COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., November 28, 2013 — The contest for individual rights and freedoms against the collectivist, authoritarian mentality is not new. The first permanent European colonies in North America were founded by people who left England seeking religious and economic freedom.
In the Plymouth Colony, the Puritans — a devout Protestant sect forced to leave England to seek religious freedom — at first practiced a kind of religious communism under the leadership of Governor William Bradford. They were following the example of early believers:
“And all that believed, were in one place, and had all things common. And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” (Acts 2: 44-45)
A footnote to verse 45 in the Geneva Bible, which was favored by the Pilgrims, clarified that “Not that their goods were mingled all together: but such order was observed that every man frankly relieved another’s necessity.” It was voluntary charity, not enforced redistribution.
When the Plymouth colony began in 1621, the “order” went a step further. All the goods and products were held in a “common stock.” All persons were to contribute equally and share equally in the community’s bounty — or lack thereof. Bradford records the result: Young men objected to working for the benefit of other men’s wives and children. The strong objected that they received the same amount of food and clothing as the weak. The older men objected to laboring the same amount as the young. The women objected to performing household chores for men other than their husbands, deeming it “a kind of slavery.”
You can read more of the story at the Heritage Foundation, or by searching the internet with the keywords “communism” and “Plymouth Colony.” The Heritage story was written in 2005, long before a certain community organizer from Chicago came onto the national scene to spread the gospel according to Saul Alinsky.
When Bradford changed the system to one of private property, the new system proved prosperity-enhancing and enlivening. Men, women, and children no longer thought labor to be tyrannical and oppressive, and instead became industrious stewards of their individual plots of land, resulting in bountiful harvests.
Bradford concluded that communism was incompatible with human nature.
The story of Jamestown from 1607-11 was the same. Under collectivism, less than half of every shipload of settlers survived the first 12 months at Jamestown. Most of the work was done by only one-fifth of the men, to whom the socialist system gave the same rations as to the others. During the winter of 1609–10, called “The Starving Time,” the population fell from 500 to 60.
Again, private land was given to the settlers with almost miraculous effect. The real irony? US News and World Report wrote in 2007, “It was on one of those 3-acre plots that John Rolfe tinkered with tobacco and transformed Jamestown.”
With private ownership of his property, Rolfe could produce not only enough food for himself and his family, but had the incentive to improve his product and better himself. Today liberals would decry the growing of tobacco as the beginning of a scourge, failing to note that native Americans had grown it beforehand. The real point is not the product he picked to grow but that he had the freedom to choose.
Four hundred years ago the first settlers knew the value of private property and free markets. What is wrong with politicians in Washington today? Do they not know this? Were they not taught this in school? One doubts that it is going to be a part of the Common Core curriculum.
This Thanksgiving and for every year after, as you enjoy the fruits of your labor and remember the Pilgrims who first gave thanks for their bounty, tell your family and guests the rest of the story.
At The Voice of Liberty, we seek to advance the principles of liberty, because tyranny never sleeps.
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