Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Thanksgiving Story

I've had this story for a while now, but in the interest of making sure I wasn't using wholly unverified information.  But where most of my Google searches met with angry chip-on-shoulder accounts, I finally found my verification, thanks to Wikipedia.  So let's get to it:

"The story of the Pilgrims begins in the early part of the seventeenth century.  The Church of England under King James I was persecuting 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 of worship were hunted down, imprisoned, and sometimes executed for their beliefs. 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 hardships, 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 the 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 example.

"And, because of the biblical precedents set forth in Scripture, they never doubted that their experiment would work. But this was no pleasure cruise, friends. 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 own wife – died of either 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 often 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 belong to the community as well. They were going to distribute it equally. All of the land they cleared and the houses they built belonged to the community as well.

"Nobody owned anything. They just had a share in it. It was a commune, folks. It was the forerunner to the communes we saw in the '60s and '70s out in California – and it was complete with organic vegetables, by the way. 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 that 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. Long before Karl Marx was even born, the Pilgrims had discovered and experimented with what could only be described as socialism. And what happened? It didn't work!"

"It never has worked! "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 for well over a hundred years – 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 experience that we had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years...that by taking away property, and bringing community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing – as if they were wiser than God,' Bradford wrote.

"'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.' Why should you work for other people when you can't work for yourself? What's the point? Do you hear what he was saying, ladies and gentlemen? The Pilgrims found that people could not be expected to do their best work without incentive. So what did Bradford's community try next? They unharnessed the power of good old 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. And what was the result? 'This had very good success,' wrote Bradford, 'for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.' Bradford doesn't sound like much of a Clintonite" I wrote then "does he? Is it possible that supply-side economics could have existed before the 1980s? Yes. Read the story of Joseph and Pharaoh in Genesis 41. Following Joseph's suggestion (Gen 41:34), Pharaoh reduced the tax on Egyptians to 20% during the 'seven years of plenty' and the 'Earth brought forth in heaps.' (Gen. 41:47) In no time, the Pilgrims found they had more food than they could eat themselves.

"Now, this is where it gets really good, folks, if you're laboring under the misconception that I was, as I was taught in school. 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 the success and prosperity of the Plymouth settlement attracted more Europeans and began what came to be known as the 'Great Puritan Migration.'" But this story stops when the Indians taught the newly arrived suffering in socialism Pilgrims how to plant corn and fish for cod. That's where the story stops, and the story basically doesn't even begin there. The real story of Thanksgiving is William Bradford giving thanks to God for the guidance and the inspiration to set up a thriving colony. The bounty was shared with the Indians. They did sit down and they had dinner, and I think they had a turkey, but it was not the Indians who saved the day. It was capitalism and Scripture which saved the day."

To all of you I wish a Happy Thanksgiving.


Beth said...

I can't trust anything from Wikipedia.

Shaw Kenawe said...

"The true history of Thanksgiving reveals these facts: The Pilgrims did not introduce the tradition; Eastern Indians had observed autumnal harvest celebrations for centuries. Although George Washington did set aside days for national thanksgiving, our modern celebrations date back only to 1863. During the Civil War, when the Union needed all the patriotism that such an observance might muster, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday.

The Pilgrims had nothing to do with it; not until the 1890s did they even get included in the tradition. For that matter, they were not commonly known as "the Pilgrims" until the 1870s.

The Pilgrims' courage in setting forth int he late fall to make their way on a continent new to them remains unsurpassed. In their first year the Pilgrims, like the American Indians, suffered from diseases, including scurvy and pneumonia; half of them died.

The newcomers did eventually pay the Wampanoags for the corn they had dug up and taken. Plymouth, unlike many other colonies, usually paid Indians for the land it took. In some instances Europeans settled in Indian towns because Natives had invited them, as protection against another tribe or a nearby competing European power."


The Native Americans saved the Pilgrims that first winter after they arrived.

There would have been no Thanksgiving the following year, since the Pilgrims surely would have starved to death without the Native Americans sharing their food and teaching them how to plant the crops they would need to survive.

Dave Miller said...

have a great turkey weekend Patrick...

Shaw Kenawe said...

I forgot to wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving.

Best to you.

Patrick M said...

Beth: You've really got to get over that. It's a good way to provide verification that most people will trust (because people of all persuasions do correct it to as netral a point of view as possible (which is what favors facts)). And it gave me justification to bring this story without reservations.

What else is there, Conservapedia (*gag*)?

Shaw: Not arguing points here, just questioning the source (if there was a liberal answer to Conservapedia, your source would write for it).

And thanks Dave (and Shaw, I guess). :)

dmarks said...

Wikipedia is usually pretty good unless there is something controversial. Then it can become something that only reflects the latest salvo in an editwar.

(O)CT(O)PUS said...

Happy Thanksgiving, fellow creatures above and below he waves. Is there at least one brave soul who will try my famous sweet noodle recipe?

Dee said...

I'm with dmarks on Wikipedia. 90% of the time wikipedia is a good source, but it can be hijacked, especially by the left at times.

I hope you and the kids had a great Thanksgiving and that you enjoy your weekend!! I made the mistake of doing some Black Friday shopping this morning at Wal-mart. Never again, back to Target from now on ;-)!!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Shaw Kenawe said...


"The Saint" left the exact same comment over at my blog. LOL! And I'm Always Right left a disjointed scathing screed about you and your disloyalty to their cause.

Apparently "The Saint" and "I'm Always Right" demand that you swear allegiance to their brand of conservatism. IOW, they order you to submit to their authority and ONLY their authority that defines what a real conservative is--which obviously means marching in lock-step like a good little soldier to their definition of conservatism.

No independent thinking allowed!

You must obey your overlords, The Blog Purity Police!


These are the same people who whine about this country turning into a fascist state, while at the same time act like dutiful little brown shirts, using name-calling and spittle-flecked anger to intimidate those who do not THINK LIKE THEM.

O the humanity!

Anonymous said...

So what!!!!

I wanted to be sure that you both read it.
Whats the crime in that?

dmarks said...

"But this story stops when the Indians taught the newly arrived suffering in socialism Pilgrims how to plant corn and fish for cod."

Excellent lesson about how socialism ignores human needs, economic realities, and the environment it is implimented in.

Patrick M said...

Saint: You might try being thankful for what you have rather than spamming people with non-topic posts. Thus the deletion.

Shaw: I can say, clearly, I'm thankful I'm doing something right. We almost never agree, and the people I agree with on most stuff think I've gone over to the Dark Side. Means I'm doing something right.

Toad734 said...

So are you saying the whole world, in 1620, was experimenting with Socialism?? The term or concept didn't exist in 1620...not for another couple hundred years.

So are you saying that the Bible was wrong??? Ok, Ill agree with that.

And lets not forget that there were a lot more factors involved here besides just Socialism vs. Private ownership. First off, under their socialist model, they didn't even know how to produce anything so of course that didn't work. And this article said, they started trading with the locals.

Im not defending the concept of socialism here but it isn't as black and white as this article has you believe. It would be like me saying 9/11 was 100% Bush's fault because it happened on his watch. Its true that it happened on his watch but it doesn't mean he really had anything to do with it.

Free land, loot, Tobacco, limitless resources, religious freedom, etc are what attracted people to the new world...Not supply side economics.

And it was basically that same economic system that was used to wipe out those same Indians and lead to things such as debt and slavery (both literal and metaphorical)

Patrick M said...

Toad: So are you saying the whole world, in 1620, was experimenting with Socialism??

No, the Pilgrims did though. And it failed.

So are you saying that the Bible was wrong???

About what? Unless you're confusing faith with an economic and political system.

First off, under their socialist model, they didn't even know how to produce anything so of course that didn't work.

It didn't work, because even after they learned how to grow, there was a tendency to coast because someone else was always responsible. What part of that did you miss?

Free land, loot, Tobacco, limitless resources, religious freedom, etc are what attracted people to the new world...Not supply side economics.

But a free market is what allowed this country to grow and become what it is now, despite some evil and vile stuff that also came out of it.

Toad734 said...

But you act as if there is someone in our government who wants someone elses wife to do my laundry...That isn't the case and that isn't even socialism really.

And if you were wondering what the Bible is wrong about well, there are many things but as pertaining to communism and what not here is this:

Acts, Chapter 2, verses 42-45:

42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 And all that believed were together, and had all things in common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.

Acts 4:32-37:

32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. 33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. 34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, 35 And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. 36 And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, 37 Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.

Patrick M said...

Toad: But you act as if there is someone in our government who wants someone elses wife to do my laundry...That isn't the case and that isn't even socialism really.

No shit. What socialism ultimately does is "take care" of all the necessities, at an ever-increasing cost of liberty. You still get the incidentals.

As for the rest... Sounds like the Catholic Church to me. Or a cult.

Essentially, though it is in having the choice to function in the form of a commune rather than having said communal living imposed by their governing document. And that's where the difference lies.

dmarks said...

Patrick said: "What socialism ultimately does is "take care" of all the necessities, at an ever-increasing cost of liberty. You still get the incidentals."

But does it even do that? Take care of the necessities?

The most socialist societies (the ones with the most tight control and planning) quite often have big famines and die-offs.

Toad734 said...

You mean like the Irish potato famine...Oh wait, they weren't socialist.

But one of the problems we are experiencing with the free market (if you can call it that) is that you get all this corn that has not purpose so we use it as a sweetener, which our bodies can't process effectively and becomes a cheap, subsidized filler and Americans all get fat and then health care costs sky rocket... That actually wouldn't happen under a planned and regulated socialist system. Nor would have Enron, Ponzi or our latest financial crisis...but those are just the bad points of capitalism...that and the exploitation of indigenous populations, slavery, etc.


Im not really sure socialism does take care of all the necessities...nor do I believe someone taking care of some shit for me would result in the loss of my fact I would be more liberated if anything since I no longer have do bear the burden of all the work myself...But again, thats not what socialism is so...

Again, I would never defend socialism outright but I am just saying there were thousands of things that were going wrong when the colony started out and a thousand other factors in play to why it wasn't successful at first but was ultimately in the end.

But I agree that America was founded on a capitalistic pursuit (as opposed to Christianity or freedom of Religion) as all the colonies that predate Plymouth were about greed, conquest and commerce. Tobacco in general and the profits that could be made from this new crop the Europeans wanted is why America was able to get off the ground, why people came here and what funded these colonies and trips back and forth.

Toad734 said...

Oh and when I said I wouldn't defend Socialism outright, I also wanted to say that there are still some lessons to be learned from a socialist model. As we have seen, just letting the rich take what they want from the rest of us and make our laws and elect our politicians hasn't worked for anyone except the richest 1% of this country. It took the "socialist" unions and the labor movement to create the largest middle class the world has ever seen. Without these unions we would have never created such an extensive middle class and as you can see the decline of the union has resulted in the decline of the middle class to the benefit of the rich and detriment to the poor.

Toad734 said...

Of course, if everyone just worked to build everything they needed for themselves and sold the excess and thus never had specialists or corporations we wouldn't have ever needed Unions but then there would have never been corporations or the industrial revolution, wealth, etc.