Conceived in Liberty

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Conceived in Liberty, authored by Murray Rothbard, is a 4-volume narrative concerning the history of the United States from the pre-colonial period through the American Revolution.[1]

Brief summary[edit]

In this work of nearly 1700 pages, Rothbard states that the history of the United States has been motivated by people's pursuit of liberty, which he believes constantly being threatened by political power. Rothbard contrasts his views with what he claims are thinkers on the right who see the American Revolution as a "conservative" event, and other thinkers on the left who view it as some sort of proto-socialist uprising. Instead, Rothbard states that he views this period as a time of libertarian radicalism.

Rothbard stated that American Revolutionaries fell into two camps: The first camp was those who wanted to demolish the British Empire's state apparatus in the colonies. The other camp wanted to keep the empire, but have Americans run it. (The state apparatus could be defined as the centralized institution of the crown such as the army, taxation, church establishment, commercial regulations and trade barriers, control of land development, banking, government debt, etc.) The first camp, Rothbard opined was the more libertarian, anti-federalist camp associated with Jefferson and Jackson. The second camp was the more federalist centralizing camp, associated with Hamilton and later the Whigs. They felt that in the right hands, the power of the centralized state could serve the public interest, an interest which neatly coincided with their interests. The conflict between these two factions is another part of understanding the revolution, its outcome, and its conservative and radical aspects.

Creation of the book[edit]

Rothbard said in a 1990 interview:[2]

After the Volker Fund collapsed, I got a grant from the Lilly Endowment to do a history of the U.S., which I worked on from 1962-66. The original idea was to take the regular facts and put a libertarian assessment on everything. But once I started to work on it, I found many facts that had been left out, like tax rebellions. So it got longer and longer. It turned into the five-volume Conceived in Liberty, covering the Colonial period to the Constitution. I don't like to completely chart out my research in advance. I go step by step and it always seems to get longer than anticipated. After Arlington House published volume four, they went out of business. Volume five, on the Constitution, was written in longhand and no one can read my handwriting.

According to H.A. Scott Trask, "Rothbard began but never completed the fifth volume to his American history series Conceived in Liberty." Trask describes the fragment of the fifth volume that remains as "fascinating and brilliant."[3]

Contents of the 4 volumes[edit]

Excerpts[edit]

  • Volume I, Chapter 55, Pennsylvania's Anarchist Experiment: 1681-1690, Full text (slightly edited)
  • Volume II, Chapter 33, The Growth of Libertarian Thought in Colonial America. Full text
  • Volume II, Chapter 40, The American Colonies and the War. Online text (slightly edited)

Reviews[edit]

Mises Daily at Ludwig von Mises Institute, May 11, 2007.

Publishing history[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ WorldCat data: OCLC 44004366
  2. ^ The Science of Liberty, 1990 
  3. ^ H.A. Scott Trask (August 8, 2003), Rethinking the Articles of Confederation