Did you know that the first [Plymouth Colony Pilgrim’s] Thanksgiving was a celebration of the triumph of private property and individual initiative?
William Bradford was the governor of the original Pilgrim colony, founded at Plymouth in 1621. The colony was first organized on a communal basis, as their financiers required. Land was owned in common. The Pilgrims farmed communally, too, following the “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs” precept.
The results were disastrous. Communism didn’t work any better 400 years ago than it does today. By 1623, the colony had suffered serious losses. Starvation was imminent.
Bradford realized that the communal system encouraged and rewarded waste and laziness and inefficiency, and destroyed individual initiative. Desperate, he abolished it. He distributed private plots of land among the surviving Pilgrims, encouraging them to plant early and farm as individuals, not collectively.
The results: a bountiful early harvest that saved the colonies. After the harvest, the Pilgrims celebrated with a day of Thanksgiving — on August 9th.
Unfortunately, William Bradford’s diaries — in which he recorded the failure of the collectivist system and the triumph of private enterprise — were lost for many years. When Thanksgiving was later made a national holiday, the present November date was chosen. And the lesson the Pilgrims so painfully learned was, alas, not made a part of the holiday.
Happily, Bradford’s diaries were later rediscovered. They’re available today in paperback. They tell the real story of Thanksgiving — how private property and individual initiative saved the Pilgrims.
This Thanksgiving season, one of the many things I’m thankful for is our free market system (imperfectly realized as it is). And I’m also grateful that there are increasing numbers of Americans who are learning the importance of free markets, and who are working to replace government coercion with marketplace cooperation here in America and around the world.
and more info at MISES “The Great Thanksgiving Hoax”