"Posterity, you will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in heaven that ever I took half the pains to preserve it." -John Adams

Welcome to Patriot's Lament. We strive here to educate ourselves on Liberty. We will not worry ourselves so much with the daily antics of American politics, and drown ourselves in the murky waters of the political right or left.
Instead, we will look to the Intellectuals and Champions of Liberty, and draw on their wisdom of what it is to be a truly free people. We will learn from where our Providential Liberties are derived, and put the proper perspective of a Free Individual and the State.
Please join us!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Generalissimo Washington and Myths of the Revolution

While this site may be called "Patriot's Lament" and we often refer to things the so-called Founders said or did, I myself have no particular love for the way in which the Revolution was carried out nor the system of government that was set up in its aftermath (to be fair, I think many of the revolutionaries were also disappointed with the result). Along these lines, I have repeatedly posed the question, "What war made men more free?" to the readers of this blog and have yet to receive an answer of any sort.

In a previous post of mine, Fire in the head, peace in the heart, several commenters stated the "necessity of violence" and things of this sort, but when I posed the "what war has made men more free?" question, there was again silence.

In another post, Myth of War (and "Fighting for Freedom"), I linked to one of Stefan Molyneaux's videos where he dismantled the myth of one of the "Good Wars" (WWII). Josh and I had a little conversation in the thread, but again, no one tried to make the argument that any nation emerged from WWII more free than it entered it. On either side.

In yet another post, The Failure of Democracy, I linked to a video of Hans Hermann Hoppe dismantling the historicist position that democracy (or a representative republic, which is still democratic no matter how hard you try to deny it) had anything to do with the increased prosperity and freedom of the 20th century (which in fact is a myth in many ways). I also went straight for the throat of the "The Revolution made America free" argument and linked to Gary North's article "Tricked on the Fourth of July" where he briefly outlines the coup d'├ętat that was the American Revolution.

Today, I want to share another interesting article that is excerpted from Murray Rothbard's comprehensive history of the founding of America, "Conceived in Liberty." Here are links to Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, and Volume 4.

The title of the article is, "Generalissimo Washington: How He Crushed the Spirit of Liberty." There are many interesting aspects to this account of how the Continental Army was transformed into a traditional European type army and how the individualistic rag-tag volunteer spirit was crushed (which probably actually made the army far less effective against the British). Sure to be unpopular with some "Patriots," but it again brings to mind the question, "What war made men more free?"

My favorite part or the article however, is at the very end where Rothbard points out the main strategic error made by the British when they came to wage war in the colonies:
For Britain, the character of the war had now unpleasantly changed; from trying to teach a lesson to revolutionaries, Britain now faced an international, trans-Atlantic, even a worldwide conflict.

The first thing to do was end the occupation of Philadelphia, which at best had been a waste of time. Howe had thought of Philadelphia as equivalent to a European capital: the hub and nerve center of administrative, commercial, political, and military life. But in a decentralized people's war such as the Americans were waging, there was no fixed nerve center; indeed, there was scarcely any central government at all. All this gave the Americans a flexibility and an ability to absorb invading armies in a manner highly statified Europe could not understand.

I wonder if there is a lesson for modern day America to be found here? Perhaps not only in the types of "enemies" the U.S. government's imperial forces are waging centralized war against, but in the very way we think about political structure. One of the themes of "Patriotic movements" everywhere is to establish alternative political systems (continental congress, any of the ridiculous "sovereign citizen" plans to reestablish so called "de-jure" government, strengthening of state power in order to resist federal power, etc). Don't all of these ideas cling to the fundamental idea of a fixed nerve center? Don't they all on some level call for this so that force can be centralized in order to resist force? Don't they all make the only mistake that can make any sort of movement extraordinarily easy to co-opt and/or defeat?

What if all of this effort to centralize resistive force is effort that has been taken from our ability to create totally alternative solutions that simply make the existing system redundant? In every aspect of civilization save one, old and unsustainable ideas disappear not because of protest, violence, or revolution (in the sense that we normally think of it) but simply because forward progress makes them redundant. Henry Ford did not wage war with the horse drawn carriage industry. The Wright Brothers did not advocate that people vote against the pony express. Advances in science, engineering, medicine, art, philosophy, everything except politics happen because specific individuals make the decision to pursue excellence in the field they are passionate about. The pursuit of excellence is a positive and creative use of energy. New ideas, new ways of living, new paradigms spring fourth. These are the forces that shake old political establishments to their core not through threats of force, but through a much greater threat; the threat of making the political establishment redundant.

What if the most effective strategy for achieving liberty is simply making the state and all the "services" that go with it redundant? What happens when we simply walk away from "Philadelphia" instead of trying to hold on to it or re-take it? What if it is both realistically and logically impossible for war to make men free? What could we create as individuals if all our energy wasn't focused on resisting? I think the most important part of these questions isn't answering them, but simply asking them.


  1. What the...now you are making fun of my blog name?? :-)

    I hope people who read this post think about it, and understand. I always wonder at folks who are "ready for war", and my question has always been, "and you will replace this government with what"? And always they have in mind what sort of government they would institutionalize then.

    Our struggle is for Liberty, not a certain form of government. Until men realize this, any struggle will reap the fruits of more tyranny.
    But with such a small understanding of what Liberty actually is, and no understanding or appreciation of the many struggles for Liberty this land called America has gone through since men came across the ocean to inhabit it even before the Revolution, there will be no Liberty here.
    Or am I off base?

  2. Maybe the answer is a triple president, since our double president can't seem to get anything done. ;-)

  3. My definition of a "Patriot".
    In times of change, the Patriot is a scarce man; brave, hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, however, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a Patriot.
    Mark Twain

  4. Off topic, but regarding the nullification issue, it looks like New Mexico may be getting traction on that. Maybe it is a useful tactic in the near term. As Tom Woods says, since we're stuck with these bozos for the foreseeable future we might as well put them to SOME use.


    Surely Alaska can do as well as New Mexico.

  5. The Rothbard/Washington piece was very, very interesting.

    From a 2010 article by North I remembered there is this reference:


    "The existence of that army should never be allowed to obscure the large reason for the British defeat which was that they could never control, let alone win over, a population of armed militia that was the foundation of support for the American government. The British military historian Eric Robson acknowledged: “Restricted to little more than the ground they stood on, the British increasingly found subsistence a matter of considerable difficulty.” That was not the result of Washington’s valiant little army camped at Valley Forge or for so many years across the Hudson from the British in New York City, but rather the American guerrilla militia that from local homes and farms made life in the British Army a living hell. Every small detachment was legitimateprey for the Americans. Historians will never know how many of these small skirmishes there were, but only glimpse them all over the landscape, realizing that they form the real reason for the low British morale and eventual defeat."

  6. Returning to my post on nullification... It isn't a solution to a problem, but it is a tactic to get breathing room in the nearer term. There are economic limits to what a more local government can inflict on you for the same reasons that all states try to expand to alleviate those limits.

    The New Testament church was a voluntary social order, but the contemporary church can't imagine life like that (witness the push back from Christians about the "chaos" that Ron Paul presents them with under strict Federalism).

    Nullification as a means of teaching real liberty, just as Ron gets people there while he talks about the Constitution, maybe that isn't a bad strategy. Most people aren't going to make the whole leap all at once. It is just too big. It is like the people in the USSR not able to imagine how they'd get shoes if the Politburo didn't plan them. Same mental block. I wish I knew a solution.

  7. I know this isn't your main point, but I do believe there is at least one exception to your rule. the people of West Germany were more free after WWII than before it. Of course this was due to the people and armies of other nations and not of themselves. I'll bet you have a ready made answer for that somewhere on your blog but I'm mot going to sift through to find it right now since it isn't really important, nor go through history for a better example to disagree with you.

    You couldn't be more right about the risk of replacing one tyranny with another. That is why I support the Ron Paul R3volution. It is non-violent. Though the constitution isn't perfect as you have pointed out poignantly, it is better than what we have now. Restoring the rule of law would be hundred times better than our current form of government.

  8. It isn't perfect, but it is what we already had and we should be able to go back there non-violently. it is a good idea to be prepared for survival and defense if things ever do go awry. of course, if we could make government redundant that would be great as well. but how does one make federal reserve notes redundant when the government uses violent force to coerce us to use them? We must first be allowed, by a limited government, to replace it before we actually can. Ron Paul R3volution! Restore the Constitution!

  9. Just to reiterate, your post is great. we don't want to replace a centralized government with our own centralized government. I think the goal should be to de-centralize the government we already have. One way to do that without violence is to restrore rule by constitution. Then we only need violence if the central state resists becoming obsolete. Without trying to replace our government, we do not need to be violent ourselves. once big government is out of the way, we can work on making the rest of it redundant. howver, if we try to make some services redundant now the state will meet us with force. so, first, reduce and decentralize to be within the rule of constitutional law.

  10. West Germany, interesting example. That is probably about as good as it gets from WWII. Interestingly West German prosperity did not come about until 1948.

    Why is this? We find that:
    "In November 1945 the Allied Control Authority, formed by the governments of the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union, agreed to keep Hitler’s and Goering’s price controls and rationing in place. They also continued the Nazi conscription of resources, including labor."

    Freedom indeed.

    Ludwig Erhard however fought hard for monetary reforms, which finally came about in 1948. In addition:
    "On that same Sunday the German Bizonal Economic Council adopted, at the urging of Ludwig Erhard and against the opposition of its Social Democratic members, a price decontrol ordinance that allowed and encouraged Erhard to eliminate price controls."

    We find that the very next day...
    "The effect on the West German economy was electric. Wallich wrote: “The spirit of the country changed overnight. The gray, hungry, dead-looking figures wandering about the streets in their everlasting search for food came to life” (p. 71).

    Shops on Monday, June 21, were filled with goods as people realized that the money they sold them for would be worth much more than the old money. Walter Heller wrote that the reforms “quickly reestablished money as the preferred medium of exchange and monetary incentives as the prime mover of economic activity” (p. 215)."

    Read more here: http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/GermanEconomicMiracle.html

    So it is actually quite clearly demonstrable that West German freedom came well after and in spite of the war. It came as a result of the peaceful non-violent adoption of sane economic policies ... simply allowing people to exchange.

    Here we definitely agree 100% on Ron Paul. If there is a revolution that can change the course of this country, it is an intellectual and economic revolution. Guns won't fix the problems. Only peaceful exchange will, and all that has to happen for peaceful exchange to flourish is for it to be made legal again...

    Thanks so much for your comments! Always fun to get other people's angles on things. It's what makes the blog interesting.


  11. Thank you for your response! While you have educated me greatly on why West Germany became a strong economy, even before the elimination of price controls was it not 'more free' than under Hitler? Were Jews allowed to move about the country? etc.

    But going back to the original blog post, second paragraph, I read the question posed as being "but when does violence make us more free?" instead of, "which war made us (any people, we are all one : ) more free?"

  12. (sorry, my mobile device freezes my posts sometimes and forces me to have multiple posts so i can finish)

    The answer I believe is when you are truly defending your liberties. who is more free: the citizen whisked away and indefinitely detained/killed because he was ACCUSED of terrorism, or the citizen who resisted? So violence is neccessary if the centralized power will refuse to become powerless peacefully.

    I personally believe this is the situation we are in today. Preperations to legitimize state violence and stifle dissent are under way. Patriot Act, NDAA, SOPA, Compiling lists of anti-gov't policy bloggers, restricting flying of suspected terrorists (usually just government dissenters), thrse are all being put into place. If the liberty movement were to have a huge victory, for instance, ron paul secures the nomination, i would not be surprised to see a huge false flag event that they use to justify arresting dissenters and paul supporters.

    I say gets the nomination, because if he did he would defeat Obama. If he wins both the early primaries we will see a true fear mongering establishment freak-out. Can you imagine the debate when Obama and his record goes head to head with Ron Paul and his on civil liberties? anti-war positions? anti torture positions? anti rendition positions? drug legalization issues? the actual racist policies of drug laws? These are things democrats still nominally cling to. When they are confronted with these stark differences there will be a mudslide to Ron Paul in the national election. This will not be allowed to happen. Cannot be allowed to happen.

    So then in this example, is defensive violence, much like defense wars, justified? Will those who employ it be more free?

    Furthermore, if the message is still able to get out, then when repressive state violence is used it just furthers the cause they are trying to repress. This is why the lists of bloggers are being compiled.

  13. However, if he wins and I am wrong and there is peaceful transfer of power, then we must do two things: 1. celebrate 2. rigorously hold our representatives and senators feet to the fire.

  14. Madeleine,
    Your question of "is defensive violence justified" is a resounding yes in my book. The Right to protect one's property is essential to Liberty. The property of your Life, and the property of your Liberty is ultimately yours to protect. No citizen, judge, officer, politician or government has the right to take that from you. You have the Right to defend your property. The question is when is it prudent? Who will go first? Who can defend themselves alone? If a dozen men come to search your house with force, and have no lawful warrant, you are justified to use force against them to stop them. No matter what costume they are wearing. But is it prudent? You are dead.
    And your neighbors will cheer that you are dead. They gave the costume goons the permission to take your home in the first place.
    Until enough understand the principle,"Live Free or Die, Death is not the worst of Evils", it will not be prudent to violently defend your Rights. And when enough people understand what Liberty is, the need to use that violence will go away. A simple NO, and the state will be gone.

  15. I feel compelled to admit that I currently own no guns. So this all purely philosophical talk. I believe I have the right, but I do not Delude myself into thinking I have the ability.

    Secondly, I think we have arrived at a rhetorical question. How do you defend your rights against an army without building a centralized army oneself. And yet, I think Dave's original post and Murray's article both hold the answer.

    Our strength is our ideas and our decentralization.

  16. But, i also don't delude myself into thinking those that would take our liberties do not know our strengths, hence the lists that can help them "halt" the ideas. I'm truly not sure what to think.

  17. government compiling secret lists, I believe, was one of the first things the Nazi government did that was a sign of what to come. I truly flip between pessimistic that is where we are heading to optomistic we can educate others on liberty. Right now pessimistic is winning.

  18. i will make this my final comment until you (plural) respond (if). I just read this excellent article by Eric Peters, I'd bet you have already seen it, if not, it is a must read. Sadly however, it falls on the pessimistic side. i think i will repost on rev nation.

    I just want to say that ever since the dollar vigilante, i think it was dv, linked me to you guys i have very much enjoyed reading your posts weekly. mkeep up the good work!

  19. No matter what comes about we can educate others about Liberty. Even in a jail cell Liberty can be spread as a thought. What government has ever prevailed? They last how long? This blog is an example of peaceful resistance. Our radio show is. You commenting is. They can't lock us all away. They can't stop thought. They will try. Liberty grows and governments implode. 300 years ago you would not even think to have the Right to own property. Now who would say otherwise? 300 years ago no one would think to not have a King. Now, how funny is that? So how far of a leap will it be for us to think we need no government ruling us?
    I choose to be optimistic. They are only humans, so they have nothing more than we do.

  20. and dave, your daughter is very talented. did she paint the main blog picture?

  21. Joshua, thanks for the much needed optimism!

  22. Monsieur,

    West Germany became "more free" by LOSING WW2, not by winning. If they'd have lost sooner (by not fighting) then they might have been "more free" than under Hitler with less destruction.

  23. Madeleine, my daughter painted the picture. David has thus far refused to have any children,( at least any we know of) and figures I have enough kids to go around for himself and a few others. ;-)
    Thanks for the compliment though, I will tell her.

  24. It is great! Please tell her!

    I see Dave is planning a reply, and after reading his first post today I see it will be on violence. So I want to take a point that he made yesterday that justifies defensive violence/war.

    He quotes Rothbard, "The first thing to do was end the occupation of Philadelphia, which at best had been a waste of time. Howe had thought of Philadelphia as equivalent to a European capital: the hub and nerve center of administrative, commercial, political, and military life. But in a decentralized people's war such as the Americans were waging, there was no fixed nerve center; indeed, there was scarcely any central government at all. All this gave the Americans a flexibility and an ability to absorb invading armies in a manner highly statified Europe could not understand."

    This is how it (defensive violence/wars) has practically worked before, all throughout history, and therefore can again. The pure decentralization and defensive nature of are its strengths. Just like the Vietnamese, etc. etc.

    Philosophically, I think it is justified by defending ones natural rights. Who is more free in their minds, one who is afraid to defend what is rightfully theirs or one who has no fear of defending their natural rights? What could be more philosophically sound?

    I very much appreciate the conversation that has sprung forth, though I will concede that Dave is much more well read than I, which is very educational for me, an added plus!

  25. War does not make anyone free. The Revolutionary War did not free anyone. Rather, free men put a stop (albeit temporarily) to the attempts at enslavement they faced.

    The Revolutionary War was only a small part of the Revolution.

    Pacifism sure didn't keep anyone free, either.

    Freedom is a state of mind. Others might not believe you are free, and may kill you for acting like you are free, but free men not only live free, they die as freemen in defense of their rights.

    All this philosophizing is ultimately irrelevant. When someone comes to put you and your wife and children in the gulag, or in a freshly dug mass grave, the only philosophy that matters is the one known as terminal ballistics.

  26. Anonymous,
    While I agree with some of your points, I can't agree that philosophizing is ultimately irrelevant.
    If it were not for people philosophizing less than 350 years ago, 250 years ago, the idea that you even had Rights would not be in existence. Not to mention the right to defend them. The idea of Liberty didn't just pop up one day, it took years of progressive evolution of theory. We enjoy(to some extent), private property today, because someone actually came up with the thought that property was a Right of all men, not just nobles. Today, we continue to talk about what property Rights really mean, it's not just your piece of land, it's the Right to property of your thoughts, actions and labor. The Right to defend yourself hasn't always been in mans collective thought. It took years of theory and thought.
    While it may come some day that we must defend ourselves from an evil bent on taking our Rights, and yes we do have that Right, in the meantime, let's philosophize on what would make free men more free. Freely trading with each other without government interference, speaking our minds without using governments gun to force our ideas on others. There is still room for Liberty to grow.

    The reason we have this government today that passed a bill that "allows" them to take us to that gulag, is because we allowed them to exist in the first place. We at some point thought that we needed someone to govern us.
    Sadly, a majority of people will applaud when they round people up, because we have stopped progressing the idea of Liberty and philosophizing about what it means to be free, we became lazy relying on the idea that a Constitution would protect our freedom from a corrupt government. I personally don't think Jefferson thought the Constitution would be an end all, I think he assumed we would progress from it "For a New Liberty".

    My philosophy is the freest of men will be the ones who have no government to rule over them, because ALL government is corrupt.