William Bradford was on the ship, became first governor of the new settlement and wrote of the experience as not only an eye witness but an active participant. If that isn’t a qualifying credential, nothing is. You can click on the link and read his own story in the 1600’s King James english of the day or you can read a shorter version in a nutshell from the EIB Network:
There were no friends to greet them, he wrote. There were no houses to shelter them. There were no inns where they could refresh themselves. And the sacrifice they had made for freedom was just beginning. During the first winter, half the Pilgrims – including Bradford’s own wife – died of either starvation, sickness or exposure.
“When spring finally came, Indians taught the settlers how to plant corn, fish for cod and skin beavers for coats.” Yes, it was Indians that taught the white man how to skin beasts. “Life improved for the Pilgrims, but they did not yet prosper! This is important to understand because this is where modern American history lessons often end. “Thanksgiving is actually explained in some textbooks as a holiday for which the Pilgrims gave thanks to the Indians for saving their lives, rather than as a devout expression of gratitude grounded in the tradition of both the Old and New Testaments. Here is the part [of Thanksgiving] that has been omitted: The original contract the Pilgrims had entered into with their merchant-sponsors in London called for everything they produced to go into a common store, and each member of the community was entitled to one common share.
“All of the land they cleared and the houses they built belong to the community as well. They were going to distribute it equally. Nobody owned anything. They just had a share in it. It was a commune!
More surprises ….. in case the whole story has escaped your memory or you never heard it all in the first place.
Bradford, who had become the new governor of the colony, recognized that this form of collectivism was as costly and destructive to the Pilgrims as that first harsh winter, which had taken so many lives. He decided to take bold action. Bradford assigned a plot of land to each family to work and manage, thus turning loose the power of the marketplace.
Long before Karl Marx was even born, the Pilgrims had discovered and experimented with what could only be described as socialism. And what happened? It didn’t work! ... What Bradford and his community found was that the most creative and industrious people had no incentive to work any harder than anyone else, unless they could utilize the power of personal motivation! But while most of the rest of the world has been experimenting with socialism for well over a hundred years – trying to refine it, perfect it, and re-invent it – the Pilgrims decided early on to scrap it permanently.
‘For this community [so far as it was] was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense…that was thought injustice.’ Why should you work for other people when you can’t work for yourself?
The Pilgrims found that people could not be expected to do their best work without incentive. So what did Bradford’s community try next? They unharnessed the power of good old free enterprise by invoking the undergirding capitalistic principle of private property. Every family was assigned its own plot of land to work and permitted to market its own crops and products. And what was the result? ‘This had very good success,’ wrote Bradford, ‘for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.’ Bradford doesn’t sound like much of a..
In no time, the Pilgrims found they had more food than they could eat themselves.... So they set up trading posts and exchanged goods with the Indians. The profits allowed them to pay off their debts to the the merchants in London. And the success and prosperity of the Plymouth settlement attracted more Europeans and began what came to be known as the ‘Great Puritan Migration.”
thanks to the Indians, because they taught us how to skin beavers and how to plant corn when we arrived, but the real Thanksgiving was thanking the Lord for guidance and plenty — and once they reformed their system and got rid of the communal bottle and started what was essentially free market capitalism, they produced more than they could possibly consume, and they invited the Indians to dinner, and voila, we got Thanksgiving, and that’s what it was: inviting the Indians to dinner and giving thanks for all the plenty is the true story of Thanksgiving.
Wishing you a good meal, family, friends, and gratitude for being born in such a time of prosperity and plenty.