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.
The Presidency of George Washington / the Presidency of Thomas Jefferson / the Presidency of James Madison / the Presidency of James Monroe / the Presidencies of William Henry Harrison and John Taylor / and Others
Oct 01, 1996; The Presidency of George Washington. By FORREST McDONALD. American Presidency Series. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1974....