Forrest McDonald, 1927-2016

From the New York Times:

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…

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.

His becoming an avowed conservative, one colleague suggested, was prompted by the liberal backlash to his early research, which cast Wisconsin’s public utility companies in a favorable light and repudiated Charles A. Beard’s theory that the Constitution was framed to preserve the personal wealth of a ruling elite.

In his book “The American Presidency: An Intellectual History,” published in 1994, Dr. McDonald concluded that “the caliber of the people who have served as chief executive has declined erratically but persistently from the day George Washington left office.”

But he added a caveat: “The presidency has been responsible for less harm and more good, in the nation and in the world, than perhaps any other secular institution in history.”