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Forrest McDonald

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...
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“Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.” —Sun-tzu, ca. 400 BC; or Machiavelli, 1520 AD (maybe) —Michael Corleone, The Godfather Part II, 1974 (certainly) Forrest McDonald, the greatest historian of the era of...

Forrest McDonald did not set out to be a historian. Had he been able to hit a curveball, he would likely have been a professional baseball player. “I believed, and believe to this day,” McDonald...

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...

Editor's Note: The great American historian Forrest McDonald (1927-2016) passed away this week at the age of eighty-nine. The following remarks by Stephen Klugewicz and Lenore Ealy, former students of Dr. McDonald, were delivered at...

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 John Willson as he examines an "economy" and what that really means. —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...

Alexander Hamilton: A Biography, by Forrest McDonald (New York: W. W. Norton & Co.) That Alexander Hamilton was among the most luminous and creative of the Founding Fathers every schoolboy has at least an inkling. That...
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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...

“History is marble, and remains forever cold, even under the most artistic hand, unless life is breathed into it by the imagination. Then the marble becomes flesh and blood—then it feels, it thinks, it moves, and is immortal.”–Charles Gayarré (1805-1895)