The First Thanksgiving

cropped-bob-shapiro.jpg   By Bob Shapiro

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.

Wampanaog Seal

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.

Pilgrims and Indians

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!

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6 thoughts on “The First Thanksgiving

  1. Thank you for reminding me why we celebrate thanksgiving. We are fortunate and owe thanks for a day of abundance.

    David gave me this link with additional information on the very interesting topic about the pilgrims you wrote about.

    WWW. breitbart.com/breitbart-tv/2014/11/26/ben-shapiro-the-truth-about-thanksgiving

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  2. Reblogged this on danallosso and commented:
    Interesting blog post, typical of many I’ve seen politicizing Thanksgiving. Here are some thoughts before I go eat turkey with friends and family:

    The natives in the areas settled by the Plymouth colony on Cape Cod and the Massachusetts Bay colony on the Shawmut Peninsula had been substantially depopulated by plague in the years immediately prior to the Pilgrims’ arrival. Not the Pilgrims’ fault, but this didn’t stop them from thanking their God for removing “those pernicious creatures, to make room for a better growth.” (Cotton Mather)

    Your remarks about socialism perpetuate a largely false claim that critics of the status quo are anticapitalist. Some extremists are, I suppose. But most are not, just as most advocates of capitalism are not uncritical of giant, too-big-to-fail corporations engaging in criminal behavior and getting off scot free.

    The hard work is, finding common ground and figuring out how to dig ourselves out of the holes we find ourselves in, together. Happy Thanksgiving.

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  3. The natives in the areas settled by the Plymouth colony on Cape Cod and the Massachusetts Bay colony on the Shawmut Peninsula had been substantially depopulated by plague in the years immediately prior to the Pilgrims’ arrival. Not the Pilgrims’ fault, but this didn’t stop them from thanking their God for removing “those pernicious creatures, to make room for a better growth.” (Cotton Mather)

    Your remarks about socialism perpetuate a largely false claim that critics of the status quo are anticapitalist. Some extremists are, I suppose. But most are not, just as most advocates of capitalism are not uncritical of giant, too-big-to-fail corporations engaging in criminal behavior and getting off scot free.

    The hard work is, finding common ground and figuring out how to dig ourselves out of the holes we find ourselves in, together. Happy Thanksgiving.

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    • Hi Dan,
      I wasn’t trying to address for or against the status quo. I was observing that many (maybe most) were socialist, even if they didn’t realize it. I’m not sure how anybody originally could support ObamaCare (for example) without being socialist. Or any number of initiatives, under both Ds and Rs (I’m a registered R), which have added power to the government and taken power away from the people.

      And, yes, too big to fail makes me cringe. If they stink at making profits legally, then let them fail. Let the resources they are tying up under their lack of expertise be moved by the market to stronger managerial hands.

      Common ground? Yes, there’s plenty, but I don’t want to mislead anybody that I agree with everything of theirs.

      Thanks for the visit & the well wishes (and back at you as well). I’m relaxing now, letting the food go down.

      Bob

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  4. Thanks, Bob. I’m not a supporter of Obama, but I have some friends who are. I think their argument is that the insurance industry was doing a pretty poor job on its own and that having millions of uninsured people walking into emergency rooms with acute illnesses was costing the economy more than insuring them and giving preventative care would. I don’t think that makes them all socialists (although I think I know one or two academics who lean that way).

    Glad you agree there’s common ground. I’ve been thinking about how to try to craft a message so that it crosses the traditional red/blue divide. When I was younger, I grew up surrounded by what I think of as old-fashioned Conservatives, and it seems to me they would be as horrified as I am by politics in america today. My instinct, as a sort-of true believer in the type of capitalism that would allow the little guy who worked hard and had good ideas to actually succeed, is to attack the fat cats and aristocratic inheritors who run the show without ever having done anything valuable themselves. And as a historian, I feel like I need to try to set the record straight sometimes. A lot of American History, I think, has been written by the winners. But it’s weird, because even historians who lean to the left often don’t want to admit there’s ever been class struggle in America.

    If you don’t mind, I’m going to subscribe to your blog. I’ll try to keep my comments low-key.

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    • Welcome aboard.

      I expect that I have a few years on you; I remember when insurance was merely a perk for the top brass of company to avoid the 90% income tax bracket. Back then, people weren’t dying in the streets because of lack of coverage. (BTW, don’t equate Health Care Coverage with Health Care – they’re not the same.)

      Anytime you have something paid for by a third person, rather than the person getting the benefit, demand will skyrocket. That’s just the way that human nature works. The only way to avoid it is to have the person who buys be the person who pays.

      Common ground comes in unexpected places. So for example, why is the level of black, teenage unemployment so high relative to other groups? Is there a problem with public education? Is there a problem with the minimum wage? Is there a problem with financial disincentives caused by the entitlement safety net? It seems to me that black teenagers may be hurt by the do-gooders trying to help them. Common ground may come from surprising yourself in how you think about solutions to problems.

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