A friend of mine posted a story of the “A Lost Thanksgiving Lesson” told by FOX “news” talking head John Stossel. He claims that because the colony tried to operate as a commune there was a famine and so to save the colony the Pilgrims ditched socialism. Like most Libertarian fantasies, Stossel’s story is 99.9999999% made up.
Every year around this time, schoolchildren are taught about that wonderful day when Pilgrims and Native Americans shared the fruits of the harvest. But the first Thanksgiving in 1623 almost didn’t happen.
Long before the failure of modern socialism, the earliest European settlers gave us a dramatic demonstration of the fatal flaws of collectivism. Unfortunately, few Americans today know it.
The Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony organized their farm economy along communal lines. The goal was to share the work and produce equally.
That’s why they nearly all starved.
When people can get the same return with less effort, most people make less effort. Plymouth settlers faked illness rather than working the common property. Some even stole, despite their Puritan convictions. Total production was too meager to support the population, and famine resulted. This went on for two years.
A Lost Thanksgiving Lesson
The real history tells a different tale:
Historians say that the settlers in Plymouth, and their supporters in England, did indeed agree to hold their property in common — William Bradford, the governor, referred to it in his writings as the “common course.” But the plan was in the interest of realizing a profit sooner, and was only intended for the short term; historians say the Pilgrims were more like shareholders in an early corporation than subjects of socialism.
“It was directed ultimately to private profit,” said Richard Pickering, a historian of early America and the deputy director of Plimoth Plantation, a museum devoted to keeping the Pilgrims’ story alive.
The arrangement did not produce famine. If it had, Bradford would not have declared the three days of sport and feasting in 1621 that became known as the first Thanksgiving. “The celebration would never have happened if the harvest was going to be less than enough to get them by,” Mr. Pickering said. “They would have saved it and rationed it to get by.”
The Pilgrims Were … Socialists?
The first Thanksgiving or harvest feast was held in 1621 not 1623. The Native Americans were invited because they helped support the colony with food and teaching them how to grow their crops in New England during their first year when half the colonists died.
So socialism did save the colony and the Libertarians/Tea Party/Conservatives are full of stuffing – and not the good kind.