Search - List of Books by Forrest McDonald
Forrest McDonald (born January 7, 1927), is an American historian who has written extensively on the early national period, on republicanism, and on the presidency. He is considered a leading conservative scholar.
Total Books: 39
McDonald was born in Orange, Texas. He took his B.A. and Ph.D. degrees (1955) from the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied with Fulmer Mood. He taught at Brown University (1959–67), Wayne State University (1967–76), and the University of Alabama (1976–2002), and is now retired from teaching.
In We The People: The Economic Origins of the Constitution he argued that Charles A. Beard (in his book An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States) had misinterpreted the economic interests involved in writing the Constitution. Instead of just two interests, landed and mercantile, which conflicted, there were three dozen identifiable interests that forced the delegates to bargain.
McDonald along with the late Grady McWhiney, has presented the "Celtic hypothesis" stating that the distinctiveness of Southern culture derives largely from the majority of the Southern population being descendants of Celtic herdsmen while the majority of the Northern population was the descendants of farmers.
In 1987, the 200th anniversary of the United States Constitution, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) selected McDonald for the Jefferson Lecture, the U.S. federal government's highest honor for achievement in the humanities. His lecture was entitled "The Intellectual World of the Founding Fathers." In a New York Times article after his selection, McDonald was quoted as saying that the federal government had "lost its capacity to protect people in life, liberty and property, to provide for the common defense, or to promote the general welfare." However, in interviews and in his Jefferson Lecture, McDonald opposed the idea of a new constitutional convention: in part because he felt that such a convention would become a "runaway" and a "catastrophe"; in part because he thought the inefficiency of the American government was a saving virtue limiting its capacity for oppression; and in part because he felt that in the present day it would be impossible to assemble a group as capable as the 55 delegates who attended the Constitutional Convention of 1787, which took place in an era McDonald called "America's Golden Age, the likes of which we shall not see again."
McDonald's lecture was later described by the noted conservative historian George H. Nash as "a luminous introduction to the intellectual world of the Founding Fathers." However, McDonald faced criticism for not acknowledging the imperfection of slavery in the original constitutional framework. The New York Times pointedly noted that on the same day as McDonald's Jefferson Lecture, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall gave a speech criticizing "complacent belief" in the perfection of the Constitution, given the stain of slavery. The Times quoted McDonald's answer that at the time of the Constitutional Convention, "Slavery was a fact. It had simply not crossed many people's intellectual or moral horizons to question it," and his further comment, "The condition of the French peasants was far worse than that of the American slaves, and that was heaven compared to the Russian serf."
"The Intellectual World of the Founding Fathers" was republished in the essay collection, Requiem: Variations on Eighteenth-Century Themes. In a 1994 interview, McDonald noted that at the time he was selected for the Jefferson Lecture, he was on record in favor of abolishing the NEH, so he had refused to accept the $10,000 award that went with the honor, although he had not made this refusal public at the time. In the same interview, asked about his political views, McDonald described himself simply as a "conservative"; when the interviewer followed up by asking, "How conservative?" McDonald responded, "Paleo."