Forrest McDonald (1927-2016)

Just as I was thinking about one of my favorite author-scholars today, I discovered he had very recently died.  Forrest McDonald, one of the truly great scholars of early American political thought, and long-time professor of history at the University of Alabama, passed away at the age of 89.  The first lesson I should learn is that I had better be careful who I am thinking about on a given day.  But humor (attempted) aside, McDonald wrote such impressive works as Novus Ordo Seclorum:  The Intellectual Origins of the Constitution, a work of genuine and lasting erudition, and E Puribus Unum, We the People, written in opposition to the Charles Beard thesis of the economic basis of the Constitution.  McDonald earned his Ph. D. at the University of Texas, Austin, not exactly a slouch academic institution, but also no Harvard, which only goes to show that if you are really good at your calling, you can rise above the stereotypes of academic elitism.

McDonald was also an unrepentant conservative and one-time president of the Philadelphia Society.  He wrote articles on occasion for the National Review, a little risky I suppose for a heavyweight academic, but then again, Paul Krugman does it all the time for the New York Times.

I never knew Forrest McDonald personally, and that is my loss, but as long as his works are published and read, he will continue to exert a much-needed influence among historians and political scientists.  His standards of scholarship were impeccable—just read for yourself.  I of course can say nothing about his spiritual condition, but we can claim that at the least he received much common grace.  In the academic world, we all usually (there are exceptions) stand on the shoulders of some giants, many of whom we have never met.  In this area of history and political thought I include Forrest McDonald.

One more comment.  If you haven’t read McDonald, and you enjoy reading about the intellectual foundations of the United States Constitution and government, you can hardly do better, especially Novus Ordo Seclorum

3 thoughts on “Forrest McDonald (1927-2016)”

  1. I ill use his book in American Constitutional History (A CONSTITUTIONAL HISTORY OF THE US). It has been out of print for years. But a few years ago he kindly gave me permission to make as many copies as needed. Great book, great author and scholar. I just saw him yesterday on a Bill Moyers DVD series about the Constitution.

  2. I don’t follow that type of reading normally, but I may check some of McDonald’s books. Thanks so much for reference and it sounds like he lived a long and rewarding life.

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