Conceived in Liberty, Volume IV
The Revolutionary War, 1775-1784
by Murray N. Rothbard
Dr. Rothbard starts Volume IV with how the news of Lexington and Concord spread. Determined, individualistic, armed Americans used their heads and prevailed against the British, and this attack by the British is what started the Revolutionary War (1).
The next job for the Americans was to raise an army because it was a sure thing the British would attack again. The call for soldiers was answered practically overnight by 20,000 men who seemed to pop out of the ground (2).
Two committees were set up: one to investigate what had happened in Lexington and Concord so as to get the facts straight, and the other to draw up a narrative based on these findings, so as to get the truth out to the media. The head of the narrative committee was unfortunately a turncoat, and the committee under him jumped the gun and wrote an exaggerated account. Rumors tend to multiply, and whenever the account was passed from one person to another it was embellished further (3).
Word spread to England. Money was raised to help out the widows and orphans of those the British had killed. The Crown not only imprisoned the money-raiser but denied the whole story. When official word arrived, the Crown was a laughing-stock! (4).
Opposition in England to the war was very widespread, and many in the army resigned their posts. They believed that they must be on the side of their “fellow subjects” against the Crown (5).
One has to laugh about this: After Lexington and Concord, the defeated British cried like little kids, “No fair!” The Americans, rather than marching in formation out on to the field as in “conventional” warfare, shot from behind trees and walls as in guerrilla warfare. They had better sense than to strut on to any open field! (6). When you are at war you had better use your brains or your brains will be shot out. What did these British think this was? A rugby game? No fair, my foot.
The Americans had home field advantage, so to speak, and mass support, and they used it. This was a guerrilla war, a war of national liberation, and individuals were still responsible for their jobs and to their families. There was no top-down bureaucratic control. They were relying on the zeal of the participants. This was the libertarian way to fight a libertarian war (7).
The tactics, however, were not perfect. They had 20,000 individuals keeping 4,000 British in Boston, and many began to go back home. Also, the American leader, Joseph Warren, took the step of calling for a conventional army to replace the militiamen, with actual enlistments until the end of the year (8).
The Continental Congress met again, and because of middle-of-the-roaders and conservatives, they were lukewarm, especially since Fort Ticonderoga had been captured from the British. This was regarded as offensive rather than defensive, and they didn't like it (9). Eventually, they agreed to keep it rather than turn it back to the British (10).
The Continental Congress then turned its attention to the army surrounding Boston. Massachusetts asked to form its own government, which was approved but only on a temporary basis until such time as it reconciled with the British. The same conservative Congress counseled New York that, if the British were to land there, there should be no resistance. And they pleaded with Britain for negotiation. Of course, the radicals were livid (11).
Later the Congress decided to raise and supply an army, which consisted partially of marksmen who had fought at Concord. They needed to pick a commander. John Adams, of course, wanted the soldiers to vote. The libertarians caved on the issue, and pro-oligarchy George Washington was selected. Both Adamses were beginning to move in a conservative direction (getting old perhaps) and gave the selection the nod. At least in this instance he could be depended on (12).
Dr. Rothbard states that a fellow named Charles Lee would have been a far better candidate and devotes a whole chapter, Chapter 6, to him (13).
To contrast: Washington was an oligarchic conservative and wanted to arrange the military along the top-down European model. Lee was an individualist steeped in libertarian thought and could see the flaws in the traditional military model. Lee was the rare individual who was both an intellectual and a good soldier. He was one of the few Americans who had military experience, including guerrilla experience. But he had no political base, and, although eminently qualified, he was not chosen. By comparison, Washington was mediocre at best.
Lee did not mince any words when he talked about the British; George III was a ”reptile” and Parliament was a “den of thieves” (14). Well, we have that sort in office today, too. Too bad there are not that many Charles Lees around.
Charles Lee's pamphlets were a major encouragement to the Americans and these were one reason they did not lose heart (15).
Lee did wind up as a general. George Washington acknowledged Lee's expertise and went to bat for him at the Continental Congress (16).
While all this was going on the Battle of Bunker Hill ensued. The British won, but a lot of their men died and their generals made foolhardy decisions, being so sure they were better (17).
When Washington took command, he immediately transformed the army from self-responsible, free individuals who thought for themselves into automatons of various ranks. Discipline was strict, punishments were brutal and pay was low. Of course, boredom and mutinous attitudes replaced the desire to do one's part for a cause. At the end of enlistment, most left and had to be replaced (18).
Armies, obviously, have to be financed, especially traditional armies. To supply guerrilla armies is simpler, as the soldiers are living at home, or close by, and working at regular jobs, and voluntary contributions supply the army. Traditional armies have to be fed, clothed, and sheltered. How would this be handled? It was up to the Continental Congress (19). Since the Continental Congress was not really a government, it could not tax, especially since the Americans were conducting an anti-tax revolution. Instead they borrowed. They also printed out “money” that was not backed up by gold or any other commodity. It was a conservative, landed, aristocratic member who came up with that idea, which we have learned is extremely dangerous at best (20). Each colony would be responsible for redemption based on its relative population. This was a tax, but a delayed one. Of course, we know what happened. The bills were soon “not worth a continental.”
The Revolution was stymied in other ways. There were authoritarian tactics, such as the jailing in New York of those who would not sign a statement agreeing to support the Congress (21), and the rightward drift of some revolutionary leaders.
The radicals did not always behave in libertarian ways, either. They formed committees to persuade the Tories to come over to their side and if that didn't work, bullying tactics were used (22). The committees were responsible to no one.
There were lots of Tories in the country. New York and Georgia seemed to have the highest percentage. They were of all incomes and walks of life, but royal bureaucrats, to no one's surprise, tended more to be Tories (23). These were not mobilized by the British because for a long time the British did not take the Revolution seriously. Like most counter-revolutionaries, they believed that this was just a little rebelliousness that would play itself out like a child's tantrum. This is infuriating to us who want to be free, but it actually works in our favor, since the opponents fritter away their time laughing while we get a head start on them in gaining our freedom. Remember that when you are in that position. But also remember that this does not mean that you have a moment to waste.
How these Tories were treated in various places is really embarrassing: It was actually illegal to support the Crown, and Tories were imprisoned and lost their property (24). This was very un-libertarian, of course, and today's dissidents are very much against this sort of thing since the wind is now definitely blowing in the direction of outlawing dissent. You do not need a weatherman to see that.
This was not good, but a past blunder came back to haunt the Americans. The Indians tended to side with the British because it was the colonists who had taken their land, and the British had treated them more like what they were (25). The black slaves were also inclined to favor Britain, probably for similar reasons (26).
Dr. Rothbard describes the offenses and defenses of both Tories and rebels as the book really gets under way. I don't think there is any need for a blow-by-blow account. Suffice it to say that there was a lot of activity by Americans on both sides. The rebels were able to hold their own against the Tories and the British.
Offshore, however, it was a whole new ballgame. The British ruled the sea, and Americans out there could not turn to supporters for help (27). American ships went on the offensive conducting surprise raids on the British, to get their gunpowder and other supplies. After the British punished them by burning down an entire town, the Americans sailed to the British West Indies and Bermuda to raid their stores (28). However, the main activity was on the part of private ships defending the harbor (29).
Privateering was relatively inexpensive and efficient, not to mention libertarian. It was so successful that General Washington imitated some privateer methods on his own ships (30).
Later, the Continental Congress acknowledged the privateers and their work, and provided them with letters of marque and reprisal (31).
As for international trade, there was some back-and-forth, but in April, 1776, the Continental Congress declared all trade to be free except with Britain. This was a big step toward independence (32). However, the Congress did institute price ceilings on salt and other commodities that were in short supply which, of course aggravated the economic problems (33).
There was a major gunpowder problem. No gunpowder, no revolution. Subsidies did not help in manufacturing gunpowder when there was very little manufacturing in a new country that was almost all agriculture. In the largest city at the time, Philadelphia, powder factories sprang up (34). This was amazingly quick compared to today's glacial pace even with all our technology. The point proven here is not the urgency factor, but the fact that today's regulatory climate slows things down to a glacial pace.
In the end, gunpowder had to be imported. But from where? When Dutch and French merchants became optimistic about the war's outcome, they started selling powder, and lots of it, to the Americans. Arms and powder soon started to come in, but by a southern route, presumably to avoid the British (35).
The arms themselves were manufactured in Pennsylvania, where there was an abundance of iron ore (36). Other colonists pitched in, including individual blacksmiths (hooray for lack of permits and licenses!), in making munitions.
Because cloth for clothing which was no longer imported from Britain was becoming scarce, households stepped up to the plate and compensated (37). Again, lack of permitting requirements made something simple that would be difficult or impossible today.
A free country was being born! It must have been exciting to watch. In 2010, it is tragic to have to watch it die.
But not all the war purchases were free market. The Continental Congress appointed secret committees composed mainly of conservatives that gave lucrative contracts to favored firms to purchase raw materials abroad and manufacture items needed on a “cost-plus” (guaranteed profit) basis. This means the government will buy the items for what it costs to make them, plus a given percentage for profits (38). Do the math. The incentive is to spend as much on production as possible.
To add insult to injury, the members of these secret committees were businessmen themselves, so guess who got the contracts (39). And to think the Revolution was supposed to be to throw off the yoke of mercantilism!
Meanwhile, in England, the popular sentiment was against the Americans (40). An army was being raised to send to the colonies by hiring mercenaries from other countries. After being turned down by two countries, England finally rented 30,000 troops from Germany. The German people, who, having read Rousseau and Voltaire, supported the Americans, protested this renting-out of their troops. In the end, 7,500 of these were killed and another 5,000 defected to the Americans (41).
The advent of these foreign troops convinced the Americans of the need for independence, if they were not already convinced. Leaders called for the opening of ports to all maritime powers (presumably to help) and the confiscation of Tory property (not really very libertarian; “confiscate” is a synonym for steal). These were the key planks in the radical platform (42).
After Lexington and Concord, two very basic and important decisions had to be made by the colonies. One was whether to push forward toward independence from Britain. That seems like a no-brainer to me. The other was what kind of government(s) to set up (43). At the time it was pretty decentralized; the ruling was done by committees of safety and town councils. My question: Why change? The Continental Congress was asked and answers would depend on the composition of Congress, Tory or radical, and how members felt about severing ties with Britain. Not everybody was that enthusiastic about that at the time.
New Hampshire was advised to form a new government which it did. The first constitution in America was written. It had the most liberal suffrage laws to date: Just about all adult male residents could vote. A bi-cameral legislature was formed. Nobody was completely satisfied but it was a definite step forward for democracy (44). Some were so dissatisfied that they refused to participate, mainly because the upper house (Council) was too much like the old oligarchy (45).
New England was ready for independence, but some in other colonies were not. The residual idea, actually superstition, of looking up to the king as better had not been entirely shed. It was taboo to attack the king. To cut away at these notions required a writer of top intellect and integrity. That person appeared: He was Thomas Paine. Paine had been a poor boy in England who had educated himself and worked in a few different fields including as a petty bureaucrat and tax collector. Losing his job, he emigrated to America, where he got a job as a magazine editor. He became a superb writer and got his reputation as a libertarian when he published an attack on slavery (46).
Then Paine urged the Quakers to take up arms in defense of liberty against the British. His Common Sense went viral! This was the shot in the arm the Revolution needed. There was either independence or there was slavery. Americans must choose. Then he attacked the taboo, and called King George “the royal brute of Great Britain,” and Americans ate it up. This was the nourishment they needed (47).
Thomas Paine did not stop with that. He attacked the very institution of monarchy, referring to the Old Testament Jews who were fine without a king. Kings were “crowned ruffians” and states were born in naked conquest and plunder (48).
He also distinguished society (meaning the marketplace and voluntary human association) from government (force) (49), Dr. Rothbard says.
Even then, Paine did not stop but rather went on to describe the ideal foreign policy, and what that boiled down to was free trade with all, but entangling alliances with none (50), says Dr. Rothbard, an idea echoed by Jefferson. The empire America has now become and the trade restrictions we are languishing under thanks to NAFTA, GATT, WTO, etc. are the precise opposite of what he had in mind. I believe he was correct.
Furthermore, Paine called for a government (or state and local governments, rather) whose main job is to protect the rights of individuals (51). Today we have a government that is doing everything but that (51). Also, people need to think. There is nothing like the bright light of reason shining on authority to bring it down (52).
This is all beautiful to a radical like me. But not everyone in the colonies agreed. Plenty of people did not even want independence. When it became obvious that supporters of independence were winning, that minority decided that independence would be OK as long as oligarchic rule was set up at home (53).
Then there were some pro-independence people who had been radical on the independence issue but were conservative on domestic issues. Dr. Rothbard says that as a revolution progresses, factions are bound to occur. People do not always stick to principles behind the revolution (54).
Massachusetts was a good example of radicals on independence being conservative on domestic issues. Dr. Rothbard says that there had been so little Tory opposition to radicalism there that people became lax. Even the Adamses became domestic conservatives. There seemed to be no radical anchor for principles. In fact, John Adams was angered by Common Sense (55).
So, how would governments develop? Adams' ideas were better than the British Oligarchy, with some checks and balances, but were not as democratic as they could be. They were a sort of middle ground (56).
In Massachusetts, a new cadre of libertarian radicals came on the scene to fight for pro-freedom changes, one being the disestablishment of the Congregational Church, and another being the end of Assembly people putting themselves in other civil and military offices. The leadership was made up of young college graduates and centered in Berkshire, out in western Massachusetts. The Rev. Thomas Allen was at the forefront, and he traveled around calling for a new libertarian constitution. The movement was called the Berkshire Constitutionalist Movement. Even the most modest proposal got them called anarchists. So Allen wrote a lengthy article on their views and, as it turns out, the critics were not far wrong. Allen pointed out that, since the suspension of government, the people lived in peace (57). And indeed they had, calling into question the necessity of government above the local level, if even that.
In his efforts, Allen referred to Paine's Common Sense (58). He also referred to James Burgh's Political Disquisitions, another radical liberal work widely read (59).
In the drive toward independence, there was a lot of back-and-forth about the set-up of governments. Should law-making bodies be bicameral or unicameral? Who should be allowed to vote? What about term limitations?
In Virginia, the first bill of rights, a radical libertarian idea, came about, amid much discussion and amendment. This, the Virginia Declaration of Rights, is one of the great documents of American history. It acknowledged the fact that rights are derived from nature rather than government and set the pattern of bills of rights (60).
One of the Tory arguments against independence was by Anglican priest Charles Inglis in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania seemed to lean away from independence. He really came to the root of the matter: Which comes first, meaning which gets priority, the individual or society? He opposed John Locke and Thomas Paine (61).
To me, there is really no discussion necessary. We do not have to debate on whether the earth is flat. The idea that society or the group is more important than the individual has no more credibility than does the earth being flat. I will not elaborate yet again. Suffice it to say that without individuals there would be no group or society. Groups are formed to benefit individuals in them, not the other way around. Families, neighborhoods, even nations exist to benefit their members. Any group of no use to any individual disbands, unless it is being forced to stay together.
In many cases, those who opposed independence on the grounds that democracy would be the “tyranny of the many” were really afraid of losing their special privileges (62), although I will be the first to agree that democracy can be as tyrannical as any king. But the fact is government officials were greedy then and are greedy now. They want the status quo so their pockets go on being lined. This applies to all levels of government, and also to government wannabes like the United Nations. That is why people who need help go on being unhelped despite grandiose claims on the part of officials that government (or the U.N.) is there to help them.
Opponents of independence also said the evil inherent in human nature was such that a strong government is needed. Thomas Paine pointed out the rather obvious flaw here: If humans are so evil they need to be ruled, then who will rule them? Other imperfect humans? (63).
Except New York, all the colonies came over to the independence side by late June, 1776 (64).
On July 2, an independence resolution that bore a strong resemblance to the coming Declaration of Independence, and that had been presented by Richard Henry Lee a few weeks before, was ratified by the Continental Congress. With that, these United Colonies were born (65).
Two days later, on July 4, 1776, Thomas Jefferson presented another declaration for the purposes of explaining the ideas behind the first declaration, and this came up for a vote. This was the Declaration of Independence we are, or should be, familiar with (66). Dr. Rothbard quotes passages and makes comments (67). It said that rights come from God, not from the government, that all people have the same rights (this is what “created equal” means), that government's sole purpose is to secure these rights, and that when government is derelict in that duty, the people have the right to abolish it and make a new one. (Editor’s note: Abraham Lincoln, in one of his debates with Stephen Douglas, echoed these sentiments, but apparently he didn’t mean it.)
I wonder what Jefferson would have said about today's government that is doing everything except securing our rights? (68).
The Declaration of Independence was a break with the past and the beginning of a bright future (69). New York had joined the rest, and there were celebrations throughout these new United States. An effigy of King George was paraded and a lead statue of him was toppled and turned into bullets (70) which were on hand for the newly freed people to defend their freedom. The British might try anything; they had all these German troops offshore, and they were just crazy enough to make false moves.
The British were planning to invade relatively friendly New York, and then branch out, isolating radical New England from moderate colonies to the south (71).
However, the British did not try very hard. They committed so many errors it was clear they did not have their hearts in the war. Some claimed what the generals really wanted was to reconcile, not to fight. Of course, King George wanted to completely vanquish the Americans (72). As many errors as General Washington made, it was just as well that the British generals did not really want to fight (73).
According to Murray Rothbard, General Washington went on making errors, and by the end of 1777, his men were half-starved, half-clothed and out in the winter winds as disease spread through his army. They were reduced to stealing from the citizens (73). But his chief rival for the General position was ill and his clout was such that he was able to stay on (74).
Washington was still convinced that a traditional, hierarchical army could fight better, even though guerrilla fighting had saved the day. A soldier from Prussia, Baron von Steuben, who was not either a baron or a general, came into the army and quickly rose to the top, as Washington approved of his “Prussianizing” the army, meaning he turned self-starting, independent men into order-obeying automatons (75). I have to think of how our schools have been changed in this manner which is why the “education” in this country has nose-dived.
Meanwhile, around the time the Declaration of Independence was signed, the “Plan of 1776” was adopted to set treaty policies. The policies were libertarian, i.e., entangling alliances with none, but freedom of trade with all. This was a statement on how nations should deal with one another. Free trade would be of mutual benefit. Governments were to stay out of the way. Militarism was to be regarded as old fashioned (76).
Dr. Rothbard, who was apparently versed in military strategy, gave a blow-by-blow account of the war and critiqued the generals' strategies on both sides, often remarking how it was the people, who had no qualms about keeping arms for self-defense, who often saved the day with guerrilla warfare.
Then, he gets into the political history from 1776 to 1778. The most important event was a move toward a formal confederation of states. The radicals wanted a loose confederation rather than a strong central government (77). And, obviously, they were right. We now have a strong central government with precious little accountability, and look at what has happened.
The conservatives, particularly the financial oligarchs, did want a strong central government, so as to reinstate mercantilism and special privilege (for themselves) a la Britain (78). The conservatives tried a ruse: They claimed that a central government would protect individual rights by curtailing the states. Many fell for that (79). The problem with that notion is it is easier for individuals to protect their rights at the local and state level than at the federal level. One individual has more clout locally (that is not saying much in 2010). And, since when can you trust government, any government?
In the interim, the conservatives tried to bolster the Continental Congress’ power over the states and the people. They were aiming at something much stronger and more binding, a sort of harbinger of Abraham Lincoln (80).
This controversy was raging as they were hammering out the Articles of Confederation. In the end, the Articles leaned more toward centralization than we libertarians and the radicals in the Congress would like. There were many centralist provisions such as the prohibition of the states keeping their own armies and navies, and the requirement that states supply revenue to Congress based on land values and other considerations (81).
One really good thing in the Articles was term limits for Congressmen, and limits on their serving in another important office at the same time (82).
The real radicals did not wish to ratify the Articles for a very good reason: once the war was over there was no need for a confederation (83). Had I lived at that time I would have agreed, as those who were pushing for a confederation were centralists and were up to no good.
Dr. Rothbard, upon starting a chapter on radical victory in Pennsylvania, states this victory is “the most exciting political event in the years after the Declaration of Independence” (84).
The radicals had been forced to form a dual government in the face of conservative opposition. A state constitution was drafted by a convention of delegates elected by the people, who had the audacity to think for themselves rather than to automatically vote-in incumbents. The state constitution included a bill of rights. These rights bore a similarity to the Bill of Rights we should all be enjoying. One was particularly interesting to this fiercely pro-Second Amendment libertarian and that was the right to be a conscientious objector to bearing arms!
In other states, the fight over constitutions was basically the same: The rights of the individual vs. traditional British-style oligarchic rule vs. many shades in between.
Dr. Rothbard then turns back to the war itself. In and around New York City, the British were stationed. There were major problems for the American soldiers, aside from shortages of food, etc. They were being forced by General Washington to behave like a traditional army, rather than the guerrillas they were cut out to be. Worse, they were suffering under increasing inflation which caused market prices to skyrocket, while states pursued the Nixonian policy of price ceilings. Of course this creates shortages. Soldiers were forced by hunger to steal from nearby farmers (85).
There were desertions, mutinies, and illnesses which seriously stymied the war effort. But, the regular people dug in their heels against the British, and that was what saved the day.
Well, if there is one thing that will bring a good person down it is someone of the opposite sex. Benedict Arnold had been a fine American soldier, bravely leading the fight against the British on many fronts, until in 1779 he fell in more ways than one. He fell for an aristocratic Tory woman and married her. This woman was apparently accustomed to a high life-style, and Arnold needed extra money. Money is another thing that will bring a good person down. He made a deal with the British and was paid 10,000 pounds by them, a fabulous sum in those days (not too shabby today) to maneuver for command of an important American fort at West Point and then surrender it to the British. However, his British contact was caught and he himself fled to New York where he was made a general for the British. This is how the name “Benedict Arnold” became a synonym for “traitor” (86).
I wonder what you would call today's government officials who took an oath to defend and protect the Constitution and then fail to do so. If you are ever tasered by an official, will you scream out the “T” word? Why not? It will not harm. I am not sure which police are sworn to defend and protect the Constitution, but why not yell it? The person who is tasering you is not listening, but those nearby are.
Benedict Arnold committed treason, pure and simple. But, what about private citizens and companies trading with private citizens and companies in an enemy country? It does benefit both ends of the trade, obviously, but does it benefit the enemy country in such a way as to harm one's own country? Dr. Rothbard does not directly answer this, but seems to think it is all right to trade like that (87).
Dr. Rothbard continues at length on the war in the mid-west. I won't say much, only that each side inflicted cruelties on the other and both sides dug in their heels. It went on for a considerable time.
He remarks that it is typical of imperialists who are invading to tend to think that the common people are for them, and that the rebellion is caused by a few rabble-rousers (88). Not true. He was right, I think, and I believe that his idea is right today about Iraq and Afghanistan. The establishment is telling us otherwise, but people there would just as soon be left alone.
Actually, contrary to what is generally believed, most people in America did support the Revolution (89). Those who were lukewarm became supportive when the British maltreated them, one example being the South Carolina back country. The British took charge believing the people would be in their corner, but their martial law only served to drive the people into the American camp (90).
But, of course atrocities occurred on both sides as is usual during war. One American set of atrocities was an attack on some Indians who had not fought on the side of the British (91).
Cornwallis's surrender at Yorktown did not bring a screeching halt to the war, as word of this did not reach those fighting out west. But in England they were stunned. They were sustaining losses in the war against France and Spain too, among other losses (92). The Yorktown loss and the tax burden bolstered opposition to the war. The British government made the same kinds of appeals that the Bush administration made about the Iraq war: They just couldn't let the American Tories down. The Tories would be left holding the bag, and whatever would they do without the British (93)? (I know. The American Tories would just accept living in a freer country or go back to England. That's what they'd do.) The British were “winning,” victory was imminent – “mission accomplished” – so, how could the British just pack up and leave (94)?
And, of course, there was the “domino theory.” The loss of America could mean the loss of the West Indies and the loss of American trade (95).
In other words, the King's fat-cat cronies stood to gain from the continuation of the war (96). Parliament gradually came around to the anti-war position and voted to pull troops out of that part of America.
The Americans had learned a valuable lesson, the lesson of Edmund Burke: It is important to remain true to principles and not form coalitions with those who are soft on principle (97). Had the Americans been more moderate and pragmatic, we might have been under the British today. Freedom fighters cannot soften up or give up.
The war was won, not in spite of, but because it was a people's war fought by people who wanted freedom, in a manner of free-spirited people (98).
The radicals learned, or should have learned, a very hard lesson in sticking to principle. All of this took place before Dr. Rothbard, Ludwig von Mises, or any of the hard-core Austrian economists were born so none of the Founders had any way of knowing much about economic theory except to reason things out. So, during the Revolutionary War, wartime inflation was extreme (the “Continentals” soon were “not worth a Continental”), and governments, particularly at the state level, did what Richard Nixon did to combat inflation. They imposed price ceilings. Unlike Nixon, Mr. Establishment, who was the fat-cat's fat-cat, they really thought this was helpful to Joe Average, but as time went on they saw the havoc that price controls always create, and the more astute, liberal and conservative, rich and poor alike turned against the controls, calling for totally free, unrestrained trade. Meanwhile, the government tried all kinds of clumsy schemes to halt inflation which failed, and the Continental went belly-up (99).
The inflation resulted in something else very pernicious, however. The conservatives, especially in New York and Pennsylvania, used this as a reason to re-institute the old British system of a strong central government that would control monetary and fiscal (especially tax) policies. They wanted to form a central bank (100). We learned from Dr. Rothbard last winter some of the history of central banking and the havoc it wreaks and is still wreaking. These ideas did have legs, since there was a turn to a more conservative stance within the states, and individual rights, including voting rights, were being discussed (101).
In fact, worse, the conservatives were thinking military dictatorship! But the sharp rightward turn showed the oligarchs that they could meet their goals without that (102). The conservatives moved ahead very quickly to set up bureaucratic agencies, each headed by one man, the Office of Finance, with Robert Morris at the head, being very powerful indeed. In fact, Morris, a very conservative oligarch, could practically write his own ticket (103). All the power seemed to gravitate to him. Three days into his appointment, Morris had a bill introduced to create the country's first central bank. Morris probably knew that, what with the sorry state of money at the time, this would line his and his cronies' pockets (104). Well, isn't that what a central bank is really for? To enrich the establishment?
Morris admitted as much! (105). Most politicians and top bureaucrats are too cowardly to admit that they are looking out for themselves and their fat-cats, rather they become expert at rationalizing their policies as furthering the national interest. The Three Enemies I then wrote on, and Presidents Wilson, Nixon, and Obama come to mind in particular.
Robert Morris was a top bureaucrat, heading a top department that had control over not just monetary policy but fiscal policy as well. He had messed up the money supply and was going to “fix” that by messing up the marketplace with the high hidden taxes that inflation causes, and overt taxation too. The debt grew.
The war could have been paid for in a decentralized manner by forwarding war costs to the states. But of course the centralists would not allow that. They wanted the central government to be able to tax the people rather than request the states for the money (106). This is not what the Sons of Liberty, who fought and died, had in mind! But the central government's ability to tax was key to the conservative counter-revolution.
Morris did leave soldier payments to the states, but he made sure his bureaucrats were paid amply and on time (107).
It was difficult to levy federal taxes under the Confederacy. So, the conservatives turned to tariffs. It started with a 5 percent import duty, which was actually the camel's nose in the tent (108). While the libertarian movement was all but dead, one libertarian writer did warn that the import duty would give rise to other taxes and that bureaucrats would multiply like rabbits (109). He didn't say it quite that way, of course, but it reminds me of the Bush era when bureaucrats did multiply like rabbits and continue to do so under Obama.
Fortunately, the tariff, which would have had to be ratified by all the states, failed as Rhode Island and Virginia wound up giving thumbs down (110).
The conservatives did not want to give up, but they knew they should hurry, as the war was about to conclude, ending war as an excuse for centralization. They decided that army officers should retire with half pay as was standard in traditional armies abroad. A standing army was also a goal which was contrary to what the Sons of Liberty fought and died for. The states, more inclined to be radical, along with Congress, balked at this. The officers sent a delegation to Congress demanding back pay and half pay, or else. They also met with conservative leaders about a central government which could levy taxes to pay officers. Congress knew that failure to cooperate would lead to violence.
Morris twisted arms. He threatened to resign unless Congress demand the states pay their shares of the national debt, and if they did not within a yea,r Congress should seize its own ability to tax. This was as unconstitutional as it gets. Between this and the army's threats (which their commander Washington averted), Congress finally granted five years full pay to the officers (which I don't think they got). As for the tax, they also reinstated a reduced tariff, and added an estate tax as a compromise measure, and Morris stayed on (111).
Robert Morris's post, however, deteriorated and his power was reduced to administrative tasks. Many of his conservative cronies left office and went to work elsewhere (112).
Also, the central bank was turned into a private commercial bank. The central taxing power had mostly failed, as did a standing army. So, at that point, the conservative movement had lost its steam but was far from dead. They bided their time, organizing (113).
Their organization reminds me a bit of Skull and Bones. It would be hereditary, the eldest sons of members allowed to join along with some true-blue aristocratic reactionaries. This was called the Order of the Cincinnati, and was a real menace (114).
Dr. Rothbard is winding down the book, and thus the entire series. (Thank goodness! Spring is here and I want out!) He cautions us not to believe the myths about the American Revolution the neoconservatives would have us believe. It was a real, honest-to-goodness Revolution. People were hurt, people died and property was destroyed. It was a war, no two ways about it (115).
The good guys won. But, being the imperfect human beings they were, when it was over, they did not leave the vanquished Tories alone. Of course, it was also true that gangs of Tories did inflict violence which needed to be dealt with. They had been deprived of rights and property, taxed specially, rounded up, even enslaved because of their opinions. There were cases of their families being held hostage. They might even be deported if they refused to sign a loyalty oath to the United States. Accusations of being a Tory were almost like a witch hunt (116).
This just goes to show what happens when human beings follow the crowd rather than to think for themselves as individuals. This happened during the Salem witch hunt, it happened during and after the Revolutionary War, it happened during the FDR regime with its internment of Americans of Japanese, German, and Italian ancestry, and it is happening now with this “War on Terror.” We dissidents need to step up our dissent and also be on our toes lest the establishment cause real trouble.
One bright side, in North Carolina, was that the last remnants of feudalism were ended when large Tory land holdings were confiscated and re-sold in small parcels (117). Not that I advocate the taking of honestly acquired land no matter how much the owner has (if it was really honest which in this case I don't know), but at least the little guy was cut into the deal.
There was some graft and corruption. Whenever government is in charge, politicians, bureaucrats, and their cronies always seem to be at the front of the line. In New Jersey, land taken from Tories was advertised for sale in such a way that officials got first dibs (118).
The New York land situation was unique. The super-old feudalistic land monopolies remained. When land confiscations from Tories happened there, the main question was: How much of the land would go to the tenants rather than state-privileged speculators? In any case, most of the land “belonged” to just four Tories, and would up in the hands of hundreds which was a vast improvement (119).
The state first had the Tories' personal property taken and sold at auction by the counties (120) and then the land was taken and placed in trust and leases granted. Favoritism ruled, and the state was as cruel a landlord as the Tories (121). Big surprise! Government is no better than establishment fat-cats; they are usually hand-in-glove! If the left-collectivists think socialism will solve the problem of most of the wealth and power being in the hands of the few, they should think again! We went over this before. Under socialism, power is even more concentrated in the hands of even fewer! I won't digress just now as I think this has been shown time and again.
Some in high office opposed the confiscations. It was the little people, the tenants, who favored it (122). I think we must ask how the land was acquired in the first place. Was it taken away from someone or was it bought in a voluntary exchange? That is key. It should remain in, or be placed in, the hands of the rightful owners or their heirs.
Fortunately, most of the land did go to the tenants, democratizing the land structure (123). It had to be sold in smaller parcels of 500 acres or less, tenants had first dibs, and tenants had a real say in how much the land was worth (124).
Thomas Jefferson was one of the primary opponents of feudalism and worked hard to end it (125). Meanwhile, people were also waking up to the now-obvious fact that one human being cannot own another, so the institution of slavery was beginning to crumble in the Northern states where, in some cases, new slaves could no longer be brought in (126), and in other cases slaves were freed upon reaching a certain age, and, in still others, further progress was made (127).
Aaron Burr, of New York, was one libertarian who argued for total emancipation for black citizens (128). The Southern states went the other way, digging in their heels to preserve slavery (129).
The American Revolution had a great impact in Europe. It spurred on a political press, which influenced political opinion which was very positive. In fact, the revolution in Belgium in 1789 (known as the Brabant Revolution) was directly influenced by the American Revolution, and its new constitution was modeled after the Articles of Confederation (130).
In the Netherlands, a new party was formed around the ideas of government elected by the people and the right to bear arms (131).
In Ireland, there was agitation for greater civil and economic liberty under the yoke of England, and there was a measure of success, including, ultimately (after more than a hundred years) a grant of home rule (132).
However, in many cases, the liberal revolutions failed. Dr. Rothbard says this is because they were upper-class rebellions, leaving the common people out. This was a mistake; if a liberal (pro-freedom) revolution is to succeed, it must be all-inclusive, as the common people really have the most to gain (133).
But progress was made. The American Revolution had a positive effect all over the world.
(1) Rothbard , Murray N. Conceived in Liberty Volume IV The Revolutionary War, 1775-1784 (Auburn: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1999) P. 17.
(2) Ibid. P. 19.
(3) Ibid. P. 19.
(4) Ibid. P. 21.
(5) Ibid. P. 22.
(6) Ibid. P. 23.
(7) Ibid. P. 24.
(8) Ibid. P. 26.
(9) Ibid. P. 28.
(10) Ibid. P. 29.
(11) Ibid. P. 31.
(12) Ibid. P. 33.
(13) Ibid. P. 13-39.
(14) Ibid. P. 36.
(15) Ibid. P. 38.
(16) Ibid. P. 39.
(17) Ibid. P. 40-42.
(18) Ibid. P. 44.
(19) Ibid. P. 53.
(20) Ibid. P. 54.
(21) Ibid. P. 60.
(22) Ibid. P. 65-67.
(23) Ibid. P. 68-70.
(24) Ibid. P. 72, 73.
(25) Ibid. P. 77.
(26) Ibid. P. 85, 86.
(27) Ibid. P. 97.
(28) Ibid. P. 98.
(29) Ibid. P. 98, 99.
(30) Ibid. P. 99.
(31) Ibid. P. 100.
(32) Ibid. P. 103.
(33) Ibid. P. 104, 105.
(34) Ibid. P. 105.
(35) Ibid. P. 106.
(36) Ibid. P. 106, 107.
(37) Ibid. P. 107, 108.
(38) Ibid. P. 110.
(39) Ibid. P. 111.
(40) Ibid. P. 117-119.
(41) Ibid. P. 121, 122.
(42) Ibid. P. 125.
(43) Ibid. P. 130.
(44) Ibid. P. 131.
(45) Ibid. P. 132.
(46) Ibid. P. 135, 136.
(47) Ibid. P. 136, 137.
(48) Ibid. P. 137.
(49) Ibid. P. 138.
(50) Ibid. P. 138.
(51) Ibid. P. 138.
(52) Ibid. P. 139.
(53) Ibid. P. 141, 142.
(54) Ibid. P. 142.
(55) Ibid. P. 142, 143.
(56) Ibid. P. 144.
(57) Ibid. P. 146.
(58) Ibid. P. 147.
(59) Ibid. P. 148.
(60) Ibid. P. 158, 159.
(61) Ibid. P. 164, 165.
(62) Ibid. P. 165.
(63) Ibid. P. 165, 166.
(64) Ibid. P. 174.
(65) Ibid. P. 177.
(66) Ibid. P. 177, 178.
(67) Ibid. P. 178-180
(68) Call 911 and Die
(69) Rothbard. P. 180.
(70) Ibid. P. 183.
(71) Ibid. P. 187.
(72) Ibid. P. 188, 189.
(73) Ibid. P. 222.
(74) Ibid. P. 223.
(75) Ibid. P. 224.
(76) Ibid. P. 233, 234.
(77) Ibid. P. 243.
(78) Ibid. P. 243, 244.
(79) Ibid. P. 244.
(80) My 2005 Blog Essay The Three Worst American Enemies of Freedom http://alicelillieandher.blogspot.com/2005_05_01_archive.html
(81) Rothbard P. 253-255.
(82) Ibid. 255.
(83) Ibid. 256.
(84) Ibid. P. 257.
(85) Ibid. P. 281.
(86) Ibid. P. 282.
(87) Ibid. P. 286.
(88) Ibid. P. 303.
(89) Ibid. P. 305.
(90) Ibid. P. 318, 319.
(91) Ibid. P. 349-351.
(92) Ibid. P. 352.
(93) Ibid. P. 352.
(94) Ibid. P. 353.
(95) Ibid. P. 353.
(96) Ibid. P. 353.
(97) Ibid. P. 354.
(98) Ibid. P. 366.
(99) Ibid. P. 373-383.
(100) Ibid. P. 384.
(101) Ibid. P. 385-387.
(102) Ibid. P. 388, 389.
(103) Ibid. P. 389.
(104) Ibid. P. 391.
(105) Ibid. P. 394.
(106) Ibid. P. 395.
(107) Ibid. P. 395.
(108) Ibid. P. 402.
(109) Ibid. P. 402.
(110) Ibid. P. 403.
(111) Ibid. P. 407.
(112) Ibid. P. 409.
(113) Ibid. P. 410.
(114) Ibid. P. 411, 412.
(115) Ibid. P. 423.
(116) Ibid. P. 423-428.
(117) Ibid. P. 427.
(118) Ibid. P. 427, 428.
(119) Ibid. P. 429.
(120) Ibid. P. 429.
(121) Ibid. P. 430.
(122) Ibid. P. 430.
(123) Ibid. P. 431.
(124) Ibid. P. 432.
(125) Ibid. P. 434.
(126) Ibid. P. 435.
(127) Ibid. P. 436.
(128) Ibid. P. 436.
(129) Ibid. P. 436, 437.
(130) Ibid. P. 447, 448.
(131) Ibid. P. 448.
(132) Ibid. P. 450.
(133) Ibid. P. 452.
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