The first Thanksgiving

Dennis Warden

We all remember the same story we were told as a young child about Thanksgiving — in a nutshell the Pilgrims invited the Indians over for a big feast to thank them for teaching them how to grow corn. 

This story was reinforced through grade school, in TV shows and beyond. It has become part of the fabric of our society. But like the story of George Washington cutting down the cherry tree it is not accurate.

What is true is that the Indians did help the Pilgrims survive after the Mayflower landed in the new world.

As Paul Harvey would have said, “now for the rest of the story.”

 The 40 Pilgrims who sailed on the Mayflower were led by a man named William Bradford. On their journey across the Atlantic they signed an agreement setting out rules of how the group would live once they reached the new world.

They based this agreement on what they had learned from the Bible.

The contract called for everything the Pilgrims produced to go into a common store, with each member entitled to an equal share. So, all the land that was cleared, crops harvested and houses that were built belonged to the community. A percentage of their bounty was set aside to be sent back to Europe to pay the investors who made their trip possible.

In this settlement no one owned anything. It was socialism, pure and simple.

During the first winter, half of the Pilgrims died, including William Bradford’s own wife, of starvation, sickness and exposure. When spring arrived, the Native Americans did teach the settlers how to plant corn, how to fish for cod, and skin beavers for coats. Life improved for the Pilgrims, but there were still problems.

Because no individual reaped the rewards of their own work, there were those who slacked off, doing as little as possible to get by. On the other end of the stick there were those who worked hard to make sure there was enough for everyone.

I bet you can figure out what happened next. There were two types of people — those who worked hard and resented the others and those who were basically lazy, doing the bare minimum. 

Bradford was smart enough to see the friction that was caused from the original contract they had all signed on the Mayflower.

So a new contract was created based on capitalism — what you grow you keep, what you build is yours, what you make you can sell, the harder you work the more you earn.

Bradford wrote about all of this in his journal “for it made all hands industrious so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.”

This is why the original Pilgrims gave thanks. It was not because the Indians saved them, but to thank God for helping them survive.

With socialism no one has an incentive to work because there is no reward proportionate to your labor. Now in America there are some politicians on the political left who want to change America to a socialist country. If you are lazy and don’t like to work, this system is for you. If you enjoy working hard and seeing the fruits of your labor this should scare you like it does me.

History consistently has shown that socialism leads to poverty and unrest. Right now Venezuela is undergoing an economic crisis which is largely deemed to be a result of socialism. 

For some more history; George Washington made the first proclamation of a national day of thanksgiving in 1789. “Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.” 

The holiday wasn’t made official until 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln declared it as a kind of thank you for the Civil War victories in Vicksburg, Miss., and Gettysburg, Pa.

Tomorrow, like many of you, our family will gather around the dinner table and give thanks. We will give thanks to God for our family and all our blessings. 

My prayer is that you have much to be thankful for also.