Thanksgiving, celebrated in November, is probably the least commercialized holiday in the calendar year for America. It is a time of thanksgiving for all the blessings that we have received as a nation; A celebration all wrapped up with the 3 Fs – Family, Friends, and Food. There are some who do not love turkey meals, but for me, I love them. So let us look at three aspects of Thanksgiving going back to 1620.
Compact – The Mayflower Compact
Celebration – The Day of Thanksgiving
Capitalism – The Rejection of Socialism
Here is the story of the Mayflower Compact as recorded in the Encyclopedia Brittanica,
“Rough seas and storms prevented the Mayflower from reaching its intended destination in the area of the Hudson River, and the ship was steered instead toward Cape Cod. Because of the change of course, the passengers were no longer within the jurisdiction of the charter granted to them in England by the Virginia Company. Within this legally uncertain situation, friction arose between the English Separatists (the Pilgrims) and the rest of the travelers, with some of the latter threatening to leave the group and settle on their own.
To quell the conflict and preserve unity, Pilgrim leaders (among them William Bradford and William Brewster) drafted the Mayflower Compact before going ashore. The brief document (about 200 words) bound its signers into a body politic for the purpose of forming a government and pledged them to abide by any laws and regulations that would later be established “for the general good of the colony.” The compact was signed by nearly all of the Mayflower’s adult male passengers (41 of a total of 102 passengers) while the ship was anchored at Provincetown harbour. Its authority was immediately exercised when John Carver, who had helped organize the expedition, was chosen as governor of the new colony.
The Mayflower Compact was not a constitution but rather an adaptation of a Puritan church covenant to a civil situation. Furthermore, as a provisional instrument adopted solely by the colonists, the document did not solve the matter of their questionable legal rights to the land they settled. (A patent was eventually obtained from the Council for New England in June 1621.) Still, the Mayflower Compact became the foundation of Plymouth’s government and remained in force until the colony was absorbed into the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691. Although in practice much of the power in Plymouth was guarded by the Pilgrim founders, the compact, with its fundamental principles of self-government and common consent, has been interpreted as an important step in the evolution of democratic government in America” (britannica.com).
The following story of a Thanksgiving service in the new colony was taken from the book “The Light and the Glory” by Peter Marshall and David Manuel. It must be noted there are different understandings about the first Thanksgiving.
“The summer of 1621 was beautiful. Much work went into the building of new dwellings, and ten men were sent north up the coast in the sailing shallop to conduct trade with the Indians. Squanto once again acted as their guide and interpreter. It was a successful trip, and that fall’s harvest provided more than enough corn to see them through their second winter.
The Pilgrims were brimming over with gratitude — not only to Squanto and the Wampanoags who had been so friendly but to their God. In Him they had trusted, and He had honored their obedience beyond their dreams. So, Governor Bradford declared a day of public Thanksgiving to be held in October. Massasoit was invited and unexpectedly arrived a day early – with ninety Indians! Counting their numbers, the Pilgrims had to pray hard to keep from giving in to despair. To feed such a crowd would cut deeply into their food supply that was supposed to get them through the winter.
But if they had learned one thing through their travails, it was to trust God implicitly. As it turned out, the Indians were not arriving empty-handed. Massasoit had commanded his braves to hunt for the occasion, and they arrived with no less than five dressed deer and more than a dozen fat wild turkeys! And they helped with the preparations, teaching the Pilgrim women how to make hoecakes and a tasty pudding out of cornmeal and maple syrup. Finally, they showed them an Indian delicacy: how to roast corn kernels in an earthen pot until they popped, fluffy and white — popcorn!
The pilgrims, in turn, provided many vegetables from their household gardens: carrots, onions, turnips, parsnips, cucumbers, radishes, beets, and cabbages. Also, using some of their precious flour, they took summer fruits which the Indians had dried and introduced them to the likes of blueberry, apple, and cherry pie. It was all washed down with sweet wine made from the wild grapes. A joyous occasion for all!…
…Surely, one moment stood out in the Pilgrim memory – William Brewster’s prayer, as they began the festival. They had so much for which to thank God.
For providing all their needs, even when their faith had not been up to believing that He would do so; for the lives of the departed and for taking them home to be with Him; for their friendship with the Indians – so extraordinary when settlers to the south of them had experienced the opposite;
for all His remarkable providences in bringing them to this place and sustaining them” (Marshall & Manuel, 1977).
As noted in the book 1726: The Year that Defined America by Dr. Eddie Hyatt, the Pilgrims tried socialism, and it almost destroyed them.
Before the Soviet Union, Cuba and Venezuela, socialism was tried right here on American soil and utterly failed. The Pilgrims, who established the first permanent English settlement in New England in the fall of 1620, at first attempted a socialist-style of living. They disbanded it, however, when it became obvious their community could not survive with such a system.
Socialism Forced on Them
The Pilgrim’s journey to America was funded by a group of venture capitalists who provided the ship and supplies for their journey to the New World. In return, the Pilgrims agreed to live communally with everyone receiving the same recompense for their work and with everything above their necessities going into a common fund to be used to pay their creditors.
In other words, there was no inequality. Income produced by farming, fishing, and fur trading would be spread around and evenly divided among members of the community. There would be only one economic class of people in this system.
William Bradford, who served as governor of Plymouth for many years, told of the challenges of this socialist system and how it almost destroyed their community (Hyatt, The Pilgrims, 52).
Four lessons the Pilgrims would teach modern America about socialism are: No. 1 Socialism destroys initiative; No. 2 Socialism fosters irresponsibility; No. 3 Socialism extinguishes hope and generates strife; No. 4 Socialism is incompatible with human nature.
Lesson No. 1: Socialism destroys initiative.
Under this socialist system, everyone received the same recompense for their work. No matter how hard or how little they worked, all received the same income. With no reward tied to their labor, initiative was destroyed, and everyone put forth their least effort.
Why work and dream when you are trapped in a socialist system that mandates equality of outcome for everyone? This socialist system destroyed initiative and almost destroyed the Pilgrim community.
Lesson No. 2: Socialism fosters irresponsibility.
Young men, Bradford said, resented getting paid the same as older men when they did so much more of the work. As a result, they tended to slouch and slack since they knew they would receive the same no matter how hard they worked.
Knowing they would receive the same no matter how hard or how little they worked, the women often refused to go to the fields to work, complaining of sickness and headaches. To have compelled them to go, Bradford said, would have been considered tyranny and oppression.
With no individual reward tied to their innovation and labor, everyone gave their least effort. Irresponsibility became obvious throughout the community, and many became gripped with a sense of hopelessness.
Lesson No. 3: Socialism extinguishes hope and generates strife.
This socialist system led to a widespread sense of hopelessness. With everyone locked into a closed economic system, there was nothing individuals or families could do to improve their personal lot. Feeling caught in a trap, bickering and strife began to emerge between people.
The older men, Bradford said, felt they deserved more honor and recompense because of their age and resented getting paid the same as the youngsters in their midst. The young men, on the other hand, resented getting paid the same as the older men when they often did more of the work.
This sense of hopelessness and the ensuing strife drained energy and discouraged innovative thinking, and led to very serious complications for the community.
Lesson No. 4: Socialism is incompatible with human nature.
Bradford believed socialism did not work because it runs counter to human nature as created by God. In Scripture, God rewards individuals for their labor and good works. Capitalism works because it is compatible with the reality of human nature and the world in which we live.
I will never forget visiting Eastern Europe shortly after the fall of the Soviet Empire. I was struck by the grey, drab environment. Even the buildings seemed so plain, flat, and lackluster.
It was obvious the Marxist system had robbed the people of life, energy, and creativity. I am here reminded of the words of Winston Churchill, ‘Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.’
To Survive, They Had to Change
When it became apparent lack, and perhaps starvation, would be their lot, Bradford and the leaders of the colony decided to make a change. After much prayer and discussion, they dispensed with that part of the agreement with their creditors that required them to live communally until their debt was paid. In its place, they implemented a free entrepreneurial system that included private ownership of property (Hyatt, The Pilgrims, 52-53).
They Experienced the Blessing of Free Enterprise
According to Bradford, they divided the land around them, allotting to each family a certain portion that would be theirs to work and use for their own needs. Bradford said there was an immediate change. The young men began to work much harder because they now knew they would eat the fruit of their own labors.
There were no more complaints from the older men for the same reason. And now the women were seen going into the fields to work, taking the children with them, because they knew they and their family would personally benefit.
Instead of lacking food, each family now grew more food than they needed, and they began to trade with one another for furnishings, clothes, and other goods. They also had enough excess to trade with the Indians for furs and other items. In short, the colony began to prosper when they got rid of their socialist form of government and implemented a free, entrepreneurial system.
Of their experience with socialism, Bradford wrote:
‘This community [socialism] was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort … and showed the vanity of that conceit of Plato’s, and 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’ (Hyatt, The Pilgrims, 53-54). (charismanews.com).”
I wish you a happy and blessed Thanksgiving.
“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name”
Psalm 100:4 (NKJV)
Marshall, P., Manuel, D. (1977). The Light and the Glory. United States: Revell.
Hyatt, E. L. (2019). 1726: The Year that Defined America. (n.p.): Amazon Digital Services LLC – KDP Print US.