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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm posting this early in case I don't get to do it in the morning.

On this Thanksgiving lets think a little bit about the pilgrims. I pulled this off of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute Forum:

Enjoy this brief history:

On August 1, 1620, a ship called the "Mayflower" left England with 102 passengers bound for the New World. The manifest included two groups. The Separatists, led by William Bradford, had fled their homeland and the oppressive Church of England under King James I in search of a home where they could live and worship God according to their own conscience. The Strangers sought the New World for other reasons. Together they formed the Pilgrims.

Their intended crossing to Virginia strayed off course, and they instead landed on Cape Cod -- outside the territory covered by the King's Charter. Thus, the Pilgrims were responsible for their own governance. Following the nine-week journey, the Pilgrims composed an agreement that would establish just and equal laws for all members of the new community. Indeed, the revolutionary ideas expressed in the Mayflower Compact were derived from none other than the Holy Bible.

Only then, on November 11, 1620, did the Pilgrims leave the Mayflower. A cold and barren wilderness awaited them. There were no friends to greet them, no houses to shelter them, nor stores of food to sustain them. That first winter was perilous, as half the Pilgrims died of starvation, sickness, or exposure.

When spring arrived, an Indian named Squanto taught the settlers how to plant corn, fish, use fertilizer, and stalk deer. Bradford wrote that Squanto was "a special instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectations."

In October, following their first harvest, Governor Bradford set aside a day of thanksgiving. Squanto, his chief Massasoit, and other members of the tribe were invited to the thanksgiving feast. The Indians brought deer and turkeys, while the Pilgrim women cooked vegetables and fruit pies. The purpose of the feast was not to give thanks to the Indians or Mother Earth, as contemporary history textbooks commonly report, but as a devout expression of gratitude to God.

What modern history texts also omit is that the contract the Pilgrims brokered with their merchant-sponsors in London specified that everything they produce go into a common store, with each member entitled to one common share. In addition, all the land they cleared and the structures they built belonged to the community.

William Bradford, Governor of the new colony, realized the futility of collectivism and abandoned the practice. Instead, Bradford assigned a plot of land to each family and permitted them to market their own crops and other products, thereby unleashing the power of free enterprise. What Bradford had wisely realized was that these industrious people had no reason to work any harder than anyone else without the motivation of personal incentive.

Thus, what can only be called the Pilgrims' attempt at socialism ended like all other attempts at socialism -- in failure. What Bradford subsequently wrote about the experiment should be in every American history textbook. The lesson provided therein is invaluable.

"The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanity of that conceit of Plato's and other ancients applauded by some of later times; that the taking away of property and bringing in community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For the young men, that were most able and fit for labour and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children without any recompense."

And what happened after collectivism was replaced by capitalism and the concept of private property?

"This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content."

The Pilgrims soon found they had more food than they could eat, so they set up trading posts and exchanged goods with the Indians. The profits they realized allowed them to pay off their debts to the merchants in London. The success and prosperity of the original Plymouth settlement attracted more European settlers, setting off what came to be known as the "Great Puritan Migration."

Three hundred and eighty-two years later, Americans still set aside the fourth Thursday in November each year as a celebration of thanksgiving. Although this quintessentially American holiday has become more secular than religious, it was originated by devoutly Christian people who were expressing gratitude for the bounty brought forth by their labor and the blessings bestowed upon them by God.

A lot to think about... I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving!


Marica said...

I cannot thank you enough for posting this, Aggie. I learned about this-- this, that in what amounts to an experiment in economics, capitalism beats the snot out of collectivism-- years ago. I was thinking it was time to recount this Thanksgiving tale. You have. Thank you. It's an important lesson.

"This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content."


Worn Out said...

Thank you! And thanks for the invite to come hunting. A lesson learned so long ago seems to be forgotten now. We all need to be reminded.

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