1620 Menu




WhenPlymouth Plantation the Pilgrims had to go on half rations "they bore it patiently with hope of supply." Can we go on half-rations of corn and beans for months without complaint "patiently with hope?"  Many Americans are obese.  We are so low spiritually that we lead the world in clogged arteries.  One of the first things Americans need to do is simply quit eating so many donuts.  God wants us to be a disciplined people, but the world looks upon us as fat slobs.

The story of the Pilgrims is deeply relevant to Americans. America must serve the world. It must be able to go on half rations. It must fight its enemies when they attack, and it must win them over as the Pilgrims did Squanto. We must get up and pray with our children and go to bed with prayers. Our challenge is greater than theirs. They could never do what they did without God, and we cannot do we must do without an intimate relationship all day long with God as the Pilgrims had. God was the center of their lives, and we must revive America to do the same.

Often the Pilgrims went to bed not knowing where their next day's food would come from. This did not stop them from loving God and giving thanks and singing songs to him.

Socialism to Capitalism

Robert Cushman came the next year and lectured them on socialism. He used the verse First Corinthians 10:24: "Let no man seed his own, but every man another's wealth."

Bradford wrote that after several years of living a communistic, socialist life that people lost the will to work. It was natural to pool their resources together when they first landed, but after they established themselves it was obvious that a new way of ordering themselves was needed. Bradford completely changed things.  He gave everyone their own piece of land.  Having private property encouraged everyone to work in the fields, even women and children. Plato was shown to be wrong in advocating socialism. Bradford saw that the idea that political systems do not make a difference but what matters is only that men are good and then there will be prosperity was wrong. He saw that socialism was ineffective because it had been tried by "Godly and sober men" i.e., extremely religious and selfless persons and still after "years" there was constant poverty. "Taking away property" he found did not make for a "happy and flourishing" people.

By introducing capitalism he laid the foundation for America's future wealth. In the spring of 1623 Bradford abandoned the pure communism they had used to structure themselves. To stimulate production of corn and prevent the constant penury of nearly always almost starving they changed their economics. Each household could keep all the corn and other produce they managed to grow on its own plot. The results were dramatic and Bradford writes: "So they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length, after much debate of things, the Governor (with the advice of the chiefest amongst them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves; in all other things to go on in the general way as before. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number, for that end, only for present use (but made no division for inheritance) and ranged all boys and youth under some family. This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would 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."

"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’s and other ancients applauded by some of later times; that the taking away of property and bringing in community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. 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."

This is one of the most eloquent and powerful statements against socialism and for free enterprise ever written.

They were under contract with 70 merchant business men to work seven years. They were indentured servants for seven years, during which time they had no freedom.

Bradford knowingly broke the agreement with the English merchants. He announced that every man would raise his own corn. But that spring after planting all their seed corn, they had nothing to eat: "All their victuals were spent,Plantation and they were only to rest on God's providence; at night not many times knowing where to have a bite of anything the next day."

So they turned to the sea and worked long hours there and lived day by day with what they caught. Free enterprise brought a bumper crop and never again was Plymouth to know a shortage of bread. In fact, from that time on there was always a surplus to sell.

Communism abandoned at Jamestown too

In Virginia, Jamestown had also experimented with communism, but, like Plymouth, it proved to be disastrous.  Every settler was given land of his own from which he was to support himself. This change was a striking lesson in human nature and the science of government. Each person became immediately industrious when he saw that his labor would bring him direct reward. One colonist wrote that "Three men did more work under the new rule than twenty did under the old." Communism discourages extra labor and frugality. God's economics is laissez-faire capitalism.  I discuss this in detail in my book Freedom Works at http://www.DivinePrinciple.com.

The following is an excellent statement about socialism versus capitalism in Plymouth Plantation:

The Great Thanksgiving Hoax

By Richard J. Maybury

Each year at this time school children all over America are taught the official Thanksgiving story, and newspapers, radio, TV, and magazines devote vast amounts of time and space to it. It is all very colorful and fascinating.

It is also very deceiving. This official story is nothing like what really happened. It is a fairy tale, a whitewashed and sanitized collection of half-truths which divert attention away from Thanksgiving's real meaning.

The official story has the pilgrims boarding the Mayflower, coming to America and establishing the Plymouth colony in the winter of 1620-21. This first winter is hard, and half the colonists die. But the survivors are hard working and tenacious, and they learn new farming techniques from the Indians. The harvest of 1621 is bountiful. The Pilgrims hold a celebration, and give thanks to God. They are grateful for the wonderful new abundant land He has given them.

The official story then has the Pilgrims living more or less happily ever after, each year repeating the first Thanksgiving. Other early colonies also have hard times at first, but they soon prosper and adopt the annual tradition of giving thanks for this prosperous new land called America.

The problem with this official story is that the harvest of 1621 was not bountiful, nor were the colonists hardworking or tenacious. 1621 was a famine year and many of the colonists were lazy thieves.

In his 'History of Plymouth Plantation,' the governor of the colony, William Bradford, reported that the colonists went hungry for years, because they refused to work in the fields. They preferred instead to steal food. He says the colony was riddled with "corruption," and with "confusion and discontent." The crops were small because "much was stolen both by night and day, before it became scarce eatable."

In the harvest feasts of 1621 and 1622, "all had their hungry bellies filled," but only briefly. The prevailing condition during those years was not the abundance the official story claims, it was famine and death. The first "Thanksgiving" was not so much a celebration as it was the last meal of condemned men.

But in subsequent years something changes. The harvest of 1623 was different. Suddenly, "instead of famine now God gave them plenty," Bradford wrote, "and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many, for which they blessed God." Thereafter, he wrote, "any general want or famine hath not been amongst them since to this day." In fact, in 1624, so much food was produced that the colonists were able to begin exporting corn.

What happened?

After the poor harvest of 1622, writes Bradford, "they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop." They began to question their form of economic organization.

This had required that "all profits & benefits that are got by trade, working, fishing, or any other means" were to be placed in the common stock of the colony, and that, "all such persons as are of this colony, are to have their meat, drink, apparel, and all provisions out of the common stock." A person was to put into the common stock all he could, and take out only what he needed.

This "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" was an early form of socialism, and it is why the Pilgrims were starving. Bradford writes that "young men that are most able and fit for labor and service" complained about being forced to "spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children." Also, "the strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals and clothes, than he that was weak." So the young and strong refused to work and the total amount of food produced was never adequate.

To rectify this situation, in 1623 Bradford abolished socialism. He gave each household a parcel of land and told them they could keep what they produced, or trade it away as they saw fit. In other words, he replaced socialism with a free market, and that was the end of famines.

Many early groups of colonists set up socialist states, all with the same terrible results. At Jamestown, established in 1607, out of every shipload of settlers that arrived, less than half would survive their first twelve months in America. Most of the work was being done by only one-fifth of the men, the other four-fifths choosing to be parasites. In the winter of 1609-10, called "The Starving Time," the population fell from five-hundred to sixty.

Then the Jamestown colony was converted to a free market, and the results were every bit as dramatic as those at Plymouth. In 1614, Colony Secretary Ralph Hamor wrote that after the switch there was "plenty of food, which every man by his own industry may easily and doth procure." He said that when the socialist system had prevailed, "we reaped not so much corn from the labors of thirty men as three men have done for themselves now."

Before these free markets were established, the colonists had nothing for which to be thankful. They were in the same situation as Ethiopians are today, and for the same reasons. But after free markets were established, the resulting abundance was so dramatic that the annual Thanksgiving celebrations became common throughout the colonies, and in 1863, Thanksgiving became a national holiday.

Thus the real reason for Thanksgiving, deleted from the official story, is: Socialism does not work; the one and only source of abundance is free markets, and we thank God we live in a country where we can have them.

* * * * * Mr. Maybury writes on investments.

This article originally appeared in The Free Market, November 1985.