25 January 2016

Professor Forrest McDonald: R.I.P.

America lost one of it's most gifted historians and constitutional scholars last week. Forrest McDonald was a proud Southerner so it is somewhat fitting that he passed away on January 19th, Robert E. Lee's birthday. McDonald was 89.

I've quoted Professor McDonald here on this blog numerous times. One of my favorite McDonald quotes:

I believe that somewhere, deep in the innermost recesses of their atrophied souls, Yankees know that they truly have botched things, and truly are plagued with guilt. That, I think, is the bottom line: the Yankee hates himself, and he hates his heritage. And why does he hate us? Because we do not hate ourselves and we treasure ours. ~ Forrest McDonald
Allow me to share a quote from a piece in the New York Times, marking McDonald's passing:
Forrest McDonald, a presidential and constitutional scholar who challenged liberal shibboleths about early American history and lionized the founding fathers as uniquely intellectual, died on Tuesday in Tuscaloosa, Ala. He was 89. The cause was heart failure, his daughter Marcy McDonald said.

As a Pulitzer Prize finalist in history and a professor at the University of Alabama, Dr. McDonald declared himself an ideological conservative and an opponent of intrusive government. (“I’d move the winter capital to North Dakota and outlaw air-conditioning in the District of Columbia,” he once said.) But he refused to be pigeonholed either as a libertarian or, despite his Southern agrarian roots, as a Jeffersonian.
And this from the Washington Times:
Forrest McDonald, perhaps the greatest student of the American founding, passed away late last week at the age of 89. His scholarship and work have had more impact on the understanding of the intellectual and historical context that produced the Constitution and the creation of the United States than most people appreciate.
And . . . 
All in all, Mr. McDonald taught for 50 years, authored numerous incredibly influential books and biographies and was beloved by all who knew him. I had read his books, of course, but first met him at meetings of the Philadelphia Society, an association of American conservatives of which he was a proud member and over which he once presided. He was a fascinating man who was the subject of a three-hour in depth CSPAN interview broadcast as part of the network’s Independence Day programing in 2004.  . . . Mr. McDonald was an unrepentant patriot who loved the country and delighted in both teaching and the study of history. 
And this anecdote speaks of McDonald's integrity:
In 1997, he delivered the 16th annual National Endowment for the Humanities Jefferson Lecture in Washington and met President Ronald Reagan who he admired. Although he didn’t want to make a scene, but since he had earlier called for the abolition of the NEH as a waste of taxpayers’ money, he didn’t think he could accept the $10,000 honorarium that went with being selected to give the lecture and quietly and privately refused to accept it. Within days, The New York Times, without much checking and assuming he had taken the cash, attacked him as a hypocrite for criticizing the NIH and then accepting the award. He found that both amusing and saw it as further proof that one has to take what one reads in the paper with a grain of salt.
And this about academia . . .
He was asked in that CSPAN interview about the influence of the left-wing dominance of the academy and the influence of liberal or Marxist professors on their students [something several Civil War bloggers continue to deny]. He said they didn’t much worry him because in his experience the students at most of the universities at which he had taught may have written papers and given answers to please their professors, but didn’t necessarily believe or accept them. “A student who turns in an apparently Marxist paper to get through a course taught by a Marxist isn’t necessarily a Marxist,” he said “but one who understands the market.”
And just one more reason why Professor McDonald is one of my favorite historians - from National Review:
Another historian said to me, of Forrest, that he wanted to be as un-PC as possible.
You can watch the 3 hour C-Span interview with Professor McDonald here. I'm going to watch it and I'd recommend you do so as well.


Ralph Steel said...

Odd choice of favorite quotes. If someone like Kevin Levin had posted a similar quote a favorite historian you would spend much time complaining about liberal academia and the bias of Mr. Levin.


Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

I'm not part of academia and, thus, not subject to their PC silliness. It's quite liberating.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Besides Ralph, what's wrong with the quote? McDonald isn't the only historian from within academia to voice such sentiments.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Where's your sense of humor Ralph? Loosen up a bit there partner.

Bob Smith said...

Ralph is right. Imagine if the shoe was on the other foot, you would have had a field day with the 'Marxists'. Cant see the forest for the trees, partner.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Ok. I admit it. You got me. I confess. I'm biased against Marxists.