Recently I learned a fact about the Pilgrims that settled in Plymouth that I wasn’t taught in my history classes. Given the Progressive bent in education and the tendency of revising history for political purposes, I’m not entirely surprised.
Now, we know that the Pilgrims came to seek religious freedom. They were puritans who wanted to be free to practice their religion the way then saw fit. This much we know. However, the one fact that doesn’t seem to be in the history books and all the stories is that the Pilgrims intended, and did for 2 years, for Plymouth to be a Collectivist Utopia based on the Communism of Plato’s Republic. They wanted to take care of everyone on the colony so everyone worked and shared the fruit of their labors. Nobody had private property and everyone got an equal share of the work and food. What happened as a result of following this may be a reason why this has been excluded from history textbooks across the nation.
Now, the Governor of the colony, William Bradford, wrote down in his journal what the result was.
As Governor Bradford of the Plymouth Colony explained in his old English (though with the spelling modernized):
“For the young men that were able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children, without recompense. The strong, or men of parts, had no more division of food, clothes, etc. then he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labor, and food, clothes, etc. with the meaner and younger sort, thought it some indignant and disrespect unto them. And for men’s wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc. they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could husbands brook it.”
It’s not surprising to me that there was resentment. What’s interesting is that they did give the system a fighting chance, to the point that they had to make drastic changes or die of starvation:
Realizing that another season like those that had just passed would mean the extinction of the entire community, the elders of the colony decided to try something radically different: the introduction of private property rights and the right of the individual families to keep the fruits of their own labor.
As Governor Bradford put it:
“And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number for that end . . . This had a very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted then otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little-ones with them to set corn, which before would a ledge weakness, and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.”
They switched to private property and individual responsibility. Each family was responsible for their own. As a result, they produced more as individual units. So much so that they were able to trade surplus with others. Communism failed and Freedom prevailed.
The last quote that I want to provide is this.
“The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years, and that amongst the Godly and sober men, may well convince of the vanity and conceit of Plato’s and other ancients; — that the taking away of property, and bringing into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort.”
The last of my thoughts is this. When the LDS church headed west to avoid persecution and settled in the Great Salt Lake valley they did the same thing. They gave each family a portion of the land to till and farm as their own. For those not familiar with LDS church history, the members of the church prevailed and grew into a very industrious people. Many visitors were surprised at how beautiful they had made the valley. The state symbol is the Beehive, which symbolizes industry.
Read the full article from Richard Ebeling, he does a great job at describing what is going on.