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True Thanksgiving

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Published : August 10th, 2009
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Category : Gold and Silver




This past Saturday was Thanksgiving, the real Thanksgiving. Here is the true story from the fellow who was there, Governor William Bradford, of Plymouth Colony. (“Plymouth” is the modern spelling. Back in 1620, it was spelled “Plimoth.”) Governor Bradford kept a diary of the important events in the lives of the Pilgrims.

At that time in England, a hot debate was going on between communism and private property. The Pilgrims favored private property, but at the last minute their financial backers (the venturers) imposed the condition that they organize themselves under communism. The Pilgrims felt that it was too late to back out and so agreed to a communist system.

Over the first winter, half of the original settlers died (probably from scurvy). This was followed by small harvests and scarcity (“the starving time”). Finally, as spring 1623 approached, Bradford writes:

“All this while no supply was heard of, neither knew they when they might expecte any. So they begane to think how they might raise as much corne as they could, and obtaine a better crope then they had done, that they might not still thus languish in miserie. At length, after much debate of things, the Govr [Bradford himself] (with ye advise of ye cheefest amongst them) gave way that they would set corne every man for his owne perticuler, and in that regard trust to them selves; in all other things to goe on in ye generall way as before. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number for that end, only for present use (but made no devission for inheritance), and ranged all boys & youth under some familie. This had very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corne was planted then other waise would have bene by any means ye Govr or any other could use, and saved him a great deall of trouble, and gave farr better contente. The women now wente willingly into ye field, and tooke their little-ons with them to set corne, which before would aledg weakness, and inabilitie; whom to have compelled would have bene thought great tiranie and oppression.

“The experience that was had in this comone course and condition, tried sundrie years, and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanitie of that conceite of Platos & other ancients, applauded by some of later times; -- that ye taking away of propertie, and bringing in comunitie into a comone wealth, would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For this comunitie (so farr as it was) was found to breed much confusion & discontent, and retard much imploymet that would have been to their benefite and comforte. For ye yong-men that were most able and fitte for labour & service did repine that they should spend their time & streingth to worke for other mens wives and cildren, with out any recompence. The strong, or man of parts, had no more in devission of victails & cloaths, then he that was weake and not able to doe a quarter ye other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labours, and victails, cloaths, &c, with ye meaner & yonger sorte, thought it some indignite & disrespect unto them. And for mens wives to be commanded to doe servise for other men, as dressing their meate, washing their cloaths, &c., they deemd it a kind of slaverie, neither could many husbands well brooke it. Upon ye poynte all being to have alike, and all to doe alike, they thought them selves in ye like contiion, and one as good as another; and so, if it did not cut of those relations that God hath set amongst men, yet it did at least much diminish and take of ye mutuall respects that should be preserved amongst them. And would have bene worse if they had been men of another condition. Let none objecte this is men’s corruption, and nothing to ye course it selfe. I answer, seeing all men have this corruption in them, God in his wisdome saw another course fiter for them.

“Bradford’s History ‘Of Plimoth Plantation,’” Book II
(Boston, Wright & Potter Printing, 1899), by William Bradford,
pp. 162-`164.

Under the new system of private property, the Pilgrims worked hard and planted more corn than they had ever planted before. (Incidentally, the English word “corn” at that time was a general term and meant, roughly, grain. When the Pilgrims were given maize by the Indians, they did not know what to call it and so used the general term. Gradually “corn” changed its meaning from a general grain to Indian maize, and this is how we understand it today.)

However, things did not go smoothly. The corn was hit by a drought from late May to mid-July. The corn began to wilt, and the Pilgrims were threatened with starvation. Bradford continues:

“I may not here omite how, notwithstand all their great paines & industrie, and ye great hope of a large cropp, the Lord seemed to blast, & take away the same, and to threaten further & more sore famine unto them, by a great drought which continued from ye 3. weeke in May, till about ye middle of July, without any raine, and with great heat (for ye most parte), insomuch as ye corne begane to wither away, though it was set with fishe, the moisture whereof helped it much. Yet at length it begane to languish sore, and some of ye drier grounds were partched like withered hay, part hereof was never recovered. Upon which they sett a parte a solemne day of humiliation, to seek ye Lord by humble & forvente prayer, in this great distrese. And he was pleased to give them a gracious & speedy answer, both to their owne, & the Indeans admiration, that lived amongst them. For all ye morning, and greatest part of the day, it was clear weather & very hotte, and not a cloud or any signe of raine to be seen, yet toward evening it begane to overcast, and shortly after to raine, with such sweete and gentle showers, as gave them cause of rejoyceing, & beesing God. It came, without either wind or thinder, or any violence, and by degreese in ye abundance, as that ye earth was thorowly wete and soked therwith. Which did so apparently revive & quicken ye decayed corne & other fruits, as was wonderfull to see, and made ye Indeans astonished to behold; and afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers, with enterchange of faire warme weather, as, though his blessing, caused a fruitfull & liberal harvest, to their no small comforte and rejoicing. For which mercie (in time conveniente) they also sett aparte a day of thanksgiving.”

Bradford, Ibid., pp. 170-171.

There were about two weeks between the day of humiliation and the day of thanksgiving. This puts the first thanksgiving at the very end of July 1623 (probably July 29 or 30). The people of the Middle Ages were essentially passive. They believed that nothing happened by their own efforts. When something bad happened, it was because God was mad at them. When something good happened, it was because God was pleased with them. In the first case, they tried to win God’s favor (by fasting and humiliating themselves), and in the second case, they rejoiced and said thank you to God. These days of humiliation and thanksgiving were only one-time holidays. They would be declared by the leader of the community, celebrated once and then never repeated.

Today we have a different concept. A holiday is something to be remembered. So we celebrate it once a year, on the original date. The occasional, or one-time, holidays have disappeared.

It follows that what the Pilgrims did was an earth shaking event. They changed from the essentially passive people of the Middle Ages to the modern active people we are today. They had been facing starvation. Many people faced starvation back in the Middle Ages. Founding a new colony in the wilderness was not an easy thing to do. You all know the story of the English attempt to found a colony at Roanoke, Virginia in 1585-87. This, however, was a government project. The Government had agreed to send a supply ship in 1587. But in 1587, the English Government was under pressure from the impending Spanish Armada and could not spare the ship. The Roanoke colony disappeared and was never heard from again. Simultaneous with the settlement of the Pilgrims, a gentleman named Thomas Weston attempted another settlement in Massachusetts. But the Weston people were not Calvinists and did not have the moral fiber to make their settlement work. After many discouraging events, they gave up and went back to England.

In fact, the Pilgrims had decided to make the trip to America because Holland (their home at that time) was headed for a resumption of its war with Spain in 1621. The Independent (Calvinist) colony in Leyden split on what to do. Had the Spanish been victorious, the Spanish would have burned them alive (as was their established practice with regard to Calvinists). One part decided to remain in Holland and chance a Spanish victory. The other part opted for the journey to America. Thus these were not adventurous people looking to make a mark in the history books. They were ordinary people trying to live their lives and keep from being killed.

What they did in abolishing communism and establishing private property was to act pro-actively. Although the form of attributing everything to God and taking no responsibility for one’s own actions persisted for a while, the Pilgrims were the first people known to us in history who reversed this medieval attitude. Thus they felt, after 1623, that they had done something very significant. They must have decided to turn the occasional holiday (thanksgiving 1623) into an annual holiday and celebrate it each year on the anniversary. There exists in the town of Plymouth, Massachusetts to this day a local holiday known as Sidewalk Sales Days. It is a commercial holiday celebrated on the last weekend of July, and all the merchants put their goods out on the sidewalk in front of their stores and encourage customers with big sales. As the descendants of the Pilgrims and new arrivals spread out through the northern states, they had a sense that the event this first thanksgiving celebrated (the institution of private property) was very important. Thus they began to reenact this event each year, turning the occasional holiday into an annual one.

By the time of the American Civil War, Thanksgiving was widely celebrated through the North. Sarah Hale, the editor of Goody’s Ladies Book (a 19th century precursor to Ladies Home Journal) started a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday, and this was signed into law by President Lincoln. (This, by the way, is why the modern Thanksgiving is associated in most of our minds with cooking big meals and family get-togethers.).

A calendar change was introduced in the early 18th century (advancing George Washington’s birthday from Feb. 11 to Feb. 22). If we assume that the early 17th century calendar needed to be advanced 10 days and that the original thanksgiving was July 29, the equivalent date today would be August 8. From 1984-1999, I lived in Plymouth, Mass and used to hold a true Thanksgiving celebration on August 8 each year (all anti-communists welcome).

All good and true, the above comes from the horses mouth, so to speak. (As Herodotus points out, the most reliable history comes from an observer who was on the spot and personally witnessed the events about which he writes.) , But in that case, why are we not taught this in school? From 1917 to 1989, most of the world was engaged in an ideological battle, or Cold War, between the communist world and the private property world. America was the leader of those nations which supported private property. Each year Americans celebrated their national holiday of Thanksgiving, and no one knew that this was the holiday celebrating the establishment of private property and the abolition of communism in America.

Here is what happened. During the American Revolution, when the British were driven out of Boston, they took a collection of important papers, including Bradford’s diary. Thus the diary was lost (to Americans). Later in the 19th century a Boston scholar received an order of fish from Nova Scotia, wrapped in what he recognized was a page of Bradford’s diary. He immediately wrote to the fish monger offering him money for the manuscript and telling him not to throw any more of it away. In this way (most of) the diary was saved.

But while the diary was lost, a group of pro-communist intellectuals saw an opportunity. They had always been uncomfortable with the fact that the great American holiday of Thanksgiving was a celebration of anti-communism. So they decided to make up a lie to subvert the true meaning of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving, according to this left-wing theory, celebrates cultural diversity. The Pilgrims and the Indians got together and had a party, and that was the first Thanksgiving. It is true that the Pilgrims and the Indians had a party. Captain Miles Standish pursued an effective foreign policy, and by the autumn of 1621, nine of the surrounding Indian tribes (all except for the Narragansetts) approached with treaties of peace and friendship. The Pilgrims held a party in October 1621 and celebrated with their new Indian friends. However, Bradford mentions no thanksgiving in 1621. In fact, he describes the 1621 harvest as small and points out that the Pilgrims had brushes with starvation up until the thanksgiving of 1623.

Karl Marx taught that communism was a new phenomenon – the wave of the future. If one is a Marxist, one would not want to admit that communism existed in the past. A good Marxist has to pretend that communism started in the Soviet Union in 1917. What was communism doing in Massachusetts in 1622?

The astonishing thing was that, when Bradford’s diary was rediscovered, these pro-communist intellectuals were able to keep the lie going. And so it continues to this day and is taught to our children. This is an example of what people in our society call education.

This is a good example of the fact that most professional historians are united in an endeavor to impose a radical left-wing ideology on America – truth be damned. Every now and then an honest historian (like Winston Churchill) will slip through. But for the most part the field of academic history consists of a group of intellectuals dedicated to promoting lies for the purpose of destroying America.

These dedicated frauds are not going to reform themselves. It is your job as parent to correctly police the teachers of your children and to make sure they are teaching the truth. To fail in this is a betrayal of those children.


Howard Katz

The Gold Speculator


Howard S. Katz is the editor/publisher of the One-handed Economist, a financial letter which combines fundamental and technical analysis. He was a bug on gold in the 1970s and became a bug on gold again in late 2002. 


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Howard S. Katz was one of the early gold bugs of the late ‘60s and ‘70s, turning bullish on gold in 1965. His favorite gold stock, Lake Shore Mines, went from $3/share to $39/share over the course of the seventies (sold at $31). Katz turned increasingly skeptical about gold as it mounted its final rise in 1979, and he called the top after the close on Jan. 21, 1980 (with gold at $825.50/oz.). Katz traded gold in and out during the ‘80s and ‘90s and once again turned long term bullish in Dec. 2002. His thoughts on commodities, stocks, bonds and real estate are available in a letter entitled The One-handed Economist and published every two weeks giving specific advice on trades in stocks and futures.
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