RUSH: What is the story of Thanksgiving?
What I was taught, what most
people my age were taught, maybe even many of you were taught, the
Pilgrims got to the New World, they didn't know what to do. They didn't
know how to feed themselves. They were escaping tyranny, but they got
here, and the Indians, who were eventually to be wiped out, taught them
how to do everything, fed them and so forth. They had this big feast
where they sat down and thanked the Indians for saving their lives and
apologized for taking their country and eventually stealing Manhattan
But that's not what really happened.
"The story of the Pilgrims begins in the early part of the seventeenth
century ... The Church of England under King James I was persecuting
anyone and everyone who did not recognize its absolute civil and
spiritual authority. Those who challenged ecclesiastical authority and
those who believed strongly in freedom of worship were hunted down,
imprisoned, and sometimes executed for their beliefs. A group of
separatists first fled to Holland and established a community. After
eleven years, about forty of them agreed to make a perilous journey to
the New World, where they would certainly face hardships, but could live
and worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences.
"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.
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
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
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
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!
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." That's not what it was.
"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." It was a commune.
It was socialism. "All of the land they cleared and the houses they
built belonged to the community as well," not to the individuals who
"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.
decided to take bold action. Bradford assigned a plot of land to each
family to work and manage." They could do with it whatever they wanted.
He essentially turned loose the free market on 'em. "Long before Karl
Marx was even born, the Pilgrims had discovered and experimented with
what could only be described as socialism." And they found that it
"What Bradford and his community found was that the most creative and
industrious people had no incentive to work any harder than anyone
else," because everybody ended up with the same thing at the end of the
day. "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
What Bradford wrote about this social experiment should
be in every schoolchild's history lesson. 'The experience that we had in
this common course and condition,' Bradford 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.
... 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
What he was saying was, they found that people could not expect to do
their best work without any incentive.
So what did they try next?
"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
They had miraculous results.
In no time they found
they had more food than they could eat themselves.
So they set up
They exchanged goods with the Indians.
allowed them to pay off the people that sponsored their trip in London.
The success and the prosperity of the Plymouth settlement attracted
more Europeans, began what became known as the great Puritan migration.
And they shared their bounty with the Indians. Actually, they sold
some of it to 'em.
The true story of Thanksgiving is how socialism
With all the great expectations and high hopes, it failed.
self-reliance, rugged individualism, free enterprise, whatever you call
it, resulted in prosperity that they never dreamed of.