(born January 7
), is an American historian
who has written extensively on the early national period, on republicanism
, and on the presidency
. He is considered a leading conservative
McDonald was born in Orange, Texas. He took his B.A. and
Ph.D. degrees (1955) from the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied with Fulmer Mood. He taught at Brown University (1959–67), Wayne State University (1967–76), and the University of Alabama (1976–2002), and is now retired from teaching.
In We The People: The Economic Origins of the Constitution he argued that Charles A. Beard (in his book An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States) had misinterpreted the economic interests involved in writing the Constitution. Instead of just two interests, landed and mercantile, which conflicted, there were three dozen identifiable interests that forced the delegates to bargain.
McDonald along with the late Grady McWhiney, has presented the "Celtic hypothesis" stating that the distinctiveness of Southern culture derives largely from the majority of the Southern population being descendants of Celtic herdsmen while the majority of the Northern population was the descendants of farmers.
- Let There Be Light: The Electric Utility Industry in Wisconsin (Madison: American History Research Center, 1957)
- We The People: The Economic Origins of the Constitution (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958; new ed. New Brunswick: Transaction, 1992)
- Insull (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962)
- E Pluribus Unum: The Formation of the American Republic (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1965; new ed., Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 1979)
- The Presidency of George Washington (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1974, paperback ed., 1985)
- The Phaeton Ride: The Crisis of American Success (New York: Doubleday, 1974)
- The Presidency of Thomas Jefferson (Lawrence, University Press of Kansas, 1976; paperback ed., 1987)
- Alexander Hamilton: A Biography (New York: Norton, 1979; paperback ed., 1980)
- Novus Ordo Seclorum: The Intellectual Origins of the Constitution (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1985; paperback ed., 1987)
- Requiem: Variations on Eighteenth-Century Themes (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1988), with Ellen Shapiro McDonald
- The American Presidency: An Intellectual History (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1994; paperback ed., 1995)
- States' Rights and the Union: Imperium in Imperio, 1776-1876 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2000)
- Recovering the Past: A Historian's Memoir (2004), autobiography