In December 1620, a group of settlers (we know them as Pilgrims), originally bound for Virginia, arrived in Massachusetts. They found a suitable location for a settlement, which they named Plymouth.
Besides starting a new colony from scratch, these early Americans also had to deal with a pair of issues which still plague us today: “Foreign”
Policy and the choice between Socialism and Capitalism.
The Pilgrims soon found that the locale where they settled was not devoid of inhabitants. Several rival American Indian tribes already shared the area, and they occasionally conducted raiding parties against each other. One tribe, the Wampanoag, sought and arranged a mutual aid treaty with the settlers, to protect itself from other tribes.
This first treaty turned out to be very beneficial on both sides, and it lasted for 50 years. Though sometimes it’s difficult to know who will make a good ally, having some kind of foreign policy is inescapable.
When Spring arrived that first year, the Pilgrims found the area quite suitable for growing crops. They arranged for all to share in the group harvest, without respect to each person’s contribution to the effort (sound familiar: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”).
That first harvest was dismal. Many within the colony turned out to be willing to share although they had given minimal effort in growing the food. The treaty and otherwise good relations with the Wampanaog turned out to be a good choice, as the Indians provided food during the first full winter.
For the second growing season, even fewer of the Pilgrims wanted to work for the common harvest, and that harvest was so poor that, without help from the Indians, the settlement at Plymouth would have disappeared through starvation. In a land where all share equally, those who work hard to produce what is shared feel less equal.
The following Spring, the Pilgrims, realizing that sharing equally wasn’t working, instead set up individual plots of land which were owned by individual settlers. They threw their Socialism in the ash can and instituted Capitalism. They said, “If you work for it, it’s yours.”
The third harvest was a spectacular success. So much had been produced that a considerable amount was available for trade within the region. This trade meant that the settlement at Plymouth not only survived, but it also prospered.
After that third harvest, the Pilgrims wanted to show their thanks to the Indians who had helped them not starve to death, so they invited the Indians to share a feast. This tradition is what has been handed down to us as Thanksgiving.
Though all this happened almost three centuries before my grandparents came to America, I can give thanks for the lessons learned way back in the early 1620s.
1. Choose your friends wisely.
2. It’s wonderful to help those less fortunate than you are – or to receive help from others – but remember, “Nobody gets it, if there ain’t any.” Six days a week, and twice on Sunday, Capitalism beats Socialism.
As a closing note, I find it somewhat dismaying that many (most?) people today, in my home state of Massachusetts (and our great country as a whole), have forgotten or never knew the lessons taught by the Pilgrims. They appear to prefer Socialism to Capitalism, even as our Economy stagnates, and they prefer to make alliances with those who are sworn to our destruction. I can pray that they will see the light before it’s too late.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving!