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The Truth about Thanksgiving
The story of the Pilgrims begins in the early part of the seventeenth century. The Church of England under King James 1 was prosecuting anyone and everyone who did not recognize its absolute civil and spiritual authority. Those who challenged ecclesiastical authority and those who believed strongly in freedom and worship were hunted down, imprisoned, and sometimes executed for their beliefs. Thus, we have Separation of Church and State.
A group of separatists first fled to Holland and established a community. After eleven years, about forty of them agreed to make a perilous journey to the New World, where they would certainly face hardship, but could live and worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences.
On August 1, 1620, the Mayflower set sail. It carried a total of 102 passengers, including forty Pilgrims led by William Bradford. On the journey, Bradford set up an agreement, a contract that established just and equal laws for all members of their new community, irrespective of their religious beliefs. Where did the revolutionary ideas expressed in the Mayflower Compact come from? From the Bible. The Pilgrims were a people completely steeped in the lessons of the Old and New Testaments. They looked to the ancient Israelites for their examples. And, because of the biblical precedents set forth in Scripture, they never doubted that their experiment would work.
But this was no pleasure cruise. The journey to the New World was a long and arduous one. And when the Pilgrims landed in New England in November, they found, according to Bradford’s detailed journal, a cold, barren, desolate wilderness. There were no friends to greet them, he wrote. There were no houses to shelter them. There were no inns where they could refresh themselves.
And the sacrifice they had made for freedom was just beginning. During the first winter, half the Pilgrims including Bradford’s wife-died of starvation, sickness, or exposure. When spring finally came, Indians taught the settlers how to plant corn, fish for cod, and skin beavers for coats. Life improved for the Pilgrims, but they did not yet prosper! This is important to understand because this is where modern American history lessons end. Thanksgiving is actually explained in some textbooks as a holiday for which the Pilgrims gave thanks to the Indians for saving their lives, rather than as a devout expression of gratitude grounded in the tradition of both the Old and New Testaments.
Here is the part that has been omitted: The original contract the Pilgrims had entered into with their merchant-sponsors in London called for everything they produced to go into a common store, and each member of the community was entitled to one common share. All of the land they cleared and the houses they built belonged to the community as well.
Bradford, who had become the new governor of the colony, recognized that this form of collectivism was as costly and destructive to the Pilgrims as the first harsh winter, which had taken so many lives. He decided to take bold action. Bradford assigned a plot of land to each family to work and manage, thus turning loose the power of the marketplace.
That’s right; the Pilgrims had discovered and experimented with what could only be described as socialism. And what happened? It didn’t work! What Bradford and his community found was that the most creative and industrious people had no incentive to work any harder than anyone else, unless they could utilize the power of personal motivation!
But while most of the rest of the world has been experimenting with socialism trying to refine it, perfect it, and re-invent it-the Pilgrims decided early on to scrap it permanently. What Bradford wrote about this social experiment should be in every schoolchild’s history lesson. If it were, we might prevent much needless suffering in the future.
The Pilgrims found that people could not be expected to do their best work without incentives. The Pilgrims unharnessed the power of free enterprise by invoking the undergirding capitalistic principle of private property. Every family was assigned its own plot of land to work and permitted to market its own crops and products.
Bradford wrote, “For it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.’’
In no time the Pilgrims found they had more food than they could eat themselves. So they set up trading posts and exchanged goods with the Indians. The profits allowed them to pay off their debts to the merchants in London.
Because the Pilgrims were a people inspired by profound religious beliefs to overcome incredible odds, they decided to give thanks to God and have a feast in which they invited the Indians. Thus, the first Thanksgiving Dinner.
And that my fellow Americans is the truth about Thanksgiving.
See, I Told You So, Rush Limbaugh, III