Nov 26 2013

The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth Colony

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After half their numbers perished during the 1st winter, Governor Bradford came up with a novel concept. Private property!

Taken from http://www.swarthmore.edu/SocSci/bdorsey1/41docs/14-bra.html written by William Bradford, the governor of the Plymouth Colony

[Social organization of property and economics at Plymouth – 1623]
All this while no supply was heard of, neither knew they when they might expecte any. So they begane to thinke how they might raise as much corne as they could, and obtaine a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length, after much debate of things, the Gov[erno]r (with the advise of the chiefest amongst them) gave way that they should set corne every man for his owne particular, and in that regard trust to themselves; in all other things to goe on in the generall way as before. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number for that end, only for present use (but made no division for inheritance), and ranged all boys and youth under some family. This had very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corne was planted than other ways would have been by any means the Gov[erno]r or any other could use, and saved him a great deall of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now wente willingly., into the field, and tooke their little-ones with them to set corne, which before would allege weakness, and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.’

The experience that was had in this commone course and condition, tried sundry years, and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince they [the] vanitie of that conceit of Plato’s and other ancients, applauded by some of later times; that the taking away of property, and bringing in community into a common wealth, would make them happy and florishing; 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 imployment that would have been to their benefite and comforte. For the young men that were most able and fit for labour and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to worke for other men’s wives and children, with out any recompence. The strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals and cloaths, than he that was weake and not able to doe a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalised in labours, and victuals, cloaths, etc., with the meaner and younger sorte, thought it some indignite and disrespect unto them. And for men’s wives to be commanded to doe service for other men, as dresing their meate, washing their cloaths, etc., they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many husbands well brooke it. Upon the point all being to have alike, and all to doe alike, they thought themselves in the like condition, and one as good as another; and so, if it did not cut of those relations that God hath set amongst men, yet it didat least much diminish and take of the mutuall respects that should be preserved amongst them. And would have been worse if they had been men of another condition. Let none objecte this is men’s corruption, and nothing to the course itself. I answer, seeing all men have this corruption in them, God in his wisdome saw another course fitter for them.

 

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