Friday, November 21, 2008

The True Story of Thanksgiving

The following story is about Thanksgiving. You’ll notice it’s a bit different from what’s taught in the government school system, not that that should surprise anyone. The source for this story is Governor William Bradford himself.

On August 1, 1620, a ship called the Mayflower set sail for the New World. There were 102 passengers aboard of which 40 were the pilgrims. In November, they arrived in New England and found a barren and desolate wilderness. During that first winter, nearly half of them died, including Governor William Bradford’s wife.

When spring arrived, the Indians taught the settlers how to plant corn, fish, and skin beavers for coats. Life did get better for the pilgrims, but they didn’t prosper. In the fall of that year, they celebrated Thanksgiving, which for the Pilgrims meant a day of fasting and prayer, then the three days of feasting.

Edward Winslow gave this account of that Thanksgiving. "Our harvest being gotten in, our Governour sent foure men on fowling, that so we might after a more speciall manner rejoyce together, after we had gathered the fruit of our labours; they foure in one day killed as much fowle, as with a little helpe beside, served the Company almost a weeke, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Armes, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest King Massasoyt, with some nintie men, whom for three dayes we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed dive Deere, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governour, and upon the Captaine, and others. And although it be not alwayes so plentifull, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodnesse of God, we are so farre from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plentie."

The original contract that they pilgrims agreed to with their merchant-sponsors in London called for all that they produced to be placed in a common store and each family was entitled to one common share of that store. The land they cleared and the houses they built all belonged to the community. There was no incentive to work their lands any more than their neighbors. There was no motivation to improve.

William Bradford, who had become the Governor decided to take action to improve the lives of the pilgrims. He assigned a plot of land to each family. What they produced on their land they were free to sell to others. They would no longer be expected to contribute to a community store for all to share. Governor Bradford wrote, “ The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years…that by taking wealth, 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 young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense…that was thought injustice.”

They found that people could not be expected to do their best work without incentive. So they turned loose the capitalism. Free enterprise. Bradford wrote,” This has very good success for it made all handsd industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.”

In short order, the pilgrims 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 and their success attracted more and more Europeans and began what came to be known as as the Great Puritan Migration.

It is sad that this is not taught in the government schools.

This Thanksgiving, I'll be giving Thanks for my children, for the chance to live in a free society where I am free to worship as I choose, and that I can hope and work for that free society to continue even in trying times which we are likely to be headed.

Sources for this:,0,7094177.story,


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