Forrest McDonald

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.

Fellow Miracles, Let Us Rejoice Together!

By |2019-10-16T12:06:48-05:00January 19th, 2019|Categories: American Founding, Forrest McDonald|

Editor's Note: 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, [...]

George Washington: Indispensable Man

By |2019-07-03T13:05:53-05:00October 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 [...]

The Duty to be Grateful

By |2016-02-01T12:11:48-05:00January 22nd, 2016|Categories: Forrest McDonald, Quotation|

I can describe that attitude no better than by saying that one has a duty to be grateful and joyful in the very fact of one’s existence, and in the existence of one’s fellow human beings…. And given the existence of human beings, the probabilities against my own existence—or yours—are again as high as [...]

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

By |2016-02-05T11:29:12-05:00January 7th, 2016|Categories: American Founding, American Republic, Constitution, Constitutional Convention, Featured, Forrest McDonald, Political Science Reviewer|

Historians of the Constitutional Convention have agreed that there were divisions among the delegates, but have disagreed as to what those divisions were and what underlays them. It was long believed that the only significant line of division was between small states and large. Delegates from the small states, according to this view, were [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

Civil Society and Its Rivals

By |2017-02-24T14:49:36-05:00May 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 [...]

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 |2019-03-19T17:42:53-05:00October 22nd, 2013|Categories: American Founding, American Republic, Constitution, Forrest McDonald|Tags: |

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 large body of literature. The quality of the work has varied from lucid to muddle-headed, from calm and reasoned to nearly hysterical. Most writers have been [...]

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 [...]

Most Underrated Founder: John Dickinson

By |2017-01-09T13:23:15-05:00June 18th, 2012|Categories: American Founding, American Republic, Books, Constitutional Convention, Forrest McDonald, John Dickinson|

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 one becomes to make categorical statements. Who were the first to resist British encroachments upon American liberties? who were the most important figures in bringing about independence? what were [...]

The Rhetoric of Alexander Hamilton

By |2016-04-24T08:17:22-05:00June 1st, 2012|Categories: Alexander Hamilton, American Founding, American Republic, Forrest McDonald|Tags: |

The political rhetoric of the Founders of the American Republic has received scant attention from scholars. The relative neglect is understandable. On the one hand, the very concept of rhetoric has, in modern times, all but lost its classical signification, and has come to mean empty verbosity or ornament. On the other, the political [...]