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In eleven provocative essays Forrest McDonald and his wife, Ellen Shapiro McDonald, cover a wide range of the intellectual, political, military, and social history of the eighteenth century to present both a picture of the age in which our Constitution was crafted and commentary on developments that have caused American government to stray from the Founders’ principles. Appearing here in print for the first time is Forrest McDonald’s widely acclaimed 1987 NEH Jefferson lecture, “The Intellectual World of the Founding Fathers.” In other essays the McDonalds examine such topics as the writing of the Constitution, the central role of such little-known Founders as John Dickinson (“the most underrated of all the Founders”), and the constitutional principles of Alexander Hamilton. Also presented is an exploration of the ritualistic aspects of eighteenth-century warfare and an analysis of Shays’ Rebellion as a tax revolt. In chapters focusing on the separation of powers, the political economy, and the death of federalism, the McDonalds argue the urgent need to “return to limited government under law.” Description Forrest McDonald (1927–2016) was professor of history at the University of Alabama for more than twenty-five years. He is the author or coauthor of fourteen books, including Novus OrdoSeclorum: The Intellectual Origins of the Constitution, which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in history. Joining him formally as coauthor is his wife and longtime intellectual partner, Ellen Shapiro McDonald. Though she worked with her husband on all of his publications, she chose to only be formally credited as coauthor on this project and as coeditor of Confederation and Constitution, 1781–1789. This Kansas Open Books title is funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Humanities Open Book Program.



Publication Date



University Press of Kansas


xii, 220 pp.


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© 1988 by the University Press of Kansas. All rights reserved. The text of this book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License.

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Open Access

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