Was the Unites States Conceived in Liberty?

The following is, in part, Murray N. Rothbard’s fourth volume of his magnum opus Conceived in Liberty.

For anyone who thinks of Murray Rothbard as only an economic theorist or political thinker, these four spectacular volumes are nothing short of shocking. They offer a complete history of the Colonial period of American history, a period lost to students today, who are led to believe American history begins with the US Constitution.

Rothbard’s ambition was to shed new light on Colonial history and show that the struggle for human liberty was the heart and soul of this land from its discovery through the culminating event of the American Revolution. These volumes are a tour de force, enough to establish Rothbard as one of the great American historians.

Although a detailed narrative history of the struggle between liberty and power, Rothbard offers a third alternative to the conventional interpretive devices. Against those on the right who see the American Revolution as a “conservative” event, and those on the left who want to invoke it as some sort of proto-socialist uprising, Rothbard views this period as a time of accelerating libertarian radicalism. Through this prism, Rothbard illuminates events as never before.

The volumes were brought out in the 1970s, but the odd timing and uneven distribution prevented any kind of large audience. They were beloved only by a few specialists, and sought after by many thanks to their outstanding reputation. The Mises Institute is pleased to be the publisher of the newly available set.”


Dr. Rothbard‘s Preface begins this way.


“What! Another American history book? The reader may be pardoned
for wondering about the point of another addition to the seemingly inexhaustible
flow of books and texts on American history. One problem, as
pointed out in the bibliographical essay at the end of Volume I, is that the
survey studies of American history have squeezed out the actual stuff of
history, the narrative facts of the important events of the past. With the
true data of history squeezed out, what we have left are compressed
summaries and the historian’s interpretations and judgments of the data.
There is nothing wrong with the historian’s having such judgments; indeed,
without them, history would be a meaningless and giant almanac
listing dates and events with no causal links. But, without the narrative
facts, the reader is deprived of the data from which he can himself judge
the historian’s interpretations and evolve interpretations of his own. A
major point of this and the other volumes is to put the historical narrative
back into American history.

Facts, of course, must be selected and ordered in accordance with
judgments of importance, and such judgments are necessarily tied into the
historian’s basic world outlook. My own basic perspective on the history

of man, and a fortiori on the history of the United States, is to place central

importance on the great conflict which is eternally waged between Liberty

and Power, a conflict, by the way, which was seen with crystal clarity by
the American revolutionaries of the eighteenth century. I see the liberty
of the individual not only as a great moral good in itself (or, with Lord
Acton, as the highest political good), but also as the necessary condition
for the flowering of all the other goods that mankind cherishes: moral
virtue, civilization, the arts and sciences, economic prosperity. Out of
liberty, then, stem the glories of civilized life. But liberty has always been
threatened by the encroachments of power, power which seeks to suppress,
control, cripple, tax, and exploit the fruits of liberty and production.
Power, then, the enemy of liberty, is consequently the enemy of all the
other goods and fruits of civilization that mankind holds dear. And power
is almost always centered in and focused on that central repository of
power and violence: the state. With Albert Jay Nock, the twentiethcentury
American political philosopher, I see history as centrally a race
and conflict between “social power”—the productive consequence of
voluntary interactions among men—and state power. In those eras of
history when liberty—social power—has managed to race ahead of state
power and control, the country and even mankind have flourished. In
those eras when state power has managed to catch up with or surpass social
power, mankind suffers and declines.”

Read the rest of Murray Rothbard’s treatise here.

Or, you can buy your very own four volume set of Conceived in Liberty, here.

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