A noted historical scholar, he published several influential works on the subject of America's Founding Fathers. His areas of expertise include the authorship of the Federalist Papers, the history of republicanism, and other topics related to American intellectual history.
He studied English literature at the University of the South and later attended graduate school at both Harvard and Yale. His 1943 dissertation was entitled "The Intellectual Origins of Jeffersonian Democracy: Republicanism, the Class Struggle, and the Virtuous Farmer."
He proposed a theory that the writers of the Constitution were motivated by fame.
He was born in New York and raised in Alabama. He married poet Virginia Hamilton.
He wrote extensively about the lives of Thomas Jefferson and America's other Founding Fathers.