Textbooks claim the Pilgrims originated a thanksgiving feast because Native Americans taught them how to plant crops and learn other skills that improved their lives after enduring a harsh first winter. Endearing, but incomplete.
Merchants in London sponsored the Pilgrims, providing all their produce, land and houses, which belonged to everybody in the community. It didn’t take long to realize this experiment in socialism was not working: Those who were hard-driven quickly realized they had no incentive to work any harder than the slackers who depended on the former to do all the work.
The following year, their leader, William Bradford, wisely assigned every family its own plot of land to work and market their own crops and products. Writing in his diary, “This had very good success for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.”
Having plenty, they began to set up trading posts and sold their bounty to the natives. The London merchants were paid off with profits and their prosperity attracted more Europeans to the New World.
The real story of the first Thanksgiving begins with William Bradford and the Pilgrims giving thanks to God “for the guidance and the inspiration to set up a thriving colony.” Their bounty, grounded in capitalism, was shared with the natives as they ate together and rejoiced in their blessings from God, who they were now free to worship.
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