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America’s first experiment with communism

November 23, 2013

[J.P.'s Moment of Common Sense. Originally dated November 22, 2012. Shortened here for radio.]

There are misconceptions about the first Thanksgiving, 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 baloney about Pilgrims exploiting poor ignorant natives, the “thanks” in the word "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 the most tolerant of Christians—after all, the whole purpose of the settlement was 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 Native American chief who signed it... whereupon the chief's son violated the treaty by attacking the settlers.

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

One lesson of the Pilgrim settlement should be taught in every classroom—something they learned by painful experience and should never be forgotten. Two hundred twenty seven years before Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published The Communist Manifesto, the Pilgrims 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 any interest in working. Why work hard planting crops when you're an equal owner in 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 firewood other people chopped?

William Bradford was the governor of Plymouth Colony for over 30 years and kept a journal that was published two hundred years after his death: Of Plymouth Plantation is the title. 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 & other 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, 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... Ayn Rand, for instance.

In 1623 Bradford abandoned the settlement agreement written by 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 apart 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's... today’s dose of common sense.

"That which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it. Everyone 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

"I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land." — Jon Stewart (classic example of liberal ignorance)

"Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence." — Erma Bombeck

From Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA       

November 26, 2013 - Happy Thanksgibbletting. – Robert, Ohio

November 23, 2013 - What are you saying, that the Pilgrims weren't blue-eyed devils persecuting the Indians and purposely giving them measles so they could steal their land? Are you sure? 'Cause that's what I learned from Ward Churchill. – Cliff P., Colorado
J.P. replies: Ah yes, good ol' Ward. Where is he now? Please tell me Colorado didn't reinstate him. Ward Churchill made my original list of "The five worst human beings in America."

November 23, 2013 - Great article J.P.! Unfortunately the other side doesn't want to be confused by facts. Doesn't fit with their beliefs. Democracy ain't perfect but it sure has a lot more to recommend it than some of the other forms of "government" that have been tried or currently exist. – Pam T., Virginia

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