Since Thanksgiving passed by without me getting a submission into Liberty Tree, I was going to let my annual comments about the Pilgrims' success slide. (BTW, I hope everyone enjoyed a good Thanksgiving; we did). While catching up on my newspapers that accumulated while away, I read the published transcript of President Obama's proclamation of November 25th, 2010, as a National Day of Thanksgiving.
I give our president credit for encouraging us to "lift up our hearts in gratitude to God for our many blessings, for one another, and for our Nation."
What changed my mind about a late submission concerning the Pilgrims, however, is that the president begins his proclamation with the normal implication that their success was dependent upon the Native Americans present in their area. To be sure, those Native Americans provided significant assistance to the new arrivals. However, missing from the account are two critical realities.
The primary source of the Pilgrims' successful survival was their reliance upon God. Regardless of their circumstance, the Pilgrims gave thanks to God. In his journal, William Bradford writes, "What could now sustain them but the spirit of God and His grace? May not and ought not the children of these fathers rightly say: Our fathers were Englishmen which came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this wilderness; but they cried unto the Lord, and he heard their voice and looked on their adversity, etc. Let them therefore praise the Lord, because he is good and his mercies endure forever. Yea, let them which have been redeemed of the Lord show how he hath delivered them from the hand of the oppressor. When they wandered in the desert wilderness out of the way, and found no city to dwell in, both hungry and thirsty, their soul was overwhelmed in them. Let them confess before the Lord his loving kindness, and his wonderful works before the sons of men."
The second source of their successful survival was the colony leaders' change of course from a communal economy to a market economy of private ownership. Destitute and on the brink of starvation even after receiving assistance from the natives, colony leaders identified the source of their problem as a particularly vile form of what Bradford called "communism." Michael Franc, vice president of Government Relations at The Heritage Foundation, writes about the fruitful results of the Pilgrim's shift in 1623 from a failed, socialist agricultural system to a free-market system of private ownership of property. This is the story of the Pilgrims that, for whatever reason, fails to make it into our curriculum. Had they not shed the system of "taking away property and bringing [it] into a commonwealth," we would not have a legacy of the Pilgrims to tell. Concerning the market economy that the Pilgrims implemented, Bradford reported, "This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious... much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been." The famine of 1623 gave way to abundance.
America has been blessed with much abundance over the years. This is truly a reality worthy of our most humble thanks-giving.