Conceived in Liberty

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Conceived in Liberty
Conceived in Liberty, volume one.jpg
Cover of volume one
AuthorMurray Rothbard
CountryUnited States
SubjectHistory of the United States
Publication date
Media typePrint

Conceived in Liberty, authored by Murray Rothbard, is a 5-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 is 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 Lew Rockwell, "indeed, Murray wrote the fifth volume, the most revisionist of all. He did it in longhand on legal yellow pads, and used a dictating machine a friend had given him. His wife Joey would use the recording to type the manuscript." Rockwell says of it that "The fifth volume completes Murray’s great work, lost for decades, yet as relevant as the day he finished it."[3]

Editing of the "Lost" Fifth Volume[edit]

In the summer of 2013 Patrick Newman initially realized this was probably a complete work rather than disjointed notes as Mises Fellow. The tapes had been lost but the first sixty pages typed from them were available as were the scrawling, note and marginalia-filled, pages of longhand. Academic Vice-President of the Mises Institute Joseph Salerno approached him to possibly translate Rothbard's longhand notes and edit the fifth volume. After a week of attempting to read the longhand and using the helpful amounts of references included in the notes to interpret Rothbard's handwriting word-by-word, Patrick was able to start deciphering the text. He said it was "like learning a new language" and of the six weeks in June-July 2018 he was mostly doing this he said "I was going to sleep and I was seeing his words in my mind."[4]

Contents of the first four volumes[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)


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

Publishing history[edit]

  • Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig von Mises Institute, October 25, 2019. Paperback. 332 pages. ISBN 978-1-61016-708-6.
    • Volume V
  • Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig von Mises Institute, January 15, 2000. Hardcover. 1668 pages. ISBN 0-945466-26-9.
    • Volume I-IV
  • Liberty Tree Press, September 1989. Paperback. ISBN 0-945999-23-2.
  • New Rochelle, N.Y.: Arlington House Publishers:


  1. ^ WorldCat data: OCLC 44004366
  2. ^ The Science of Liberty, 1990
  3. ^ Llewellyn H. Rockwell (March 25, 2019), The Lost Fifth Volume of Conceived in Liberty
  4. ^ Thomas E. Woods (October 30, 2019), Ep. 1524 The Constitution a Coup?