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 a commentary on developments that have caused American government or 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."