The Thanksgiving holiday, which commemorates one part of the Pilgrim story, remains the favorite holiday for many Americans. And for good reasons beyond enjoying a feast. With our country passing through troubled times, it is worth revisiting the Pilgrim’s five significant achievements, which created the seminal story of America, and reveal remarkable insight into who we are and the qualities of character we need to overcome our present challenges.
First, of the many groups of settlers who came to America, only the Pilgrims were singularly motivated by a spiritual quest for religious freedom—one that had its origin with the Protestant Reformation a century before. They repeatedly spoke about their voyage to the New World in terms of a flight from tyranny to freedom, comparing themselves to God’s chosen people—the Israelites—who overcame slavery and abuse in Egypt to get to the Promised Land. Similar to the Israelite’s exodus, the Pilgrims had left what they saw as oppressive and morally corrupt authorities in Great Britain and Europe to create a new life in America. Thus, both Christians and Jews find profound meaning in the Pilgrim’s Thanksgiving story.
Thanksgiving could be thought of as the holiday that made the other American holidays possible. Without the Pilgrims having courage; absolute faith in their cause and calling; and a willingness to sacrifice and risk everything, they never would have embarked on the 94-foot Mayflower—a ship of questionable seaworthiness. Were it not for their faith and determination to find freedom of conscience and live according to their Biblical beliefs there may never have been a July 4th Independence Day or other subsequent American holidays we take for granted and celebrate each year.
After a harrowing passage across the Atlantic—one that included wild pitching and broadside batterings by gale force winds and ferocious seas that caused the splitting of the ship’s main beam—the Mayflower was blown off course from the intended destination of the established Virginia Colony territory to wilds of Cape Cod. The Pilgrims knew not where they were nor how to proceed, so they beseeched the Almighty for favor in a making landfall in a suitable place with fresh water and fertile soil to establish a new and independent settlement.
Now in sight of land after a frightening voyage and facing hunger from spoiled and depleted provisions and anxious about settling outside the purview of Virginia Company charter territory, the secular Mayflower passengers were restless and insolent. And this is when the Pilgrims made their second major achievement that would shape the future of America.
Pilgrim leaders John Carver, William Bradford and William Brewster recognized that Mayflower passengers, diverse as they were, needed to maintain unity to survive in a potentially inhospitable environment. So, they drafted a governing agreement that would be acceptable to both their Christian brethren and the secular crewman and merchant adventurers— who made up about half the 102 people aboard the Mayflower. That governing document, known as the Mayflower Compact, provided for peace, security, and equality for everyone in their anticipated settlement. With every man aboard signing the Mayflower Compact the Pilgrims established the foundation for democratic self-government based on the will of people for the first time. The Mayflower Compact laid the cornerstone of the U.S. Constitution, which would be drafted and adopted some 170 years later.
The fact that all the Pilgrims survived the squalid and cramped ship quarters during the dangerous crossing of a vast ocean, is no doubt partially attributable to the good fortune that the Mayflower had previously been enlisted as a wine transport cargo ship. Unlike most merchant ships, she had a “sweet smell,” from all her decks and bilges being “disinfected” with wine sloshing and soaking from broken barrels of Bordeaux and high-alcohol port in the many prior crossings of the sometimes stormy English Channel.
That all changed once the Mayflower’s passengers settled in “New Plymouth,” Massachusetts in December of 1620. The first winter was devastating, with illness afflicting most and over half the Pilgrims dying, including four entire families. But it could have been worse.
The fate of the Pilgrim colonists would surely have been more difficult had they not settled where they did, adjacent to friendly natives of the Pokanoket Indian village that were part of the Wampanoag tribe. And had they not befriended two who providentially could speak broken English — Squanto and Samoset — perhaps none would have survived. Squanto and his fellow native tribesmen would teach the Pilgrims survival skills, showing them how to hunt, fish and plant various crops, such as corn, squash, and varieties of beans — which were unknown to the Englishmen.
The Pilgrims’ third major achievement was the Pilgrim-Wampanoag Peace Treaty that was signed on April 1, 1621, by Massasoit and leaders of the Plymouth colony. And a remarkable accomplishment it was, for it lasted more than 50 years — longer than subsequent peace treaties made by other colonizing groups with native Indian tribes. The fact that there were bloody conflicts between other colonists and tribes, such as in the Pequot War fought in Connecticut in 1636-1637, makes the Pilgrims stand out for they succeeded in maintaining the longest-lasting and most equitable peace between natives and immigrants in the history of what would become the United States.
In spite of learning from the native Indians how to plant, cultivate and harvest new crops in their first year, the Pilgrims complied with their sponsoring Virginia Company charter that called for settlement farmland to be owned and worked communally and for harvests to be equally shared. This socialist common property approach created disincentives to work. William Bradford recorded in his memoirs that while “slackers showed up late for work… everybody was happy to claim their equal share…and production only shrank.”
Although no one is certain of the exact date of the first Thanksgiving, we know it was a Pilgrim initiative, celebrated in November 1621 to give thanks to God for their survival—having lost so many during that first winter in Plymouth, and for the first harvest—meager though it was. When Massasoit was invited to join the Pilgrims, it was assumed that he wouldn’t bring more guests than the 50-odd Pilgrim survivor hosts. Massasoit arrived with twice that number, well-stocked with food, fowl, and game of all kinds—including five deer. There was more than enough for everyone, and it turns out that the first Thanksgiving celebration would last three days, punctuated by Indian song, games and dance, Pilgrim prayers and even a military parade by Myles Standish.
The Pilgrims fourth major achievement was the rejection socialism and the adoption of private enterprise. After the meager Thanksgiving harvest, the second season of collective farming and distribution proved equally disappointing. Governor Bradford had seen enough, recording that the system “was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort.” So, before the 1623 season he scrapped socialist farming and replaced it with private ownership of land for each of the families. As a result of becoming responsible for their own welfare and gaining freedom to choose what to grow for consumption or trade, the Pilgrims’ productivity surged.
The fifth factor that distinguished the Pilgrims was their model relational behavior. While tolerance enabled them to keep relative harmony within their diverse community, they also looked outwardly to serve and help others. In March of 1623, it came to be known that Massasoit was on the brink of death from an unknown illness. Senior Pilgrim elder Edward Winslow immediately set out on a forty-mile journey to administer medicinal broth, natural herbs, and prayers to Massasoit. Astonishingly, upon making a full recovery within days, he remarked, “Now I see the English are my friends and love me; and whilst I live, I will never forget this kindness they have showed me.”
In summary, the Pilgrims’ five achievements and the qualities of character that made them exemplary are as relevant today as ever. A contemporary Thanksgiving makeover might include: rekindling a quest for adventure; developing the faith to hold on to a vision of a promised land no matter what; mustering the courage to go against the crowd and defend the truth; gaining the resolve to endure hardship; revitalizing respect for and tolerance of people of different beliefs; rejuvenating a joyful willingness to sacrifice for others; and renewing the predisposition to extend love, assistance and gratitude at every appropriate opportunity.
Scott Powell is senior fellow at Discovery Institute. This article is a vignette out of his latest acclaimed book, Rediscovering America, which was a #1 new release in history for eight straight weeks at Amazon. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matt Tarango says
Beautiful. And Happy Thanksgiving.
If only we could reclaim that reverence for and dependence on God today.
Amen! We would all benefit from reading Psalm 100, “A Psalm of Thanksgiving” (mizmor lesodah). It’s a short, pretty little thing that nobody in his right mind would object to, except perhaps your paleoleftist Uncle Bob who ruins every family meal…
To my friends here at Frontpage i wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving.
Mo de Profit says
Superb lessons, happy thanksgiving my American friends.
John Bumpus says
“The Thanksgiving holiday, which commemorates one part of the Pilgrim story, . . . “‘
Every year it is the same old fake news story. The myth is that Thanksgiving is a PILGRIM story. I do not want to be unkind. I myself love the Thanksgiving Holiday. But facts are facts. THE FIRST THANKSGIVING WAS IN VIRGINIA A FEW YEARS BEFORE THE PILGRIM THANKSGIVING IN MASSACHUSETTS–BEFORE THE PILGRIMS EVEN LANDED IN MASSACHUSETTS. The Virginia Thanksgiving occurred on what is today the Berkeley Plantation in Charles City County, Virginia (i.e., Berkeley Plantation the ancestral home of the Harrison Family which gave our country a signer of the Declaration of Independence and two Presidents of the United States. If one wants to know more, he can go on-line and ‘check it out’ for himself. Virginia is where our country began! Just thought that you’d like to know this.
Given that there wasn’t any spontaneous feast in Virginia (actually Massachusetts at the time), but merely a mandated religious ceremony of thanksgiving to celebrate their surviving the dangerous trip, I would say that the passengers of ALL ships who arrived successfully in the New World had thanked God for surviving the voyage, whether in a required official ceremony or among thankful individuals. The traditional thanksgiving was giving thanks to God for their abundant crops of food, which the Indians had taught them how to grow. It was also giving thanks to the changes made in the Mayflower Compact that had resulted in that abundance, from a Communist “share and share alike” (about which the workers complained for having to help support the lazy non-workers) to offering personal land for personal use beyond giving the required “commonwealth” donations–the beginning of Capitalism. A contract that required thanking God for a successful trip isn’t exactly the same thing.
John Bumpus says
I make a simple statement of fact, and the non-Virginians in the group go ‘nuts’! I must have ‘touched a nerve.’
John Boehner (the former Speaker of the U. S. House of Representatives) liked to say, “If ‘ands’ and ‘buts’ were candy and nuts, every day would be Christmas!
You bring up some very interesting history (I learned several things from your post), but your negative beginning sentences seem to have turned some readers off. Try being a bit more neutral in the future. And thanks for the history lesson!
John M. Stryker says
Scott Powell states, “Although no one is certain of the exact date of the first Thanksgiving…”
I could find no claim in his piece, declarative or implied, that the official first feast with Native Americans was in Plymouth (vs. VA). The article speaks to the lessons and accomplishments of those Pilgrims; what they learned, how they survived, and how they interacted with the Native Americans.
I suppose one can overlook all that with the claim the first Thanksgiving took place years before elsewhere, and dismiss the rest. OK, that’s perfectly fine. So, while I respect your right to make a date/location correction, there is nothing in Scott’s piece that is “fake news”. If in fact it was “fake”, it wouldn’t be fake news, but fake history. But it is not. There is nothing fake about what the Plymouth pilgrims accomplished during the time period stated. To dismiss the whole piece over date/location claim that doesn’t appear in the article, misses the point of it.
History is the ultimate teacher. Dates are important, sure. For example, if you ask the typical person when WWII started will respond with 9/1/1939 or 12/7/1941, when in fact the Japanese invaded Manchuria in September 1931. Ok whatever…what’s important is to know what happened and why, and what the takeaways are for (hopefully) the improvement of mankind….regardless if we put the start date at 1939, 1941 or 1931.
Unfortunately, mankind isn’t the best learner.
John Bumpus says
The first Thanksgiving in Virginia occurred in December 1619. This controversy again became public during the presidency of JFK, and JFK conceded that the Virginians were rightly miffed when others claimed to be the ones deserving of the honor of creating the holiday. Of course, being a New Englander himself, he said merely that both States claimed the honor. Some say, well the Virginia Thanksgiving celebration was not continuous, but I would point out that it is difficult to have such celebrations when there are prolonged periods of starvation in the Virginia colony in its early days when most of the colonists died, or in the years that immediately followed when there several great massacres of colonists by the Indians of the area. I would also point out, that the Thanksgiving celebrations were not continuous in Massachusetts either. Washington took office as President in 1789, and he issued a Thanksgiving Holiday proclamation in October of 1789–he was well aware of the Virginia tradition. Of course, nowadays, it is traditional for the national fake news media to quote the Lincoln Thanksgiving proclamation, and totally ignore the Washington proclamation.
And you have a happy Thanksgiving Holiday too.
1619, the entire year, has been cancelled as fake news.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!
I am grateful for Frontpage.com & everyone here writers & clever commenters
Happy Thanksgiving on this most unique and American holiday
Steve Chavez says
HOW MANY MORE THANKSGIVINGS are we going to have considering the movement to ban it by far-left haters who already banned Columbus Day?
OPEN THIS LINK to the Albuquerque group that started the anti-
Columbus Day and now their sights are on the “white pilgrims.” THEREDNATION.ORG READ THEIR OWN MISSION STATEMENT PROMOTING COMMUNISM AND MARXISM. The local media is already helping their cause but they don’t expose that the group is Communist. (I write to them to organize protests in front of the numerous “capitalist” casinos. None yet. Why? Because they’re taking money from the White Man.)
I can only imagine if no Columbus or Pilgrims settled the Americas. What if Africans discovered America? Would we have a Constitution? In the end, these groups, many far-left Democrat groups, want to ban the Constitution. Senator Booker: “Our Founding was rooted in White Supremacy.” He took an Oath to defend it and is using its Freedoms to overthrow it. So many others. What’s the penalty for going against that Oath?
There appears to be no penalty for oathbreaking on the part of elected officials, at least not in this world. When I consider the oath that they take, similar to the oath that I was unable to take as I could not pass the physical to serve in any branch of the United States military, I do not understand how anyone can approach it with less than the greatest solemnity. Back in the 1970’s I was walking through the local Federal Building and passed a room full of new Army recruits who were taking their oaths. I wept at the beauty of the sight, and I believe that those young people understood and meant every word that they said. Their “superiors” running the country? Doubtful.
And then they built a theocracy and burned the witches…
Alleged witches were hanged in America. Only the Europeans burned the poor women.
Burned, hanged, comes to the same thing…
The witch hunts at Salem were conducted by British citizens, June 1692-May 1693
Do you try to be an annoying idiot or does it just come naturally.
Fortunately for us you will never be an American citizen.
The pilgrims were British subjects, genius. Their religious intolerance was what brought about the witch hunts.
How do you know I’m not an American citizen?
Subjects, citizens, comes to the same thing…..for a leftist like you.
How do I know you aren’t an American citizen? You have said or implied more than once you aren’t from this country. I wish I had saved the text from those posts. But I never forgot them.
In addition you never express any sort of feeling for or patriotism for America. Even the worst sort of American leftist, every now and then, talks about “our democracy” (we are a Republic) and calls themselves patriots. But it always rings hollow.
Your endless whining about the rich, and taxing them to pay for the welfare state, reeks of brit sensibility and class warfare….how very Marxist.
But the clicker for me was your love affair with the largely phased out M60, as the tool by which our pronoun besotten woke Army will wipe out the traitorous MAGA crowd……all 70 million of us. You don’t even know which weapons our military Dandy Lions are training with.
And there is always your fascination with summary execution. That just doesn’t happen here, except in the case of the rotten to the core Capitol Hill cop who shot Ashley Babbit. Of course the fascist in you thinks she deserved it.
My point was that they were also British subjects, as were the witch hunters. You may presume I am not a citizen, but you’ll never know for sure, will you?
Michael Byrd is my hero, and yes, it’s a shame he didn’t have an M60, which I never said the military uses or doesn’t use — nor do I care. Still working hard on your fetish, I see.
Your main issue is you are a coward. You can’t/won’t say who or what you are. So you are basically nothing, with a smug self-satisfied but pathetic attitude and a warped opinion about everything American..
Nice to know your hero is a murderer because you so desperately want to be like him. But you can’t because your government doesn’t let you own guns in your dink country. If you were an American you would have bought one by now and would probably be languishing in jail for pulling a Byrd.
I wonder why it is always the little dandy lions like who feel compelled to make little penis jokes re: people who own guns. Well, the answer is obvious.
“Little dandy lions”? I don’t even know what that means. I’ll make the wild guess that it’s you trying to put me down in order to prove what big giant Sig-wielding macho manly man you are. The lady, again, doth protest too much, methinks.
Little Dandy Lions. Try watching that most American of films, the Wizard of OZ. Maybe you will get the reference. Or read the book ‘Hidden Hollywood’
I don’t need to brandish a weapon to prove what a coward you are. It bleeds out of you with every post. You are trying so hard to be a tough guy with all of that summary execution drivel.
C’mon man, it’s so obvious that when no one is looking you get in a tutu and lipstick and dance around.
I heard this morning on F&FF, so I did a search.
A historical marker outside of Canyon (TX) claimed Francisco Vázquez de Coronado celebrated the first Thanksgiving near the Palo Duro Canyon in 1541 – though some debate whether that was a true Thanksgiving or a celebration of the Feast of the Ascension, which falls in the spring.
But I will be having turkey with family and friends today. Happy Thanksgivimg!
Walter Sieruk says
In the New Testament of the Bible it reads “In everything give thinks ; for this the will of God in Christ.”
First Thessalonians 5:18. [N.K.J.V.]
With our government on the brink of disaster as it screws our people over as they try to build a communist look-alike where, “You’ll own nothing, and You’ll be happy”, we are given to pause because we no longer are a cohesive nation but a sniveling DemonRat infested criminal enterprise called the Deep State of unelected bureaucrats. who are currently in the process of destroying America.
AND YOU WANT US TO BE THANKFUL? Not this time my friends because America is about two seconds to midnight with the war drums of nuclear war sounding, but our government has become tone-deaf.
This Thanksgiving is a sad example of humanity dancing like Satan on the grave of America, as we succumb to our own stupidity. There is a time for everything under heaven ! We are now at the point, “A TIME FOR WAR” ! It is hard to be thankful when we are standing on the very precipice of the cliff looking into the Abyss, just waiting for someone to push us over !
Are you going to thank God for our own demise? The DemonRats have just about destroyed everything Conservatives have come to love about America. and we are asked to be thankful. Are you kidding me ????
May I suggest we all take a pause from the political chaos. Let us put chaos in a box and set it on a shelf for the day. Then read the author’s purpose in writing the article :
“With our country passing through troubled times, it is worth revisiting the Pilgrim’s five significant achievements, which created the seminal story of America, and reveal remarkable insight into who we are and the qualities of character we need to overcome our present challenges.”
”The Pilgrims’ third major achievement was the Pilgrim-Wampanoag Peace Treaty that was signed on April 1, 1621, by Massasoit and leaders of the Plymouth colony. And a remarkable accomplishment it was, for it lasted more than 50 years.”
That is true,but there is much that is OMITTED
1. The PILGRIMS were CALVINISTS ( God decides ahead of time who goes to heaven and hell). Some 20,000 emigrated to their colony of MASSACHUSETS in the course of 20 years because they
were persecuted by the Anglican government in the UK.
2. They established a DEMOCRATIC government where ANNUALLY they elected or relected their governor. SO, they also were the FIRST of the 13 colonies to LEGALIZE SLAVERY ( circa 1640).
And in that law the slave had NO rights ( unlike slaves in the Spanish,French,Portuguese empires). He was 100% nothing but PROPERTY,not a person.
3. AND the law applied to NATIVE INDIANS and also to BLACKS. In fact,WINTHROP the pilgrim governor who wrote the CITY on a HILL , had several Amerindian slaves. In fact,it was the custom of the Pilgrims
to send Amerindian slaves to the CARIBBEAN colonies to work in the sugar plantations.
1. There was a Civil War in the UK and the PURITANS ( the Pilgrims were Puritans ) won and CROMWELL was installed. He OUTLAWED makeup for women, the theater, Chrismas, playing cards, etc.
Later Cromwell became,de facto,a DICTATOR, he could have outlawed ANYTHING he pleased.
2. SLAVERY,when the Puritans got to power, was ALREADY legal in BARBADOS(conquered by the English). Later Cromwell conquered JAMAICA from the Spanish.
Cromwell could have easily outlawed slavery in ALL the British colonies: Massachusetts, Jamaica,Barbados,etc. Never did.
He was of the SAME church as the Pilgrims.
3. The Pilgrims had an ANNUEL election to choose their governmor, and they NEVER elected a governor who was PRO- abolition of slavery. They didn`t care about NON-whites.
The CITY on a HILL project of the Pilgrims was a utopian vision but which allowed for slavery.
4.In fact later,WASHINGTON,as the first president, and in the CONSTITUTION, approved of a law whereby ONLY WHITES could be
CITIZENS of the new republic. And ONLY white IMMIGRANTS had
the RIGHT to get citizenship. Such an idea is a direct consequence of the City on a Hill concept. It was only after the Civil War that BLACKS were given citizenship.
Then later came an unofficial religious doctrine accepted by many Protestants,including non-Calvinists,called
1. It said WHITES were destined to become masters of the entire North American continent.
2. And the reason was because GOD had decided it was so.
Dear Chcuo, History is long and complicated. We should study it to learn what was done and what was the outcome. In order to benefit from the past we need to set aside some parts while we focus on other parts.
You missed the whole point of this article: “With our country passing through troubled times, it is worth revisiting the Pilgrim’s five significant achievements, which created the seminal story of America, and reveal remarkable insight into who we are and the qualities of character we need to overcome our present challenges.”
Your point in this long rant being?
Civilizations evolve. Stop being so guilty of historical presentism,
Walter Sieruk says
In the New Testament of the Bible it reads “In everything give thinks ; for this the will of God in Christ.”
First Thessalonians 5:18. [N.K.J.V.]
1) the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.
2) absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government.
3) the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved.
About the only thing America has as “Freedom” any longer… is that we’re not fully imprisoned… yet…
So take your Vaccine and be a good citizen…
Spurwing Plover says
Forget this Day of Mourning from these Braindead Collage intellectual know nothings liberal collage professors their way too busy acting like the guy from the old Lil Abner Comic Strips with the storm cloud over his head all the time their way too negative about everything America has done to help the world
Matt Tarango says
Scott, this morning, I showed this to a family member who liked it so much, they had it read out loud at our Thanksgiving get together. Giving the honor to the last liberal holdout in the family. Needless to say, that made the two us smile even more.
Contrast this FACTUAL account of the the Pilgrims and Native Indians relationship and the success it birth for 50 years to the screed/raqnt of the joyless freid of msnbc who proves daily on her program to be a RACIST, Habitual Liar and complete FRAUD who nHATES, yes deeply HATES America.