Variations on Eighteenth-Century Themes
Forrest McDonald and Ellen Shapiro
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.”
“Requiem is vintage Forrest McDonald. Lay readers will discover an active and agile mind addressing a wide range of historical questions and providing answers in a deliberately provocative fashion.”
—History: Reviews of New Books
“Requiem offers a delightfully readable invitation to do battle with great minds of the past—and the present.”
—North Carolina Historical ReviewSee all reviews...
“These essays tackle head-on some highly controversial subjects. They challenge prevailing liberal interpretations of the evolution of the Constitution in a manner guaranteed to promote reflection, cerebration, and even debate. . . . Well-written, well-crafted, strongly argued and with the strong opinions that we have come to expect from McDonald, this book should make an important contribution to our understanding of the making of the Constitution and the age in which it was crafted.”
—Robert B. Morris, Gouverneur Morris Professor Emeritus, Columbia University, and author of The Forging of the Union, 1781–1789
“This book is enormously learned, covering a wide range of territory in the intellectual, political, social, and military history of the late eighteenth century. It is also provocative—even pugnacious—both in its championing of the McDonalds’ eighteenth-century heroes—John Dickinson and Alexander Hamilton—and in its condemnation of those developments that have caused the American government to stray from the original precepts of its founders.”
—Richard R. Beeman, editor of Beyond Confederation: Origins of the Constitution and American National IdentitySee fewer reviews...