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America’s first experiment with communism

November 22, 2012

There are a number of misconceptions about the first Thanksgiving, most of them traceable to our misguided educational system which every year becomes more allergic to any notion that doesn’t make America look bad. Send your kid off to school and it’s guaranteed he’ll come home full of falsehoods about Pilgrims exploiting poor ignorant natives, the “thanks” of Thanksgiving being directed at the natives who kept them from starving, and Pilgrims being an intolerant group of religious bigots.

In fact, the Plymouth Colony's puritans were among the most tolerant of Christians, the whole purpose of the settlement was to assure religious freedom, their thankfulness at that first autumn feast was directed at God, and they were friends, allies, and co-citizens with Native Americans for many years. They had a 50-year treaty of cooperation that lasted until the death of the chief who signed it... whereupon his son violated the treaty by attacking the settlers.

(Liberals don’t comprehend stories that have natives violating treaties and attacking white settlers. Those stories don’t fit their paradigm so they ignore them.)

By painful experience, the Pilgrims learned something that should never be forgotten. Two hundred twenty seven years before Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published The Communist Manifesto, they disembarked from the Mayflower in the New World and established a colony based on communism and it did not work.

They arrived in 1620 and spent two years trying to work within a system designed back in Europe by the settlement’s financial backers, a system that held all property and wealth created to be owned communally. We all know what happens in a system like that. We’ve seen the results in the Soviet Union, North Korea, Cuba, and other nations that failed to prosper. When nobody owns anything, nobody has a real interest in working. Why work hard planting crops when you are an equal owner in the crops somebody else is growing? Why build a nice cabin when other people have as much right to live in it as you do? Why chop firewood for winter when you can get warm with the firewood other people chopped?

William Bradford was the governor of Plymouth Colony for over 30 years and kept a journal that was eventually published two hundred years after his death: Of Plymouth Plantation. In his journal Bradford talked about the problems associated with living in a communist society:
“The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years, and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince, the vanity of that conceit of Plato & others ancients, applauded by some of later times; that ye taking away of property, and bringing in community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For this community... was found to breed much confusion & discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort... The strong, or man of parts, had no more division of victuals & cloths, than he that was weak and not able to do a quarter ye other could; this was thought unjust... As 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. Upon ye point all being to have alike, and all to do alike, they thought themselves in ye like condition, and one as good as another; and so, if it did not cut off those relations that God hath set amongst men, yet it did at least much diminish and take off ye mutual respect that should be preserved amongst them. And would have been worse if they had been men of another condition. Let none object this is men's corruption, and nothing to ye course it self. I answer, seeing all men to have this corruption in them. God in His wisdom saw another course fiter for them.”
Notice the comparison of communism to slavery. The comparison was made by the women, who apparently were expected to wash and cook for men other than their husbands. One can imagine a 20th century Soviet woman nodding her head in complete understanding... like Ayn Rand, for instance.

In 1623 Bradford abandoned the settlement agreement written by the London financiers and assigned each family or group its own plot of land. From that point forward the Plymouth Colony thrived as men took to their plows & axes and started working for themselves instead of the commune. They thrived that year in spite of a two-month drought:
“I may not here omit how, notwithstanding all their great pains & industry, and ye great hopes of a large crop, the Lord seemed to blast, & take away the same, and to threaten further & more some famine unto them, by a great drought which continued from ye 3 weeks in May, till about ye middle of July, without any rain, and with great heat (for ye most part) insomuch as ye corn began to wither away, though it was set with fish, the moisture whereof helped it much. Yet at length it began to languish sore... Upon which they set a part a solemn day of humiliation, to seek ye Lord by humble & fervent prayer, in this great distress. And He was pleased to give them a gracious & speedy answer, both to their own & the Indians admiration, that lived amongst them. For all ye morning, and greatest part of the day, it was clear weather & very hot, and not a cloud or any sign of rain to be seen yet toward evening it began to overcast, and shortly after to rain, with such sweet and gentle showers, as gave them cause of rejoicing & blessing God. It came, without either wind, or thunder, or any violence, and by degrees in abundance, as that ye earth was thoroughly wet and soaked therewith. Which did so apparently revive & quicken ye decayed corn & other fruits, as was wonderful to see, and made ye Indians astonished to behold; and afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair warm weather, as, through His blessing, caused a fruitful & liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing. For which mercy (in time convenient) they also set apart a day of thanksgiving.”
In the face of drought, they prayed—“humble & fervent prayer”—and God answered their prayers immediately with a great rainfall that “astonished ye Indians.” By the fall of that year, thanks to God’s intervention and their abandonment of communism, they had finally reached a comfortable state of self-sufficiency.

Both lessons were profound and long-lasting. Both lessons became fundamental precepts of America—that all blessings come from God and that men should enjoy the fruits of their own labor:
“By this time harvest was come, and in stead of famine now God gave them plenty, and ye face of things was changed, to ye rejoicing of ye hearts of many, for which they blessed God. And ye effect of their particular planting was well seen, for all had, one way & other, pretty well to bring ye year about, and some of ye abler sort and more industrious had to spare, and sell to others, so as any general want or famine had not been amongst them since to this day.”
The first Thanksgiving is usually dated to 1621 when the settlement celebrated its first harvest, but the first official Thanksgiving was planned by Governor Bradford in 1623, after the colony began its long, painful divorce from communism (housing was later assigned to individuals, then cattle, and eventually wealth was allowed to be inherited) and started flourishing as a community of free individuals.

"That which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it. Every one thinks chiefly of his own, hardly at all of the common interest; and only when he is himself concerned as an individual. For besides other considerations, everybody is more inclined to neglect the duty which he expects another to fulfill." – Aristotle

From Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA       

November 24, 2012 - No wonder Jim... Daryle is from the Buckeye state! – Mary, Michigan
J.P. replies: It would be fun calling him a hairless nut if the damn Buckeyes didn't just win the game.

November 23, 2012 - oops, after some in-depth research, I’ve found the reference to which i’d formerly alluded. William Stachey (SP?) wrote of her translating her name “little wanton.” one may see where I confused promiscuous and slut with little wanton. and the revisionist historians. anyway, one can’t rape the willing. – RobertW, IHTM

November 23, 2012 - People working together, helping each other, making it through rough times, is an excellent idea. Making it law is a bad idea. – flashingscotsman, IHTM

November 23, 2012 - The problem that hit the communes of the 60s and 70s is they didn’t do the communism correctly, that is to say, by force. Communism can only succeed by forcing people who are incapable of resisting said force, to conduct the labors required to sustain the communists. If the communists fail to oppress sufficient numbers of laborers then communism will fail. Everybody wants to be a communist oppressing those of lesser value and intelligence, don’t they? – DefHarryMelon, IHTM

November 23, 2012 - Communism was tried again on a fairly wide scale in the sixties. Lots of the druggie loons decided that they would form “communes” with bunches of them living together sharing all and singing Kumbaya and doing LSD. Utter failure. Much to their surprise, many figured out that working and bringing money and food to the commune was better left to others while they could just sit on their ass, do drugs, screw, and generally fuck off. Well, you know the rest of the story. 100% failure. – Navyvet2, IHTM

November 23, 2012 - And because they abandoned the communistic practices is precisely why the Pilgrims survived and flourished. If any of today’s modern Progressives attempted to run a colony, it would end up being a Roanoke. – Progressive Hemrrhoid, IHTM

November 23, 2012 - I read something a couple of days ago that original “thanksgiving” was supposed to be a memmorial for all the lives lost that first year. They somebody stood up and said, No, let’s make it a day of thanksgiving, that we have survived, that our crops were good and we have plently for the winter. – sa_rose, IHTM

November 23, 2012 - J.P. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. Really informative article. Before I address the subject of your article, I want to briefly address the name calling from liberals that support their beliefs, agendas, and politicians. If you don't agree with them on any subject or issue, even though you have the same right to freedom of speech as they do, it deteriates into name calling. Conservatives now need a dictionary for all the code words that are used in every day conversations that all of a sudden mean something entirely different. It now has become ridiculous. Most Americans want our goverment to start working together to address the real problems this country is facing. It is my lowly opinion that continued use of bigot, sexist, racist does more to separate us then to bring us together. Maybe these people don't have kids, but it reminds me of my teens that when either you catch them doing something they shouldn't or your disagree with them, they just throw all sorts of stuff out there hoping to throw you off subject. On to the main topic of your article which was the roots and heritage of our country. You are correct that students today are not taught in any depth about our history. I am often surprised even by my 3 children some of the things they were not taught in elementary and high school. Then we Americans why our educational system is not competing with other countries. First of all, it seems that we keep doing the same thing over and over again hoping for a different result. Which I understand to be the first rule of craziness. I personally blame it on the whole public school system. From the teachers union that protect teachers that have no business even being teachers. I blame it on promoting students to the next grade when they have not been taught the basics and fundamentals that will enable them in the next grade and farther on. I blame it on who ever is responsible for picking both the text books and setting the curriculum for students. But I also place the blame on us parents. We have to get involved with our children by setting the standards at home. – Pam T., Virginia

November 22, 2012 - Daryle, it's true that slavery in America is one of the greatest tradgedies of all time. However, blacks are not the only race to have been subjected to slavery. Slavery goes back to the beginning of time. The Jews were slaves to the Egyptians for over 400 years before they were delivered. There are people all over the world who are sold into slavery today...yes, even white people. Ever heard of the sex-slave industry that has become rampant all over the world? Women in many nations, and even here are often treated like slaves because of their gender. Slavery is an evil thing, but I wonder Daryle if you feel as strongly about the injustices that are happening today as you do about the ones that we've already overcome? Keep in mind as you throw around labels such as racist and bigot so casually that there are people who actually lived that nightmare, who still live it today. Keep in mind that despite all the hate and anger you seem to have towards anyone you feel is a "bigot"or "racist" that none of us choose our skin color and if given an opportunity to walk a day in someone elses shoes you would have done EXACTLY as they did. It's only by the grace of God that you've done anything different. If you have an intelliget, accurate comment to share please do. Otherwise go be miserable somewhere else. – Done apologizing, Michigan

November 22, 2012 - I agree in some sense with the commentor from sweden. The conditions for the first settlers likely made living in a commune the only viable means of survival. Conditions were harsh for them, and many did not survive the first years there. In any case, communism is not a long-term solution. – Samantha, Michigan

November 22, 2012 - speaking of little known facts. Though the source is not to hand (I believe it is “Our Godly Heritage”), Pocahontas was known to be promiscuous, in common terminology one could say she was a slut, and so, with this in mind, as well as an understanding of primitive culture even in the 21st century, it is extremely unlikely that Pocahontas was raped by any of the Europeans. – RobertW, IHTM

November 22, 2012 - "a solemn day of humiliation, to seek ye Lord by humble & fervent prayer, in this great distress. And He was pleased to give them a gracious & speedy answer, both to their own & the Indians admiration, that lived amongst them. For all ye morning, and greatest part of the day, it was clear weather & very hot, and not a cloud or any sign of rain to be seen yet toward evening it began to overcast, and shortly after to rain, with such sweet and gentle showers, as gave them cause of rejoicing & blessing God." I observed/witness/testify to this today, this day. God be praised through Jesus the Son, His love endures forever. now for those who’re called by His name: We know what we must needs do so God will heal our land. Maybe we the sheep of His fold, well I know I do, and I’ll leave it at that. the reader will understand. – RobertW, IHTM

November 22, 2012 - They suffered and starved because they lived under communism? Shows how much we today, are sheltered, even stinking third-world immigrants when they come, have opportunity just handed to them. Even the 19th century immigrants had a society where they could work for a living. Those folks faced another challenge altogether, no jobs for anything in native societies, not even much in the way of advises due to the language barrier. They couldn´t just land with everything ready, set up houses and fields, then thrive and prosper. There where no machines or even the concept of thorough preparations back then, just physical work in an unknown land and climate. They where not ready for the conditions they faced when they came and they had everything to build. So if they lived in a commune of some sort, it isn´t because someone across the ocean told them to do so, it is because they assumed they had to band together to survive. Otherwise, there would be a community right next to an empty, deserted commune on the other. When they knew the land better, confident they could survive on their own, that alliance of circumstances was ended. They grew more prosperous for other reasons than a free market but because there where fewer of them, the weak had died and the strong had lived. Supplies for 5, work by 4, profit by 3. In any case, communism doesn´t work isn´t the lesson here, otherwise, they would all have been dead by the second year and the human history of the americas would have taken a different course. Hey, leftwing dude, I am card carrying KKK bigo-racist too. I am very very bigo-racist and plain cultural western, come at me bro, come at me! – Radvonium-113, Sweden

November 22, 2012 - Oh, and if I might engage in a small bit of seasonal and thread appropriate self-promotion: I mentioned this only once before on this forum, but if any of you enjoy classical-style science fiction with a subtle conservative undertone, please visit my own site, the Penny Robinson Fan Club, where you can download and/or read online a novel-length trilogy, Endless Skies, based on the old series Lost In Space. The premise is that the Robinson party has been crashed – quite literally- by a dashing young space pilot who kicks them in their butts and encourages them to get out of that dang ship and start actually colonizing the world they’re stranded on. The new name for their new colony? New Plymouth! I make specific comparison to them and the Pilgrims early on, which actually does mesh well with the original premise of the series. I don’t know if it is coincidence or not, but one of the Pilgrims’ spiritual leaders in England, who did not come to Plymouth with them, was named — John Robinson! Anyway, I’ve had some nice comments in the past on this, and as I say it has a definite, but subtle, conservative viewpoint underpinning romance, adventure, action, and even some slightly naughty bits. Right here you can download and read some “peeks inside.” Thank you, and enjoy responsibly. – PsychoDad, IHTM

November 22, 2012 - Excellent article, JP! Happy Thanksgiving, all! – perlcat, IHTM

November 22, 2012 - Communism didn’t work then, doesn’t work now, but there is never a lack of the stupid trying to reinvent the square wheel and saying this time it will work. The basis of our system comes directly from events like this, the same events that today’s enlightened liberals like to forget. Like the guy who blogged in and had almost every aspect of this wrong, today’s liberals are like 7-UP when it comes to understanding life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, never had it, never will. – Not so silent, IHTM

November 22, 2012 - enough of them to get Obama re-elected – Jim Stewart, IHTM

November 22, 2012 - And yet a great many morons want to head down this road again. – ooddballz, IHTM

November 22, 2012 - I’m not certain, but as I note [below], I think then it would have been glossed over out of embarrassment that it was done at all. – PsychoDad, IHTM

November 22, 2012 - “But yeah, this is a part of the Pilgrim story that has always been little-told.” I would taken a certain assumption if it had been little-told since the 1960s but always little-told, nearly 390 years later, would makes me suspect it is because this is a part that have only recently been told or at least, told through a modern viewpoint. Would it not have been noticed in the 1950s, when anti-communist feelings where stronger, interest in history was stronger and a certain academic agenda had none of the influence it does today? – 6 November 2012, IHTM

November 22, 2012 - Yeah, I read that PD. A that one is a real student of (revisionist) history. Funny thing is, I was talking with a guy in my Deutsch learnin course today, and he told me he experienced more racism from OTHER blacks than from whites. His skin is TOO LIGHT. I know, old story, and we all know it. He also admits it is the black community holding themselves back, while blaming “whitey” of course. Other than the fact he supports Obumma, he seems to be a reasonably intelligent person. – ooddballz, IHTM

November 22, 2012 - Oh, THAT J.P. Travis! Nice site, took me a while to make the connection. OK so Flynn isn’t citing any original sources either. I do withdraw what I suggest above; I had thought the phrase I recall “holding all goods in common” was in the Mayflower Compact itself, it is not, I assume I’m remembering it from Bradford’s “Of Plimoth Plantation.” As I say, even up here in spittin’ distance of Plymouth Rock itself, this has always been an awkward topic, but the little I heard always suggested that this had been their own idea, modeling themselves on the early apostolic community — that is, it was an expression of their faith and not a contractual obligation. I’ll have to go back through “Of Plimoth Plantation” and see if he mentions specifically why they did that. – PsychoDad, IHTM

November 22, 2012 - ...yeah, this is a part of the Pilgrim story that has always been little-told. I think at one point because we were a little embarrassed by our flirtation with proto-communism, then more recently of course, because the leftards in academia are embarrassed by the first-hand testimony that it just doesn’t work. My only other critique of the piece — I would be interested in seeing evidence — is [the] assertion that this experiment was a relic of the colony’s financial backers. To my knowledge, this was written into the Mayflower Compact precisely because they had landed outside of British jurisdiction and were free to pursue their own style of self-government. – PsychoDad, IHTM
J.P. replies: ...although this isn’t where I got the information about the financial backers, a quick Google search brought me here:
“One malady of man’s making–communism–made the first years of Plymouth Plantation particularly rough. The endeavor’s financial backers foolishly insisted on what was labelled a “Common Course and Condition” to prevent the settlers, beyond their reach across the ocean, from siphoning profits. The Puritans derived their necessities from a common stock and worked common land. This had the effect of fostering laziness, eliminating profits, and helping to create near-starvation conditions.”

November 22, 2012 - "You're a biggot (sic) and a racist." LOL!!! Great Jumping Jeeps, do lefties have not a single original thought left in their collective head?!? I swear it's like some old DOS program that generates random phrases out of a 20-word vocabulary! I mean, what in that story even APPROACHED racial issues? That Bradford called their proto-communism slavery? God, what an idiot. – Ice Cold Troll, Massachusetts

November 22, 2012 - Nice work, J.P. Of course, we expect nothing less. – DefHarryMelon, IHTM

November 22, 2012 - This was before they perfected it. Lol. – Big Al, IHTM

November 22, 2012 - You are really good. This is a great example of being a biggot and a racist. Slavery issue the biggest tragedy the world has ever known. History doesn't tell the truth of John smith raping pochohontas. You continue to slide these underhanded stories but we see you. There is a difference between a truth and a story. – Daryle M., Ohio
J.P. replies: The Plymouth Colony and the Virginia Colony were separated by twelve years and more than six hundred miles. Not only did the Pilgrims have nothing to do with Pocahontas—who converted to Christianity, married an Englishman, became a celebrity in England, and refused numerous opportunities to return to her tribe—there is no evidence whatsoever that anybody raped her, let alone John Smith who credited her with saving his life twice. Thank you for demonstrating my first paragraph.

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