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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanks Mr. Bradford!

             It is that time of year again when school children across our land will choose sides for the Thanksgiving pageant. Will it be a pilgrim or an Indian this year that your little one will dress like to tell the fabled story of the first feast of thanks? As heart warming as that story of peace, prosperity and pumpkin pie shared between those from the old world with those of the new is it does not tell the true story of the first Thanksgiving.
            As the band of pilgrims prepared themselves for the westward journey in search of religious freedom conditions for their settlement were established. One point in that agreement was that all goods produced in the new world would go into a common storehouse and be distributed evenly amongst the colonists. As time passed and the pilgrims learned from the natives how to grow indigenous crops such as corn and squash and how to catch local fish they became much more self sufficient. This ability to grow crops combined with the agreement to equal sharing of the pie however led to some rather unpleasant but certainly unintended consequences.
            William Bradford who became governor of the fledgling colony in 1621 observed in his History of Plymouth Plantation that the agreement to a shared communal storehouse often left the pilgrims to languish in misery of want. “This community”, he wrote, “was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort”. Furthermore he wrote that “young men most able and fit for service declined to work for other men’s wives and children without recompense”. It seems as thought the communal storehouse idea worked no better in 1621 that it does in today.
            Working to change the initial agreement Mr. Bradford and other of the leaders of the settlement decided to give a parcel of land to each family allowing them to keep what they produced rather than incite laziness in some by contributing their produce to the communal store. This amendment he wrote “had very good success for it made all hands very industrious and much more corn was planted that would have been otherwise under the old agreement. So successful was this endeavor that women who had previously thought it slavish went willingly into the field to plant corn even taking the little children to assist.
            On the heels of the birth of what is termed the protestant work ethic the bountiful harvest of that year gave rise to a feast of thanksgiving to God for His blessings. It is that same work ethic operating under the same free market conditions that have with the blessings of God made ours the greatest country ever established in human history. The ideas of faith and hard work are time tested and true and must be taught to the next generation.
            Writing further about this experience William Bradford said “our experiment in this communal course may be evidence of the vanity of the ancient philosophy that taking away private property and bringing it into a communal common wealth would make men happy and flourishing and if they were wiser than God”. Clearly from the example of the colony at Plymouth to our present flirting with socialism this system of government is fatally flawed and must be avoided. The History of Plymouth Plantation should be required in every school in the United States as a reminder that faith in God and hard work were once the hallmarks of our country. Thanks Mr. Bradford for the lesson. Have a happy Thanksgiving.         

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