the caliber of people who have served as chief executive has declined erratically but persistently from the day George Washington left office, the presidency has been responsible for less harm and more good, in the nation and in the world, than perhaps any other secular institution in history." —Forrest McDonald, The American Presidency: An [...]

Fellow Miracles, Let Us Rejoice Together!

By |2020-03-23T11:01:46-05:00January 19th, 2019|Categories: American Founding, Forrest McDonald|

The following is the conclusion of Professor Forrest McDonald's 2002 address to the last class he taught as a regular member of the faculty at the University of Alabama—known as "The Speech." Dr. McDonald retired thereafter from teaching.  The other pre-requisite for living sanely in an insane world is an attitude toward life, which I [...]

George Washington: Indispensable Man

By |2020-12-13T08:05:21-06:00October 28th, 2018|Categories: American Founding, American Republic, Character, George Washington, Timeless Essays|

George Washington was acutely aware that he had become a legend in his time, a true myth, and he recognized that the presidency made possible the institutionalization of the role he had been playing. That is to say, he endowed the presidency with the capacity—and the awesome responsibility—to serve as the symbol of the nation, [...]

The First Function of Founders of Nations

By |2019-08-06T16:55:41-05:00July 4th, 2016|Categories: American Founding, Forrest McDonald, History, Quotation|

The first function of the founders of nations, after the founding itself, is to devise a set of true falsehoods about origin—a mythology—that will make it desirable for nationals to continue to live under common authority, and, indeed, make it impossible for them to entertain contrary thoughts. Ordinarily the founding, being the less subtle of [...]

The Role of the “Middle Delegates” at the Constitutional Convention

By |2020-10-18T13:32:36-05:00January 7th, 2016|Categories: American Founding, American Republic, Constitution, Constitutional Convention, Featured, Forrest McDonald, Political Science Reviewer|

The contribution of the middle delegates—from Connecticut, Delaware, North and South Carolina—was crucial to the structural design of the Constitution. Without these these eight men, the Grand Convention might not have succeeded in its undertaking. Oliver Ellsworth Historians of the Constitutional Convention have agreed that there were divisions among the delegates, but have [...]

Conservative Scholarship and the Problem of Myth

By |2019-08-30T11:21:18-05:00October 26th, 2015|Categories: Conservatism, Featured, Myth, Timeless Essays|

(Today’s offering in our Timeless Essay series affords our readers the opportunity to join Forrest McDonald as he examines conservatism and historical scholarship. —W. Winston Elliott III, Publisher) On the face of things, conservatism and historical scholarship would appear to be antithetical ideals. A viable social order seems to require, among its other adhesives, a set [...]

Is History Subjective?

By |2016-07-04T20:41:59-05:00September 2nd, 2015|Categories: Forrest McDonald, History, Quotation|

History is a mode of thinking that wrenches the past out of context and sequence, out of the way it really happened, and reorders it in an artificial way that facilitates understanding and remembering…. Historians—whether Everyman, recalling his immediate or distant past, or professionals, attempting to reconstruct the past by studying relics of it—deal in [...]

Why Yankees Won’t (and Can’t) Leave the South Alone

By |2020-07-13T11:29:07-05:00July 30th, 2015|Categories: American Republic, Forrest McDonald, South|

The Yankees’ progressive millennialist campaign to remake America in their own image is well under way; one need only check the Yankees’ reform agenda—a host of particular items which add up to a wholesale onslaught against conventional morality, the family, and religion—to perceive that they have in mind a more drastic overhaul of our society [...]

Civil Society and Its Rivals

By |2017-02-24T14:49:36-06:00May 2nd, 2015|Categories: Books, Forrest McDonald|

Conditions of Liberty: Civil Society and Its Rivals by Ernest Gellner The existence of individual liberty as it is known in the western world is, according to the eminent social anthropologist Ernest Gellner, conditional upon the presence of civil society—institutions and associations that are strong enough to check the power of the central state but [...]

Conservative Scholarship and the Problem of Myth

By |2015-10-28T10:07:55-05:00March 30th, 2015|Categories: Forrest McDonald, History, Myth|Tags: |

On the face of things, conservatism and historical scholarship would appear to be antithetical ideals. A viable social order seems to require, among its other adhesives, a set of fictions agreed upon as truths—myths and their corresponding symbols—to provide the sense of legitimacy and purpose which are necessary if people are to live together in [...]

Original Unintentions: The Franchise and the Constitution

By |2021-03-03T16:39:48-06:00October 22nd, 2013|Categories: American Founding, American Republic, Constitution, Forrest McDonald|Tags: |

Certain features of the Constitution are almost invisible because they refer to previously existing institutions, constitutions, laws, and customs that are nowhere defined in the Constitution itself. The controversy over originalism-the question whether judges, in interpreting the Constitution, should be guided by the original intentions of the Framers or by some other standard-has generated a [...]

The Political Thought of Gouverneur Morris

By |2016-06-14T09:53:38-05:00May 18th, 2013|Categories: American Founding, Constitution, Forrest McDonald, Political Philosophy|

Gouverneur Morris As is well known, Gouverneur Morris, the New York aristocrat who represented Pennsylvania in the Philadelphia Convention of 1787, wrote the Constitution of the United States. When the Convention completed its substantive deliberations on September 10, it turned its various resolutions over to a Committee of Style and Arrangement, consisting of [...]

John Dickinson: The Most Underrated Founder?

By |2020-07-12T16:57:13-05:00June 18th, 2012|Categories: American Founding, American Republic, Books, Constitutional Convention, Forrest McDonald, John Dickinson|

John Dickinson’s standing in the American pantheon is shamefully obscure in view of his contributions toward the establishment of an independent regime of limited government, federalism, and liberty under law. Having studied eighteenth-century America all our adult lives, we are prepared to offer a generalization: the more one learns about the subject, the less prone [...]

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