Pilgrims and Their Experiment with Communism

I went to our local neighborhood Post Office two days ago. It is a small Post Office with five employees, so everyone there is on a first name basis with their regular customers. I had been in Russia on a mission trip during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. I was greeted with the usual “Where you been?”

I responded that I had just come home from Russia . I was asked “How are things over there?” I said that things were economically continuing to improve over the past ten years that I had been going over there, but that politically things were getting worse because the communists were getting back in control under President Putin.

I was SHOCKED when the clerk who was helping me said: “Isn't communism a good thing, but the only problem they had was that a dictator (Stalin) had taken control?”

I said: “No, communism is a terrible form of government, worse than socialism, because it quenches any incentive for people to succeed in life.” The response was: “Well, it's better than socialism, isn't it?”

I was finished with my business at the counter and had to leave because the next customer was waiting, but I could not believe what had been said by that postal employee.

I can forgive any ignorance.

Sometimes people will come up to me after a presentation and start the conversation with; “I know this may be a stupid question, but could you tell me . . . .?” I always respond by saying gently to them that there is no such thing as a stupid question unless you already know the correct answer, then I answer their question.

But, there is nothing that drives me nuts more than revisionist history!

There is an ancient proverb that says: “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Karl Marx (1818-1883) was a contemporary admirer of Charles Darwin (1809-1882). He even wanted to dedicate his first book Das Kapital, Vol. 1 (1867) to Darwin , for in Darwin 's fairy tale book, On the Origin of Species (1859), Marx believed that he found the natural science basis for his economic theories.

What most people do not remember, because it has been omitted from most American history textbooks, is that Marxism had been experimented with by Christians in America 250 years earlier and had been proven not to work! In 1620, the Pilgrims had tried communism and abandoned it after only one year as totally unworkable.

In 1609 the Pilgrims fled the restrictive environment of the Church of England and moved to Holland in order to freely practice their religious convictions. On August 1, 1620 , 40 of them set sail on the Mayflower with 62 others souls. They were under the leadership of William Bradford. Before setting up the community of Plymouth , Massachusetts , they composed one of the great documents in human history, the Mayflower Compact. It guaranteed just and equal laws to govern all residents of the community, regardless of their religious convictions. The concepts contained in the Compact were all based on Biblical reasoning.

The funding for the Pilgrims to go to the New World was provided under a contract with London merchants who wanted an economic profit from the venture. Under that contract whatever they produced was to be put into a common warehouse, with each one getting one equal share. All the land, buildings and end product were communally owned.

Half of the Pilgrims died during the first winter, including Branford's wife. As governor, Bradford realized that collectivism had been a costly and destructive mistake. Bradford and others realized that socialism gave no incentive to the most creative and industrious among them to work any harder than anyone else. Collectivism had prevented the exercise of personal motivation.

Bradford wrote about the experience:

“The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tired sundry years . . . that by taking away property, and bringing community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing -- as if they were wiser than God . . . “ “For this community [so far it was] was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for others men's wives and children without recompense . . . that was thought injustice.”

The Pilgrims tried collectivism, socialism and communism and found that it produced slough, laziness and destroyed incentive. What did they do about it?

They trashed part of their contract with the London merchants; learned from the local Indians how to produce better crops and harvest more fish; assigned private property rights of land to all members; and, gave them the right to profit from their industry. What happened next?

Bradford wrote about this institution of Christian capitalism: “This had very good success for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.”

Their excess product caused them to create Thanksgiving, not to thank the Indians for saving them, but to thank God for giving them a better way.

They did want to share with the Indians out of their bounty to express their appreciation for their help, but their celebration was to thank God. Thus, they instituted the Thanksgiving celebration that we have today. They paid off the London sponsors. Their success initiated the “Great Puritan Migration” which fostered the rapid colonization of America.

Inspired by the Pilgrims success, Thomas Hooker would found the first and greatest constitutional colony, in Connecticut . Massachusetts adopted its Body of Liberties, which included 98 protections to individual rights, including: “no taxation without representation,” “due process of law,” “trial by a jury of peers,” and prohibitions against “cruel and unusual punishment.”

At Christmas, let us be thankful to God for giving us a better Way. May we always treasure Him!

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