In the book, Conceived in Liberty, Volume 5: The New Republic, anarchist historian Murray N. Rothbard writes that the making of the US Constitution was a “bloodless coup”. The constitution was formed by a group of men who met in secret, nailed the windows shut in the heat of July so as to keep others from hearing their conversations, and pushed a centralization of power agenda unlike any other before.
Rothbard gives a fascinatingly detailed alternative history of how the constitution was formed. In striking detail, he provides an account of backdoor deals and sneaky behavior on the part of those who wanted to centralize federal power in the US. They dubbed themselves, the Federalists, and those who opposed this conglomeration of power were dubbed the Anti-Federalists. They used the power of the press, fast dealings, and control of the US postal service to ram through their centralizing agenda.
Rothbard’s book is extremely interesting because he sees history from the unique perspective of an anarchist, and points out the minutiae happening around the making of the constitution.
I wanted to get multiple perspectives on this time period, so I also read a book by a historian with a more mainstream perspective on this era. In the book, The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, author Joseph Ellis argues that George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison were responsible for the political manipulations leading to the constitutional convention in Philadelphia. Contrary to Rothbard, Ellis argues these men lead a noble charge to centralize power in the federal government.
Prior to the US Constitution, the states were loosely held together by the Articles of Confederation. While Rothbard saw the Articles as a laudable document, Ellis saw them as a collection of toothless pieces of paper which needed to be replaced.
Just as I finished these books, a podcast called Liberty vs. Power popped up on my YouTube feed (a type of meaningful coincidence Carl G. Jung called synchronicity). The podcast deals with the issues mentioned in these books. In the podcast, Dr. Patrick Newman and Tho Bishop, explore the efforts to centralize power in early America. While the hosts have a liberty-minded perspective that views centralized power as a bad thing, they give a fair take on those who sought to centralize power in early America. They talk about the political savvy of those who sought to bring more power to the federal government, and they tell the perspective of those who fought to oppose it. There are eleven episodes in total. For those interested in the issues of power and liberty in the US, I highly recommend listening.
Take a listen to episode one of their podcast below.