Orrin Woodward LIFE Leadership Team

Winner of the 2011 Independent Association of Business Top Leader Award; Orrin Woodward shares his leadership secrets.

America – Conceived in Liberty: Died in Tyranny?

Posted by Orrin Woodward on April 25, 2012

Murray Rothbard has struck again! Through reading his fascinating, albeit frustrating at times, history of America Conceived in Liberty, I stumbled across some shocking stories. Rothbard is the type of author that even when I disagree with him, I find myself laughing and thinking. I enjoy authors who make their readers think because so few do today. Since recorded history, governments have violated people’s inherent rights, but how these poor precedents proceed in perpetuity is astonishing. Has anyone studied the history of the English postal system? I certainly hadn’t! Let me quote from the irrepressible sacred cow buster Murray Rothbard:

Postal service began in the early American colonies as freely competitive private enterprises of varying forms and types. Letters between neighboring villages were sent by special messengers, who were often Indians. For longer journeys, letters were carried by travelers or regular merchants. Letters to or from England were carried by private ship captains, who often hung a bag in the local coffeehouse to receive letters for shipment. The price was generally a penny for a single letter and two pence for a double letter or parcel.

Unfortunately, English precedent held out little hope for the unhampered development of a freely competitive postal service. In 1591 the Crown had issued a proclamation granting itself the monopoly of all foreign mail, and in 1609 the Crown’s proclamation extended its own monopoly to all mail foreign or domestic. The purpose of this postal monopoly was quite simple: to enable governmental officials to read the letters of private citizens in order to discover and suppress “treason” and “sedition.”

Thus, when the Privy Council decided in 1627 to allow merchants to operate an independent foreign post, the king’s principal secretary of state wrote sternly: “Your lordship best knoweth what account we shall be able to give in our places of that which passeth by letters in or out of the land, if every man may convey letters under the course of merchants to whom and what place he pleaseth…how unfit a time this is to give liberty to every man to write and send what he list….” And in 1657 when the Commonwealth Parliament continued the English governmental postal monopoly, the preamble of the act stated a major objective: “to discover and prevent many dangerous and bigoted designs, which have been and are daily contrived against the peace and welfare of this Commonwealth, the intelligence whereof cannot well be communicated, but by letter of script.”

The first government meddling in the postal service in America came as early as 1639 in Massachusetts. At that time the government appointed Richard Fairbanks to be a receiver and deliverer of foreign letters for the price of one penny; no monopoly privilege was granted, and no one was prevented from using other postal intermediaries. The Dutch government in New Netherland went far beyond this when in 1657 it awarded itself a compulsory monopoly of receipt of foreign mail; anyone presuming to board a vessel first to obtain his own mail was fined thirty guilders. Ship captains were fined heavily for carrying letters for anyone except the government postal monopolist.

In other words, America’s “snail mail” postal monopoly has nothing to do with efficiency (I guess we all knew that :)); it has nothing to do with the poor economics of this generation; and it has everything to do with the State’s desire to spy on people’s thoughts, plans, and actions. This, mind you, from our English forefathers, whose ideas of liberty were modeled in the creation of America. The postal system is one area where we shouldn’t have applied English principles. If government has the right to spy at will, where does this right end? If someone disagrees with the ruling power, does that person have the right to open letters, emails, tap phones, etc? England’s unethical precedent is still affecting America’s postal system to this day.

I love history, but this isn’t the type of lessons I learned in school and neither will you. Since Big Government funds the schools, no one should be shocked about this. Sadly, with today’s further government interventions like the Patriot Act, to name one among many, civil liberties are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Harry Truman, an avid reader, once paraphrased Solomon when he said, “There is nothing new under the sun, only the history you don’t know.” We must educate ourselves on real history and not the government fed history from our schools and other government-funded institutions.

The battles fought over freedom today may be different in detail but astonishingly similar in principle. Yes, America was conceived in liberty; I pray it doesn’t die in tyranny.


Orrin Woodward

7 Responses to “America – Conceived in Liberty: Died in Tyranny?”

  1. Nate Berens said

    Well said Orrin. It is easy to take freedom from a fool, he will not miss it, because he never noticed that is gone. As a Social Studies/History teaccher it makes my blood boil that people do not know basic American History or anything about The Constitution. My pain is not that they do not know facts, but that the average citizen does not know the promises of the Constitution (or care) that they were earned from the sacrifice and blood of patriots longing to see freedom for their children and future generations, this Republic was there legacy. It is our charge as Americans to restore Liberty with our work, spread God’s grace with our words and our actions, in doing so we preserve hope and this dream for future Americans.

    God Bless,


  2. Orrin,

    Such interesting timeline. East India company was established by British in 1600. One of the first things they established was a fee based postal system as a commerce activity under Warren Hastings and then later centralized it in the 1800’s. Almost every activity East India company, and the portugese started out as commerce in India and then later and as the reach and strength grew they transformed every thing to a power hungry centralized system and lulled a lot of Indians into submitting them by giving them good perks to run the show in various sectors on their behalf. Not until a very minority freedom loving people wanted to stop the 250 year tyranny things didnt change.

    To give credit to the British, I would not be writing this comment in English had they not given us the education system and English as the common language. Nothing what India has enjoyed over the last 60 years would not have been possible without English as the binding language.

    • Venkat, I recently finished Lord Acton’s biography and he said (paraphrased) “All good movements have bad in them and all bad movements have some good in them. The key is to look at it from all sides to discern which is which.” I certainly am thankful for the English heritage of America, but all movements and decisions needs to be studied to discern what was right and what was wrong. Acton emphasized the moral dimension of history which is sadly lacking today. thanks, Orrin

  3. yancy chaj said

    Wow that is great history it is amazing what can be learned from our own continual education.So much we can learn and think about as to how things are now and how they were in the past. That is why it is important to keep on learning.
    Thank you

  4. Rob Robson said

    Thank you so much Orrin. Ever since you recommended Frederic Bastiat’s, “The Law” a few years back, moral government became so black and white to me.
    First of all we must recognize that we are all inheritors of equal rights from our Heavenly Father- Frederick Bastiat, phrased it so succinctly, “Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.” (The Law, p.6)

    Since government only has rights because we loaned them to them, it seems self-evident that we can only delegate rights that we already have. I think that Ezra Taft Benson best described how to determine a “moral law” when he said “There is one simple test. Do I as an individual have a right to use force upon my neighbor to accomplish this goal? If I do have such a right, then I may delegate that power to my government to exercise on my behalf. If I do not have that right as an individual, then I cannot delegate it to government, and I cannot ask my government to perform the act for me…” Any time we attempt to delegate rights to other men (Govt.) that we don’t have individually, we instantly create tyranny “The creature exceeds the creator, and becomes master”

    Proper government, just like the study of economics, is really pretty simple. It is when you attempt the impossible task of centralized planning that things become complicated. I am so grateful to be part of a community that is restoring these simple but sacred truths. Thanks for leading the way!

    • Rob, What a fantastic summary of Frederic Bastiat! I am impressed. He was a great thinker on politics and the law and highly underrated in today’s relativistic age. However, he is named in one of the Five Laws of Decline (Bastiat’s Law). 🙂 thanks, Orrin

  5. Orrin,

    The education we receive if not for a Self Directed Education leaves us uneducated in so many important areas. Thanks for the continuing challenge to educate.

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