A Review of Murray N. Rothbard’s Conceived in Liberty, Vol. 5
The posthumous release of Murray Rothbard’s fifth volume of his early American history series, Conceived in Liberty, is a cause of celebration not only for those interested in the country’s constitutional period, but also for the present day as the nation is faced with acute social, economic, and political crises. The fifth volume, The New Republic: 1784-1791, stands with Boston T. Party’s 1997 release, Hologram of Liberty, as a grand rebuttal of the cherished notion held by most contemporary scholars, pundits on the Right, and, surprisingly, many libertarians who believe that the US Constitution is some great bulwark in defense of individual liberty and a promoter of economic success.
Rothbard’s narrative highlights the crucial years after the American Revolution focusing on the events and personalities that led to the calling for, drafting, and eventual promulgation of the Constitution in 1789. Not only does he describe the key factors that led to the creation of the American nation-state, but he gives an insightful account of the machinations which took place in Philadelphia and a trenchant analysis of the document itself which has become, in the eyes of most conservatives, on a par with Holy Writ.
What Might Have Been
While Rothbard writes in a lively and engaging manner, the eventual outcome and triumph of the nationalist forces leaves the reader with a certain sadness. Despite the fears expressed by the Antifederalists that the new government was too powerful and would lead to tyranny, through coercion, threats, lies, bribery, and arm twisting by the politically astute Federalists, the Constitution came into being. Yet, what if it had been the other way around and the forces against it had prevailed?
It is safe to assume that America would have been a far more prosperous and less war-like place. The common held notion that the Constitution was needed to keep peace among the contending states is countered by Rothbard, who points out a number of instances where states settled their differences, most notably Maryland and Virginia as they came to an agreement on the navigation of the Chesapeake Bay. [129-30]
Without a powerful central state to extract resources and manpower, overseas intervention by the country would have been difficult to undertake. Thus, the US’s disastrous participation in the two world wars would have been avoided. Furthermore, it would have been extremely unlikely for a Confederation Congress to impose an income tax as the federal government successfully did through a constitutional amendment in 1913.
Nor would the horrific misnamed “Civil War” ever take place with its immense loss of life and the destruction of the once flourishing Southern civilization. The triumph of the Federal government ended forever “states rights” in the US and, no doubt, inspired centralizing tendencies throughout the world, most notably in Germany which became unified under Prussian domination.
Read the rest here: https://antoniusaquinas.com/2020/02/10/the-constitution-is-the-crisis/