The Pilgrims were a people completely steeped in the lessons of the Old and New Testaments. They looked to the ancient Israelites for their example and, because of the biblical precedents set forth in Scripture, they never doubted that their experiment would work.
But this was no pleasure cruise. The journey to the New World was a long and arduous one. 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. The sacrifice they had made for freedom was just beginning. During the first winter, half the Pilgrims-including Bradford's wife-died of either starvation, sickness or exposure.
The original contract the Pilgrims had entered into with their merchant-sponsers in London called for everything they produced to go into a common store, and each member of the community was entitled to one common share
. All of the land they cleared and the houses they built belonged to the community as well. They were collectivists.
Now. Bradford, who had become the new Governor of the colony, 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.
He decided to take bold action. Bradford assigned a plot of land to each family to work and manage, thus turning loose the power of the marketplace.
What Bradford and his community found was that the most creative and industrious people had no incentive to work any harder than anyone else, unless they could utilize the power of personal motivation!
But, while most of the rest of the world has been experimenting with socialism for well over 100 years...trying to refine it, perfect it and re-invent it, the Pilgrims decided early on to scrap it permanently....This is what 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.
For this community was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For 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...that was thought injustice."
The Pilgrims found that people could not be expected to do their best work without incentive. So what did Bradfords ' community try next? They unharnessed the power of good old free enterprise by invoking the under girding capitalistic principle of private property,
Every family was assigned its' own plot of land to work and were permitted to market its' own crops and products. What was the result? Bradford wrote, "This had very good success for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been." In no time, the Pilgrims found they had more food than they could possibly eat themselves...so they set up trading posts and exchanged goods with the Indians.
The profits allowed them to pay off their debts to the merchants in London . The success and prosperity of the Plymouth settlement attracted more Europeans and began the 'Great Puritan Migration'.
So the Pilgrims decided to thank God for all of there good fortune...and that's Thanksgiving. The celebration of capitalism, free market incentives and personal motivation.
So, HAPPY THANKSGIVING! We are blessed.