The Real Story of Thanksgiving: Thankful for Capitalism
Posted by Tony Listi on November 22, 2007
If you were like me, what we were taught in school was that the Pilgrims came over, and they were just overwhelmed; they were swamped; they had no clue where they were; they had no clue how to feed themselves; they had to clue how to protect themselves; they had no idea how to stay warm; they had no idea how to do anything. They were just typical, dumb white people fleeing some other place they couldn’t manage to live in. And then, out of the woods came the wonderful Indians, who had great compassion, they were at one with the land, they were at one with the spirits, and they saw these incompetent, dupe white people dressed up in these odd, stupid, black and white hats and suits, and they befriended us, and they taught us how to plant corn and how to catch beasts and how to skin beavers to stay warm, and Thanksgiving is where we give thanks to the Indians….
Of course the rest of the Thanksgiving story is that after the Indians saved the white people, who, after all, did what? They brought syphilis, sexually transmitted diseases, gongorrhea, as had I high school health teacher pronounced it, racism, bigotry, homophobia, all these things. Then what are we going to do to show our gratitude? Then we had the guts to swindle ’em out of Manhattan for 24 bucks, and then we stole their land, and we stole their horses, and we moved ’em away from the various things that they had used religiously, peyote and so forth, and they got sick. So then we put ’em in reservations, and after awhile we felt guilty and let ’em run all the casinos outside of Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Well, that is not the true story of Thanksgiving….
How many of you believe that we actually swindled Indians when we bought Manhattan from them? I’ve always thought that ’til I read this book. It’s called Commissioner Roosevelt: The Story of Theodore Roosevelt and the New York City Police, 1895 to 1897, by H. Paul Jeffers. And here is the relevant paragraph: “A persuasive case can be made that the city of New York began with a swindle. For generations school children have been taught that a slick trick was played on unsuspecting Indians by the director of the Dutch West India Company, Peter Minuit. In 1626 he purchased the island of ‘Manna-hatin’ for sixty gilders worth of trinkets, about twenty-four dollars. What Minuit did not know at the time, however, was that his masterful real estate deal had been struck with the Canarsie tribe, residents of Long Island; they held no title to the land they sold to the Dutch. In due course, the intruders from Amsterdam who thought they had pulled a sharp one on the locals were forced into negotiating a second, more costly deal with the true landlords.” So it was the Indians that pulled the real estate scam when they sold Manhattan because the ones that sold it didn’t own it. We got taken….
Now, the real story of Thanksgiving: “On August 1, 1620, the Mayflower set sail. It carried a total of 102 passengers, including forty Pilgrims led by William Bradford. On the journey, Bradford set up an agreement, a contract, that established just and equal laws for all members of the new community, irrespective of their religious beliefs. Where did the revolutionary ideas expressed in the Mayflower Compact come from? From the Bible,” and this is what’s not taught. This is what’s left out. “The Pilgrims were a people completely steeped in the lessons of the Old and New Testaments. They looked to the ancient Israelites for their example. And, because of the biblical precedents set forth in Scripture, they never doubted that their experiment would work. But this was no pleasure cruise, friends. The journey to the New World was a long and arduous one. And when the Pilgrims landed in New England in November, they found, according to Bradford’s detailed journal, a cold, barren, desolate wilderness. There were no friends to greet them, he wrote. There were no houses to shelter them. There were no inns where they could refresh themselves. And the sacrifice they had made for freedom was just beginning. During the first winter, half the Pilgrims – including Bradford’s own wife – died of either starvation, sickness or exposure.
“When spring finally came, Indians taught the settlers how to plant corn, fish for cod and skin beavers for coats. Life improved for the Pilgrims, but they did not yet prosper! This is important to understand because this is where modern American history lessons often end. Thanksgiving is actually explained in some textbooks as a holiday for which the Pilgrims gave thanks to the Indians for saving their lives, rather than as a devout expression of gratitude grounded in the tradition of both the Old and New Testaments. Here is the part that has been omitted: The original contract the Pilgrims had entered into with their merchant-sponsors in London called for everything they produced to go into a common store, and each member of the community was entitled to one common share. All of the land they cleared and the houses they built belong to the community as well.” They were collectivists! Now, “Bradford, who had become the new governor of the colony, recognized that this form of collectivism was as costly and destructive to the Pilgrims as that first harsh winter, which had taken so many lives.
“He decided to take bold action. Bradford assigned a plot of land to each family to work and manage, thus turning loose the power of the marketplace. … Long before Karl Marx was even born, the Pilgrims had discovered and experimented with what could only be described as socialism. And what happened? It didn’t work! Surprise, surprise, huh? What Bradford and his community found was that the most creative and industrious people had no incentive to work any harder than anyone else, unless they could utilize the power of personal motivation! But while most of the rest of the world has been experimenting with socialism for well over a hundred years – trying to refine it, perfect it, and re-invent it – the Pilgrims decided early on to scrap it permanently. What Bradford wrote about this social experiment should be in every schoolchild’s history lesson,” every kid gets. “If it were, we might prevent much needless suffering in the future.” Here’s what he wrote: “‘The experience that we had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years…that by taking away property, and bringing community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing – as if they were wiser than God,’ Bradford wrote.
“‘For this community [so far as it was] was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense…that was thought injustice.'” That was thought injustice. “Do you hear what he was saying, ladies and gentlemen? The Pilgrims found that people could not be expected to do their best work without incentive. So what did Bradford’s community try next? They unharnessed the power of good old free enterprise by invoking the undergirding capitalistic principle of private property. Every family was assigned its own plot of land to work and permitted to market its own crops and products. And what was the result?” ‘This had very good success,’ wrote Bradford, “for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.’ Bradford doesn’t sound like much of a Clintonite, does he? Is it possible that supply-side economics could have existed before the 1980s? … In no time, the Pilgrims found they had more food than they could eat themselves. … So they set up trading posts and exchanged goods with the Indians.
“The profits allowed them to pay off their debts to the merchants in London. And the success and prosperity of the Plymouth settlement attracted more Europeans and began what came to be known as the ‘Great Puritan Migration.'” Now, aside from this program, have you heard this before? Is this “being taught to children — and if not, why not? I mean, is there a more important lesson one could derive from the Pilgrim experience than this?” What if Bill and Hillary Clinton had been exposed to these lessons in school? Do you realize what we face in next year’s election is the equivalent of people who want to set up these original collectivists communes that didn’t work, with nobody having incentive to do anything except get on the government dole somehow because the people running the government want that kind of power. So the Pilgrims decided to thank God for all of their good fortune. And that’s Thanksgiving. And read George Washington’s first Thanksgiving address and count the number of times God is mentioned and how many times he’s thanked. None of this is taught today. It should be. Have a happy Thanksgiving, folks. You deserve it. Do what you can to be happy, and especially do what you can to be thankful, because in this country you have more reasons than you’ve ever stopped to consider.
This entry was posted on November 22, 2007 at 1:14 am and is filed under American Culture, American History, Christianity and Politics, Economics, Politics and Religion, Socialism. Tagged: American History, capitalism, history, Indians, Pilgrims, Socialism, Thanksgiving. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.