Property and the First Thanksgiving | Eastern North Carolina Now

We have posted this story each Thanksgiving for several years.  We do so again this year.  We hope you will teach this story to your children and grandchildren, for surely most of them do not hear about it in public schools.

Property and the First Thanksgiving

By Gary Galles

At Thanksgiving, Americans reflect on their blessings and hope for uplifting family gatherings of togetherness and unity, with the Pilgrims used as examples of peace, harmony, and thankfulness. However, while the Pilgrims' 1623 "way of thanksgiving" represents what we wish to infuse in Thanksgiving, Plymouth Colony before 1623 was closer to a Thanksgiving host's worst fears—resentments surface, harsh words are spoken, and people turn angry and unhappy with one another.

The Pilgrims' unhappiness was caused by their system of common property (not adopted, as often asserted, from their religious convictions, but required against their will by the colony's sponsors). The fruits of each person's efforts went to the community, and each received a share from the common wealth. This caused severe strains among the members, as Colony Governor William Bradford recorded:

" . . . the young men . . . did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children without any recompense. The strong . . . had not more in division . . . than he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labors and victuals, clothes, etc . . . thought it some indignity and disrespect unto them. And the men's wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc., they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many husbands well brook it."

Bradford summarized the effects of their common property system:

"For this community of property (so far as it went) was found to breed much confusion and discontentment and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort . . . all being to have alike, and all to do alike . . . if it did not cut off those relations that God hath set amongst men, yet it did at least much diminish and take off the mutual respects that should be preserved amongst them."

How did the Pilgrims move from this dysfunctional system to the situation we try to emulate in our family gatherings? In the spring of 1623, they decided to let people produce for their own benefit:

"All their victuals were spent . . . no supply was heard of, neither knew they when they might expect any. So they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length . . . the Governor (with the advice of the chiefest among them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves. . . . And so assigned to every family a parcel of land . . . "

The results were dramatic:

"This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn, which before would allege weakness and inability, whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression."

That was quite a change from their previous situation, where severe whippings had been resorted to as an inducement to more labor effort, with little success other than in creating discontent.

Despite the Pilgrims' increased efforts in 1623, a summer drought threatened their crops. Following their beliefs, they offered contrition for their sins. Then the drought broke, which led to the Thanksgiving we still try to emulate. And as historian Russell Kirk reported, "never again were the Pilgrims short of food." It is appropriate to remember the Pilgrims as Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. Though we have incomparably more than they did, we can learn much from their "way of thanksgiving."

But we should also remember that our material blessings are the fruits of America's system of private property rights, whose power for peaceful and productive cooperation the Pilgrims began to prove by experiment almost four centuries ago, because those rights, and the freedoms and prosperity they entail, are under constant assault today.


Gary M. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University. See his Daily Articles Archive. See also Murray Rothbard's 4-volume history of Colonial America and the American Revolution: Conceived in Liberty.

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Big Bob said:
( November 27th, 2023 @ 9:03 am )
Call a Whambulance.
( November 27th, 2023 @ 7:43 am )
The American judicial system let us down in 2020. The Democrats had a lawyer going all over the country using Covid as an excuse, and got elections conducted under systems contrary to existing law iw ways that made it easier to cheat. He often colluded with Democrat run elections boards or secretaries of states in a "sue and settle" scam. When challenged, our courts refused to uphold established and duly adopted election law against these scams. The courts failure to stand up for our election laws prior to the election was an outrage and led to the fraud on election day. As expected, they buried their heads in the sand after the stolen election, oo.
Big Bob said:
( November 26th, 2023 @ 7:03 pm )
Thatís not what you discovered. Apparently you discovered youíre that other thing. Like a 2 year old throwing a tantrum.
( November 26th, 2023 @ 6:30 pm )
We discovered that the court system in the 2020 General Election were either incapable or disinterested in the considering of contested cases where the plaintiff was not a Democratic Socialist.

All elections must be adjudicated as best that can be done before election day due to Two Tiered Justice System in the USA.
( November 26th, 2023 @ 1:23 pm )
When election fraud steals an election, the victims generally sue to get a new election, and hopefully get a court that will give them a full hearing. That is what happens in Europe. When the left cheated in the German state of Berlin's election a couple of years ago, the right sued, and the Constitutional Court ordered a full new election, which the right won. When Ukraine's pro-Russian party stole an election for parliament, the pro-western parties sued and their Constitutional Court ordered a full new election, which the pro-western parties won. That has happened some other places in Europe, but American courts make up excuses not to tackle these issues, and that is a threat to democracy. Many of these issues were brought to the courts to try to correct before the election even happened, but our pathetic American courts just looked the other way.
Big Bob said:
( November 26th, 2023 @ 11:36 am )
I know when one loses an election, one stands down and tries again in 4 years. I know if you want to overturn an election you lost, you do it in court, not by trying to hang the VP. I know if you lose, you lose with dignity and don't spend 3 years crying like a punk a** b^tch.

How's that? I think I understand a representative democracy pretty damn well.
( November 25th, 2023 @ 4:09 pm )
CT: How about the 14th Amendment's "equal protection under the law" provision? The Non Patriot Left has strong hypocritical conflicts with that Amendment's protections.
( November 25th, 2023 @ 2:26 pm )
Little Bobbie is the one advocating overthrow of our Bill of Rights, at least the first and second amendments. I have never seen a poster here advocate the overthrow of the government, just the voting out of leftist globalists who are destroying our country.
( November 25th, 2023 @ 11:48 am )
Big Bob: Do you NOT know how a Representative /Constitutional Republic works? Every election is a possible overthrow of the US government providing all Constitutional Laws are followed.

Where you members of the Non Patriot Left mess up is when you lie to the American public to get idiot politicians elected, then you allow the idiots, supported by their non patriot bureaucrats, to skirt the Constitution, and then you get caught up in the courts, and lose when patriot justices over rule the stupidity that is at the inherent core of the Democratic Socialist party.

What truly pisses off so many patriots is just how much damage is done to the Republic by these fools, and then these patriots' elected representatives are put in office to fix as much as they can before the Non Patriot Left starts up their corrupt behavior again and to sway the least intelligent, and the least patriotic citizens among US.
Big Bob said:
( November 25th, 2023 @ 11:05 am )
Said while posting on the BO, which actively advocates the over throw of the US government. Your lack of self awareness is astounding.
( November 24th, 2023 @ 8:38 pm )
Sadly, I think it is factual... humans have only one foot out of the cave. Civilization has caused a lot of conformity, yes, but when chaos comes, we revert right back. Could it be that is why the left continually cause so much chaos. A collapse is what they want.
Big Bob said:
( November 24th, 2023 @ 8:00 pm )
Yes, it is true the the dominant form of hominid, homosapians, is indeed a violent lot. I wonder if we should aspire to do better?
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