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Forrest McDonald

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 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,...

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...

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...
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(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)
Forrest McDonald

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,...

Southerners rarely while away their leisure hours by contemplating Yankees, for there is no point in thinking of unpleasant things if one is not obliged to do so. Yet the practice does have...
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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...

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 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...

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...

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...

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...

The men who established the American republic were acutely aware that they lived in a pivotal era in human history, and they eagerly rose to the occasion. They were all impelled by...