Thursday, November 27, 2008

Property and the First Thanksgiving

Just in time for the holiday courtesy of
At Thanksgiving, Americans reflect on their blessings and hope for uplifting family gatherings of togetherness and unity, with the Pilgrims used as examples of peace, harmony, and thankfulness. However, while the Pilgrims' 1623 "way of thanksgiving" represents what we wish to infuse in Thanksgiving, Plymouth Colony before 1623 was closer to a Thanksgiving host's worst fears – resentments surface, harsh words are spoken, and people turn angry and unhappy with one another.

The Pilgrims' unhappiness was caused by their system of common property (not adopted, as often asserted, from their religious convictions, but required against their will by the colony's sponsors). The fruits of each person's efforts went to the community, and each received a share from the common wealth. This caused severe strains among the members, as Colony Governor William Bradford recorded:
You'll have to go over there to read the whole thing. I've learned over the years that Thanksgiving evolved. The history most of us are familiar with is more or less a fairytale compared with what really happened. This story underscores that.

Still I've had friends who refers to this holiday not as Thanksgiving but Thanks-taking. I don't remember exactly where this get this from, but I have an idea that the Native American Indians have an unfortunate role in this term.

Surely in our idealized version of the history of Thanksgiving we've heard about the Indians. They contributed to this big feast with the Pilgrims and with open arms. Unfortunately the Pilgrims who might have been struggling before this point probably weren't very willing to share land in this new world with their native neighbors. Thus people will call this holiday Thankstaking.

You can rebut if you wish or agree.

Regardless of this story I hope you have a joyous and restful holiday and thanks for reading today!

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