In 1620, the pilgrims on board the Mayflower had magnificent dreams of a new life when they established Plymouth Colony on the shores of the New World. At the end of that first winter, half of them were dead of starvation.
Although the natives taught the adventurers new farming techniques, the harvest of 1621, like many after it, was lean. That’s because the pilgrims, according to the writings of Gov. William Bradford in History of Plymouth Plantation, refused to work in the fields, preferring to steal their food instead. “Much was stolen both by night and day, before it became scarce eatable,” he lamented.
However, the harvest of 1623 was different. Richard Daley of the Mises Institute writes, “Suddenly, ‘instead of famine now God gave them plenty,’ Bradford wrote, ‘and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many, for which they blessed God.’ Thereafter, he wrote, ‘any general want or famine hath not been amongst them since to this day.’ In fact, in 1624, so much food was produced that the colonists were able to begin exporting corn.”
What happened? The short and plain answer is, freedom. Those first pilgrims were socialists, and it nearly killed them all.
Bradford wrote that, in the beginning, “all profits & benefits that are got by trade, traffic, trucking, working, fishing, or any other means" were the property of the “common stock” of the colony. In other words, everything you worked for belonged to everyone; nothing belonged to you, and you could only draw out of the common stock what you needed to survive.
Motivated, healthy pilgrims loathed working for the benefit of those who were lazier and less productive. The amount of food produced under this system was never enough, and the colony starved.
But, in 1623, Bradford abandoned socialism, and parceled off the farmland to households, promising each could keep the fruits of their labors, either to consume or trade. Productivity soared, and Plymouth Colony flourished under this new “free market.”
As you, like we at 1st Freedom, celebrate Thanksgiving with our friends and family, let’s give thanks for the one gift from God that enables all our bounty and well-being. Give thanks for our Freedom, from which flows all things good in our lives, and without which there is only hardship and suffering.
Clay Turner is the creative director for America’s 1st Freedom magazine, an official journal of the NRA, as well as the daily news website, Americas1stFreedom.org. He shoots just enough to maintain an A rating with the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA).