Basically what the settlers formed was the first social commune of the New World, something that anyone growing up in the 1960s and 70s would easily recognize as a community where all land, houses, farming and other goods were distributed equally amongst all the inhabitants regardless of religious or political beliefs or station. It was the world's first society that was truly set up in a way that nobody would own anything and everyone who was in need would have what they required if it existed. In essence, the Mayflower Compact was a concept that would be popularized 255 years later in 1875 by Karl Marx's slogan,
"from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs."What many do not realize is that the ideas expressed in the Mayflower Compact were thought to have come from the Bible. The Pilgrims were Godly Christians who understood and followed the Scriptures and wanted to do what they thought was right by God. So they looked to the ancient Israelites as the example of how to begin their new society in the new world. After all, if it worked for God's people it should work for them too, right? And, because they thought that they were following what the Biblical precedents had set forth in the Scriptures, they never doubted that their experiment would work. Unfortunately they misread the Scriptures, and their experiment in the new world would almost destroy everything they had hoped and prayed for within their first year together in the new land.
"There were no friends to greet them, no houses to shelter them, and no inns where they could refresh themselves when they landed. The sacrifice these many Pilgrims made for their freedom to worship as they chose, was just beginning."In April of 1621 William Bradford was elected governor after the first Governor and half of the Pilgrims who landed in Plymouth Harbor, including his own wife died. The dwindling number of Pilgrims lost loved ones and friends to starvation, sickness or exposure that first winter, but they did experience God's blessing when local Indians showed them how to plant corn, fish, and skin beavers for clothing. Their lives improved somewhat, yet they were far from being prosperous and they knew another winter could literally kill the remaining members of the community.
What the schools are leaving out in their lessons about the first Thanksgiving is that the contract the Pilgrims entered into was the reason they almost starved to death. When Bradford became the new governor of the colony, he 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. Bradford came to realize the very thing that Barack Obama and the Democrats refuse to learn. In his journal Bradford wrote,
"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 the 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. The strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals and clothes than he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labors and victuals, clothes etc., with the meaner and younger sort, thought it some indignity and disrespect unto them. And for men's wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc., they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many husbands well brook it"Bradford soon understood that he needed to change things or the whole community would not survive many more Winters. So in the Spring of 1623, he decided take bold action by assigning plots of land to each family, and each young adult male to work and manage. He also canceled the Mayflower Compact that the Pilgrims all signed, allowing every land owner to keep their own crops and products to trade at the market place for a fair market value. Capitalism was born in America, and it was just a matter of time before the young men were working their land and growing enough crops to use and trade. The women began accepting the goods the young men grew and in return they washed and cooked for them. The husbands in return were happier because their wives did not feel like slaves laboring for men they were not attached to and the whole community began to prosper and grow. What Bradford recorded in his journal the following Autumn of 1623 about the results of his new experiment is staggering considering how dismal the future had looked just a short 6 months earlier.
"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 women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn, which before would allege weakness and inability, whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression"This was quite a change from their previous situation, when even severe whippings had been resorted to as a way of punishment for those who refused to work or for open rebellion against the community. However, before this experiment in capitalism, all the whippings and warnings would not change the fact that the community was dying from within, due to the very nature of socialism's effect on the human spirit. It must also be remembered that even though the Pilgrims increased their efforts in 1623, a severe drought threatened to undo all they had accomplished by ruining their crops. So, following their beliefs, they offered contrition for their sins and prayed to God for rain. Soon, the drought broke, the crops flourished and the community would celebrate the first Thanksgiving that we still try to emulate to this day.
In writing about Bradford and his decision to go from collectivism to capitalism, historian Russell Kirk wrote, "never again were the Pilgrims short of food."
It is not just appropriate but it is imperative for us to remember that we stand upon the shoulders of giants, and that we need to let our children know about those giants who came before us. They were not cruel, mean spirited, nor evil in the way they lived their lives. They were our ancestors who lived in a different era, with different values, and different obstacles to overcome. They lived by what the Good Book advised, and tried to treat each other the way they believed God wanted them to. And while we may have incomparably more than they did, we can learn much from the lessons they learned and how they gave thanks to the Lord for His many blessings. We should also remember that God has blessed Americans with many material things, and He has done so in part by showing Bradford and the Pilgrims the dangers of socialism. I have written before that capitalism is the way God expected man to run societies, and that He instituted the system of private property rights when he gave the land of Canaan to the Israelites.