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Real story of Thanksgiving has good lessons

On this coming Thanksgiving holiday, I would be eternally grateful if our government-run education camps would teach the next generation of Americans the true story of Plymouth Rock rather than the romanticized fairy-tale version.

Ten years ago I read for the first time Matthew Givens’ column titled, “Thanksgiving: America’s Lesson on Why Socialism Doesn’t Work.” And I’ve been reading it to my home-schooled kids every Thanksgiving since.

“When the colonists first landed” at Plymouth Rock in 1620, Givens wrote, “they signed something called the Mayflower Compact. Most of us have heard this document praised as an early social contract helping different people live together. What most of us never learned was that it was also an experiment in socialism.”

An experiment that went horribly wrong, big time.

The Mayflower Compact required that all the colonists donate all the benefits derived from their work — farming, fishing, clothing, etc. — into the “common stock” and only take out what they actually needed. You know: from each according to ability; to each according to need.

Well, as the story was told by then-Gov. William Bradford, the young men of the colony became unhappy campers about being forced to “spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children.” And since the nonproducers got the same amount of goodies from the common stock as producers, the producers simply stopped producing. As such, “the amount of food produced was never adequate.”

Thus, the inadequate harvests of 1621 and 1622 did, in fact, lead to famine, malnutrition and starvation among the Pilgrims. But it wasn’t the Indians teaching them how to farm that ultimately rescued the colonists from their plight. What did? Old-fashioned American capitalism!

“In 1623,” Givens wrote, “Bradford gave each household a parcel of land and told them they could keep what they produced, or trade it away as they saw fit.” The result? “By 1624, the colony was producing so much food that it began exporting corn.”


“Thanksgiving,” Givens wrote, “far from being the simple and uninspiring story of a group of people learning how to farm, is actually a celebration of what has made America itself great. It is the story of people working together by working for themselves first, and in so doing, improving the standard of living for everyone.”

Amen and hallelujah.

So as you sit around the Thanksgiving table this year with family and friends munching on turkey, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie, pause to reflect on the true meaning of this quintessential American holiday just as we should pause to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas each year; that socialism is bad, even when slick-talking community organizers from Chicago try to peddle it as “fairness.”

Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a conservative grassroots advocacy organization. He can be reached at www.muthstruths.com.