Novus Ordo Seclorum:

The Intellectual Origins of the Constitution

The title, taken from the Great Seal of the United States (which is seen on the reverse side of the dollar bill), means “a new order for the ages.” In this major new interpretation of the framing of the US Constitution, Forrest McDonald brilliantly explains the philosophical origins from which this “new order” was born.

McDonald deftly recreates the intellectual world of the amazing fifty-five men whose genius and passion gave to us the United States Constitution. He explains their understanding of law, history, political philosophy, and political economy, and how these perspectives played out in the Constitutional Convention. Above all this ideology, he shows how the Framers were guided by their own experience, wisdom, and common sense.

Editorial Reviews

“A witty and energetic study of the ideas and passions of the Framers.”

New York Times Book Review

“Bristles with wit and intellectual energy.”

Christian Science Monitor

“A masterpiece. McDonald’s status as an interpreter of the Constitution is unequaled—magisterial.”

National Review

“As provocative as it is difficult to put down.”

Georgia Historical Quarterly

“Thoroughly impressive. A book that is consistently enlightening and one that, more than any of McDonald’s previous works, stands as a monument to his remarkable talents.”

William and Mary Quarterly

“The best single volume on the origins of the Constitution.”


“An important, comprehensive statement about the most fundamental period in American history. It deals authoritavely with topics no student of America can afford to ignore.”

Harvey Mansfield, author of The Spirit of Liberalism 

Author Biography

Forrest McDonald is an American historian who has written extensively on the early national period, republicanism, and the presidency and is considered a leading conservative scholar. Born in Orange, Texas, he earned his BA and PhD from the University of Texas at Austin. He taught at Brown University, Wayne State University, and the University of Alabama.

Reader Biography

Daniel Laurence holds a BFA in acting from Ithaca College. He currently lives on the East coast and works at the Shakespeare Theatre Company of New Jersey.

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