Each year at this time school children all over America are taught the official Thanksgiving story, and newspapers, radio, TV, and magazines devote vast amounts of time and space to it. It is all very colorful and fascinating.
It is also very deceiving. This official story is nothing like what really happened. It is a fairy tale, a whitewashed and sanitized collection of half-truths which divert attention away from Thanksgiving's real meaning.
The official story has the pilgrims boarding the Mayflower, coming to America and establishing thePlymouth colony in the winter of 1620-21. This first winter is hard, and half the colonists die. But the survivors are hard working and tenacious, and they learn new farming techniques from the Indians. The harvest of 1621 is bountiful. The Pilgrims hold a celebration, and give thanks to God. They are grateful for the wonderful new abundant land He has given them.
The official story then has the Pilgrims living more or less happily ever after, each year repeating the first Thanksgiving. Other early colonies also have hard times at first, but they soon prosper and adopt the annual tradition of giving thanks for this prosperous new land called America.
The problem with this official story is that the harvest of 1621 was not bountiful, nor were the colonists hardworking or tenacious. 1621 was a famine year and many of the colonists were lazy thieves.
In his 'History of Plymouth Plantation,' the governor of the colony, William Bradford, reported that the colonists went hungry for years, because they refused to work in the fields. They preferred instead to steal food. He says the colony was riddled with "corruption," and with "confusion and discontent." The crops were small because "much was stolen both by night and day, before it became scarce eatable."
In the harvest feasts of 1621 and 1622, "all had their hungry bellies filled," but only briefly. The prevailing condition during those years was not the abundance the official story claims, it was famine and death. The first "Thanksgiving" was not so much a celebration as it was the last meal of condemned men.
But in subsequent years something changes. The harvest of 1623 was different. Suddenly, "instead of famine now God gave them plenty," Bradford wrote, "and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many, for which they blessed God." Thereafter, he wrote, "any general want or famine hath not been amongst them since to this day." In fact, in 1624, so much food was produced that the colonists were able to begin exporting corn.
After the poor harvest of 1622, writes Bradford, "they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop." They began to question their form of economic organization.
This had required that "all profits & benefits that are got by trade, working, fishing, or any other means" were to be placed in the common stock of the colony, and that, "all such persons as are of this colony, are to have their meat, drink, apparel, and all provisions out of the common stock." A person was to put into the common stock all he could, and take out only what he needed.
This "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" was an early form of socialism, and it is why the Pilgrims were starving. Bradford writes that "young men that are most able and fit for labor and service" complained about being forced to "spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children." Also, "the strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals and clothes, than he that was weak." So the young and strong refused to work and the total amount of food produced was never adequate.
To rectify this situation, in 1623 Bradford abolished socialism. He gave each household a parcel of land and told them they could keep what they produced, or trade it away as they saw fit. In other words, he replaced socialism with a free market, and that was the end of famines.
Many early groups of colonists set up socialist states, all with the same terrible results. At Jamestown, established in 1607, out of every shipload of settlers that arrived, less than half would survive their first twelve months in America. Most of the work was being done by only one-fifth of the men, the other four-fifths choosing to be parasites. In the winter of 1609-10, called "The Starving Time," the population fell from five-hundred to sixty.
Then the Jamestown colony was converted to a free market, and the results were every bit as dramatic as those at Plymouth. In 1614, Colony Secretary Ralph Hamor wrote that after the switch there was "plenty of food, which every man by his own industry may easily and doth procure." He said that when the socialist system had prevailed, "we reaped not so much corn from the labors of thirty men as three men have done for themselves now."
Before these free markets were established, the colonists had nothing for which to be thankful. They were in the same situation as Ethiopians are today, and for the same reasons. But after free markets were established, the resulting abundance was so dramatic that the annual Thanksgiving celebrations became common throughout the colonies, and in 1863, Thanksgiving became a national holiday.
Thus the real reason for Thanksgiving, deleted from the official story, is: Socialism does not work; the one and only source of abundance is free markets, and we thank God we live in a country where we can have them.
* * * * *
This article originally appeared in The Free Market, November 1985
I posted this originally a year ago (as you will see in the Fort Hood shooting reference) but wanted to repost as I feel so strongly about these views. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone crawling out of their food induced coma this morning.
I often come up with what I plan to write on during my morning run. For some reason, ideas seem to bounce into my brain housing group (military term) as I am punishing myself physically. Today, I decided to put politics in the background; somewhat, and talk about life in general. Don't worry, I promise not to become a philosopher, as I do not feel that is a respectable occupation. If you spend your entire life thinking about things you'll never accomplish anything. Life is a combination of thinking and doing, and that's somewhat the direction I am going today.
It seems that more and more Americans these days want, more like demand the government to take a more active role in their everyday lives. I do not wish to examine the government's motives for this, as I do at great length almost everyday. Today I want to talk specifically to Americans who may believe that it is the government's duty to take care of them.
Once upon a time we were taught, as children, that we were responsible for our own actions, and that actions have consequences. This apparently isn't the thought process among a great many Americans anymore, as so many look to others to blame for every mistake they make. The liberal lawmakers as well as the media fuel this, by spinning so many of their news stories in that direction. We need look no further than the Fort Hood shooting last week for an example. Why does the media insist on telling all Americans stories about poor Major Hasan, who was criticized by his peers, had no friends, was persecuted for his religion, and was forced by the evil Army to listen to hundreds of soldiers' PTSD stories to the point in which he broke. The story is actually quite simple. Maj. Hasan gunned down 14 (that's right pro-murder advocates I said 14) innocent people...end of story. When did the "why" become more important than the "what"?
Before I go off on a rant here, let me pull this back on topic. The point is Hasan is responsible for his actions...period!
On a smaller, less violent scale, Americans should be responsible for their actions. More so than just that, we should want to be responsible for our actions. I see too many Americans content to live on unemployment and welfare, rather than get a job. I see too many that feel entitled to free healthcare. How many Americans had no problem taking a government bailout of their mortgage, while some of us scratched and clawed to keep paying ours. Oh, that's right...it wasn't their fault it was the evil lenders who didn't explain well enough what "Adjustable Rate Mortgage" meant. Sometimes all of this "not my fault" victimization angers me, and other times it just makes me sad.
Why does it make me sad, you ask? Quite simply, life is a magical ride, but you only get to enjoy it once. Most of us are going to grow old one day (some of us feel old already) and be unable to do things we were once able to do. On that same note, nobody is promised another day...your life could end tomorrow. If it were all over tomorrow, what would you be proud of? It's a simple question, but one that this generation may have a hard time answering. So many have been brought up to believe that they are entitled to everything they want, with little to no effort. Some have gone so far as to believe they are entitled to not be offended by anything they see or hear. If you live your life taking handouts and bailouts, and anything else you can scam without effort, what will you be proud of?
My mother resides in an assisted living facility now, as she is in advanced stages of multiple sclerosis. If you want to witness the point I am making here, I challenge you to go visit one, even if you don't know anyone. They love to have visitors. When you go, you will have no problem getting that generation of Americans to share stories with you about their lives. You will hear numerous entertaining stories of events they were involved in, and troubles they were able to overcome. What will this younger generation of Americans speak of when that day comes?
The point I am making, at an alarmingly slow pace I suppose is this. You have but one life to live here on this earth. Live it to it's fullest. Make a difference! Do things you're proud of. Not happy with your job? Start a new career. Do something you enjoy and that you can take pride in. Make a difference in someone elses life and I guarantee you will be a happier person. When you were a child you had exciting goals and dreams, we all did. Who gave you the idea that those dreams had to die? I beg of you to not accept this life of minimal effort under the care of government social programs. It may be the path of least resistance now, but one day you will have grandchildren who will look up at you and ask about what you did when you were younger. They won't want to here stories about all of the free government programs that you eeked through life on, compliments of other Americans taxpayer dollars.
Go live your life! Take pride in your accomplishments! Learn from your failures! Work hard, and don't blame anyone else. The Constitution says you are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Start pursuing!!
There sure are a lot of references to God. I thought President Obama said we were not a Christian nation. HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!!!
GEORGE WASHINGTON'S 1789 THANKSGIVING PROCLAMATION
Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to "recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789.