Skip to comments.Blessings of private property
Posted on 11/27/2002 9:44:43 PM PST by kattracksEdited on 07/12/2004 3:59:20 PM PDT by Jim Robinson. [history]
At Thanksgiving, Americans reflect on their many blessings. They also hope their family gatherings will be uplifting times of togetherness and unity. It is as an example of that hope for peace, harmony, and thankfulness that the Pilgrims are discussed.
(Excerpt) Read more at washtimes.com ...
Such a small group landing in the New World at the outset of winter had little chance for survival unless they established some form of communal effort.
I certainly don't advocate such communalism as a long-term strategy. But I think the necessity should be mentioned to lend balance and perspective to this article.
Let's not confuse necessary requirements for survival with "goodwill".
I don't know much about that, but a brief search on the Web produced this:
When the Pilgrims created the Mayflower Compact, it lacked one important thing--authorization by the English government. The Mayflower Compact was a "quick fix", but even the Pilgrims knew they would need the authority of the English government behind them if they wanted to continue living at Plymouth. When news from Plymouth returned to England in May, 1620 along with the Mayflower, the Merchant Adventurers (stockholders in the Plymouth Plantation) led by John Peirce went to the Council of New England to get the Pilgrims the rights to live and establish a government of their own at Plymouth. The result was the 1621 Pierce Patent, which in a sense superceeds the Mayflower Compact.
I never had the impression that religious beliefs of the Pilgrims included communalism, at least not to the extent practiced later in history by groups such as the Shakers or the Harmonists. But it does make sense that such conditions would have been agreed to prior to their journey, simply as a practical matter for safely establishing a colony in a remote wilderness.
I agree. But it nearly destroyed the colony. They almost starved to death in the midst of plenty from the forest, land and sea. Communism/socialism always sounds like it'll work, and it probably would when human beings so spiritually evolve to the point of individual self-governing that no government or economic system is needed.
You ought to read Bradford's diary. It's a page-turner; I couldn't put it down. It describes a microcosm of exactly what's going wrong with our budget crises today.
IMHO, the author of this article tries to leave this impression by omitting the circumstances of the Pilgrim's arrival.
Yes, nearly half of the original 102 who came over on the Mayflower perished that first winter.
They were poorly provisioned, especially when their arrival coincided with the onset of winter. It is doubtful any of them would have survived had they not resorted to communal shareing of resources.
IMHO, it's a disservice to posterity to suggest that the communal sharing almost destroyed them when it actually saved them. Once the necessary community infrastructure was established for their mutual safety and security, they made the natural progression to more independent lifestyles. But such independent pursuit of individual desires would have been impossible without first establishing community infrastructure. Together, they survived; individually, they would have surely perished.
On second thought, I don't see how communism saved the colony, even in the first year. Work it out. Whether they were chartered into the communal setup or not, there still had to be meat found, corn grown, shelters built, a dozen chores done.
There were communal tasks to be done, house raisings, barn raisings, which charter or not people would have done communially anyway because people always do these things communally. In this sense you're right about communalism helping in reality, instead of helping in theory.
But all the rest of the necessary things to survive, growing food, hunting, providing heating for a family, working out clothing arrangments, and many other details, chartered to be communal, would have been done anyway by the individuals/families and, if the results of Bradford's change of the setup is any indication, most individuals would have provided a surplus to help any scragglers.
Those that flourished more would have shared. I think most people are compassionate, if given a free choice. And these were Christian, for the most part, and fellow adventurers.
But, to me, the lesson is clear. The colony was on death's bed then land allotments to families and individuals, ending communalism, were introduced and the change was immediate. That argues for a causal relationship.
Do read Bradford. He was there and he wrote it as it happened.
Well, considering that it's Thanksgiving Day, I'm gonna relax and not bother trying to explain it to you.
If you think you can survive on your own in the remote wilderness in the dead of winter, have a good time.