Food, holidays, life

Wednesday Wisdom for Thanksgiving

A little wisdom about our traditional American holiday, Thanksgiving.

The True Story of Thanksgiving.

On August 1, 1620, the Mayflower set sail. It carried a total of 102 passengers, including forty Pilgrims led by William Bradford. On the journey, Bradford set up an agreement – a contract – that established just and equal laws for all members of the new community, irrespective of their religious beliefs.

The journey to the New World was long and arduous (the details of what happened to them are quite tragic). When the Pilgrims landed in New England in November, they found, according to Bradford’s detailed journal, “a cold, barren, desolate wilderness. There were no friends to greet them,” he wrote. “There were no houses to shelter them. There were no inns where they could refresh themselves.”

When spring finally came, Indians taught the settlers how to plant corn, fish for cod and skin beavers for coats. Yes, it was Indians that taught the white man. The Pilgrims needed such instruction to help them prosper, but they didn’t, at least not yet. Why? Keep reading, because this is important to understand, and it’s where modern American history lessons often end.

Here is the part [of Thanksgiving] that has been omitted: The original contract the Pilgrims entered into with their London financiers, called for everything they produced to go into a common store. Each member of the community was entitled to one common share. They farmed communally. All of the land they cleared and the houses they built belonged to the community as well. They were going to distribute it equally. Nobody owned anything.

Their experiment in collectivism did not lead to prosperity or brotherly love. Instead, it created poverty, starvation, resentment and anger.

For two years the harvest time failed to bring forth enough to feed the people. Indeed, many starved and many died of famine. Governor Bradford tells us, that faced with this disaster, the elders of the colony gathered. They predicted that in another year they would surely all die and disappear in the wilderness.

According to Bradford’s journal, the Pilgrims could not be expected to do their best work without incentive. It belittled each of them as individuals, and he wrote that they complained it felt like slavery. So, what did Bradford’s community try next? They unharnessed the power of good old free enterprise and undergirded the capitalistic principle of private property. Every family was assigned its own plot of land to work, and permitted to market its own crops and products. They decided to divide the property and fields of the colony, and gave each family a piece as their own. Whatever they did not use for their own consumption, they had the right to trade away to their neighbors for something they desired instead.

“This had very good success,” wrote Bradford, “for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.”

Their bounty was so great, that they had enough to not only trade among themselves but also with the neighboring Indians in the forest.  The profits allowed them to pay off their debts to the merchants in London. In November 1623, they had a great feast to which they also invited the Indians.  They prepared turkey and corn, and much more, and thanked God for bringing them a bountiful crop.  They, therefore, set aside a day of “Thanksgiving.”

Once they reformed their system to a free market, they produced more than they could possibly consume. They invited the Indians to dinner, and gave thanks for all the plenty.

The success and prosperity of the Plymouth settlement attracted more Europeans, and began what came to be known as the “Great Puritan Migration.'”

This is the true story of Thanksgiving.

This information was found from many different sources, but most of this blog was taken from the link below. You can also read what Bradford wrote (in his own words) in his journal about the collectivist social experiment here.




12 thoughts on “Wednesday Wisdom for Thanksgiving”

  1. Well, I’ll be darned! I never heard this Thanksgiving story before. Have you heard that something like 75% of what we learned in history class was wrong or had major facts omitted? With everybody interpreting events according to their own filters, no wonder we have strange versions of truth. 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving, Lori!


  2. Very interesting and something I had read before, however, forgotten. Growing up on Route 2 we had a fish fry on Thanksgiving. That was our tradition.
    Perhaps I should write that.


    1. That’s funny, Linda. Pete was joking about fish for Thanksgiving and it seems that some really do have that tradition. I’ll stop by your blog and check it out. Thanks so much for coming over.


Comments are closed.