Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Dead Socialist Pilgrims
Most Americans know only the basic story of the Pilgrims, mainly how the Indians helped them survive through a rough first year and how they celebrated with the first Thanksgiving. That first Thanksgiving was just a small respite in a terrible first two years of starvation and want. First of all, 45 of the 102 colonists died during the first winter of 1620-21. They were reduced to living on half rations during the winter of 1621-1622. The results of their 1622 farming was not much better and the winter of 1622-23 was another harsh period.
What was the cause of this agricultural failure?
The problem was that during the first two years the Pilgrims followed a communal system of farming that would make modern day socialists and share-the-wealthers proud. There was no wicked one-percenters here; everyone starved equally.
In April 1623, community leader William Bradford recognized that the communal system of farming was the cause of inadequate food production and made changes to fix things. Here is how Nathaniel Philbrick describes it in his eminently readable Mayflower:
The fall of 1623 marked the end of Plymouth's debilitating food shortages. For the last two planting seasons, the Pilgrims had grown crops communally--the approach first used at Jamestown and other English settlements. But as the disastrous harvest of the previous fall had shown, something drastic needed to be done to increase the annual yield.
In April, Bradford had decided that each household should be assigned its own plot to cultivate, with the understanding that each family kept whatever it grew. The change in attitude was stunning. Families were now willing to work much harder than they had ever worked before. In previous years, the men had tended the fields while the women tended the children at home. ¨The women now went willingly into the field,¨ Bradford wrote, ¨and took their little ones with them to set corn.¨ The Pilgrims had stumbled on the power of capitalism. Although the fortunes of the colony still teetered precariously in the years ahead, the inhabitants never again starved.
History is a great teacher, and it is disappointing that the too many liberals seem ignorant of the many failures of socialism and continue to take steps to tear down capitalism.
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