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 Review
See all reviews...

About the Author

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.