Thursday, October 30, 2008

The History of Thanksgiving, Pilgrims, and Capitalism

In the United States, Thanksgiving began with the Pilgrims who settled around Plymouth in 1621. During the winters of 1621 and 1622 they suffered many privations. Food and supplies were scarce and disease ran rampant in the region.

Nearly half the population died. The settlers at the time and historians both agree that there were two reasons for the problems of the Pilgrims. First, they were generally not experienced farmers. They were fortunate that some of the local Native-Americans helped them learn to farm the local crops. Second, and perhaps more tellingly, they had originally been organized into a commune where the produce of all was brought into a common store and then distributed among the inhabitants based on need.

The Governor at the time, William Bradford, was quick to recognize the problem. This excerpt from his diary, written in the 1620s, explains all:

The failure of this experiment of communal service, which was good and honest men proves the emptiness of the theory of Plato and other ancients, applauded by some of later times, - that the taking away of private property, and possession of it in community, by a commonwealth would make a state happy and flourishing...For in this instance, community of property (so far as it went) was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment which would have been to the general benefit and comfort.

So every family was assigned a parcel of land according to the proportion of their number...It made all hands very industrious, so that much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been...and gave far better satisfaction.

Thankful for the re-institution of private property and the plenty which it provided, the Pilgrims invited their benefactors in 1623 to a three-day celebration. More than 80 "Indians" came to enjoy the festivities. They brought venison, wild turkey and other victuals. There was much singing, rejoicing and even sermons.

As Thanksgiving approaches, let us be thankful to God for his provisions and the country in which we live.

Much of this info was found here. is apparently more than a cooking site.

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