Socialism Almost Starved Pilgrims

Letters / Nov. 27, 2003 12:00am EST

Socialism Almost Starved Pilgrims

Nov. 27, 2003 will mark 381 years since those courageous Pilgrims gathered at Plymouth, Massachusetts to give thanks for a bountiful harvest—this they did with 90 American natives who both joined the celebration and contributed to it.

A little known fact in our time is that the winter following that first feast was another winter of starvation with the resulting health problems. According to the diary of William Bradford, who was the second governor of the colony, the first two years were marked with "corruption" and with "confusion and discontent."

The crops were small because "much was stolen both by night and day, before it became scarce eatable." Similar results were experienced at Jamestown because during the winter of 1609-1610 the population there fell from 500 down to 60.

But something happened at Plymouth in 1623 because "instead of famine now God gave them plenty," Bradford wrote that and in 1624 so much was harvested that they were able to export corn.

When the Pilgrims came to America aboard the Mayflower to establish the Plymouth Colony, they did so under the requirement that "all profits and benefits that are got by trade, working, fishing, or any other means" were to be placed into the "common stock" of the colony and that "all such persons as are of this colony are to have their provisions out of the common stock." Sort of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need"—socialism.

William Bradford was a "man of God" and because of that he was a student of the word of God, and there he found wisdom. First he abolished socialism and converted to a free market society. He did as the Jews did when the entered into the promised land—he divided the land—gave each household a parcel of land and told them they could keep all that they produced, or trade it away as they saw fit. Famine ended.

Throughout the world we can examine countries utilizing the "common stock" mentality which doesn’t work. Here in the USA, even though burdened by political favor-giving and other subtle forms of corruption, we still out-produce the world and are able to feed many beyond our borders because of our free enterprise system.

Those Pilgrim "separatists" were driven from their homeland because they wished to live that separated life that Christ called them to do—in England they were called puritans because they wanted to see the church purified. In America they lived that separated life in a purified church and were blessed—and we are still blessed because of their tenacity and faithfulness.

I believe that if we had a group of separatists in our midst, who would seek to purify the churches, we would see that they would probably face the same indignation that those Pilgrims did some 400 years ago. Even so, the end result would be glorious.

Charles Russell

Randolph Center


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