Each year at this time, schoolchildren 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 the Plymouth 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 hard-working 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 field.
- 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, traffic, trucking, 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 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 were 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 the 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 12 months in America.
- Most of the work was being done by only 1/5 of the men,
- the other 4/5 choosing to be parasites.
- In the winter of 1609–10, called "The Starving Time"
- the population fell from 500 to 60.
Then the Jamestown colony was converted from socialism 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 30 men as 3 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 annual Thanksgiving celebrations became common throughout the colonies,
- and in 1863 Thanksgiving became a national holiday.
Thus, the real meaning of 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.
About Richard Maybury:
- he is known as the “2,500-year-old man”
- That’s because his deep understanding of history, law, and economics
- and their impact on today’s financial markets — spans millennia.
- he has written 22 books and monographs
- including "Whatever Happened to Penny Candy?" and his "Uncle Eric" series of books,
- which focus on economics, law and history.