A Thanksgiving Tradition
Updated: Nov 21, 2022
Every year on Thanksgiving Eve, Rush Limbaugh would share "The True Story of Thanksgiving" on his syndicated radio program. He wrote about the story in his book, "See, I Told You So." Rush said he wanted to be sure that the factual history of the hardships endured by the Mayflower pilgrims was preserved. It's quite different from the cartoonish versions of the first Thanksgiving we all learned in elementary school.
William Bradford was the leader of the pilgrims and the first governor of the Plymouth Colony. Rush gathered the background for his telling of the story from Bradford's personal journal, "Of Plymouth Plantation."
Even though 2021 has certainly brought with it a new level of chaos, strife, division, bitterness and darkness...we have much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. One of the greatest gifts we have been given is a new perspective on the value of our freedoms that we are in danger of losing.
We still are truly blessed to live in the greatest country in the world.
Enjoy this transcript from Rush's show on Nov. 22, 2017.
Please share it with your family and friends. And read it to your children so they know the TRUE history of Thanksgiving.
Here's wishing you and your family a blessed Thanksgiving...and new perspectives!
The story of the Pilgrims begins in the early part of seventeenth century. The Church of England under King James was persecuting anybody and everybody who did not recognize its absolute civil and spiritual authority. The government was god, the government was the religion, the government was the church. And those who challenge that, those who believed strongly in freedom of worship, were hunted down, they were imprisoned and sometimes executed for their religious beliefs in 1600s England.
So a group of separatists, people that didn’t want any part of this, they’d had their limit, first fled to Holland. That’s right. The Pilgrims did not come on the same route as the Titanic. They didn’t come from England. They fled to Holland and they established a community there. And after 11 years, 40 of them agreed to make the journey to what was then called the New World, where they knew they would certainly face hardships. But the promise was that they could live and worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences.
The belief in freedom of religion to engage in this kind of activity in order to be able to do it, to be able to cross an ocean to a place you have no idea what to expect just to be able to worship as you choose. So August 1, 1620, the Mayflower set sail. There were 102 passengers, including 40 Pilgrims. The whole ship was not Pilgrims, 40 of them. They were led by a man named William Bradford.
On the journey, Bradford set up an agreement, a contract that established — well, what it was was socialism. Just and equal laws for all members of the new community, quote, unquote, irrespective of their religious beliefs. Where do the revolutionary ideas expressed in the Mayflower Compact come from? These are religious people. They came from the Bible. The Pilgrims were a people that were completely steeped in the lessons of the Old and New Testaments. And the Pilgrims looked to the ancient Israelites for their example, and because of the biblical precedents in Scripture, they didn’t doubt their experiment would work.
They were people with incredible faith. The journey to the New World was long, it was arduous. When they landed in New England in November, according to Bradford’s journal, they found a cold, barren, desolate wilderness. No friends to greet them, no dock, no Motel 6, no gas stations, no strip mall, nothing. Rocks and coastline. No houses. There were no hotels, no inns, and the sacrifices they had made for freedom was just beginning.
During the first winter, half of them died, including William Bradford’s own wife, of either starvation, sickness, or exposure. When spring finally came, Indians, Native Americans, did indeed teach the settlers how to plant corn, how to fish for cod, skin beavers for coats. Life improved for the Pilgrims, but they didn’t prosper. Not yet.
Now, this is important to understand, because this is where modern American history lessons end. This is what the modern Thanksgiving story is. Pilgrims show up, don’t know what they’re doing, nothing for them, no place to stay, they’re starving. The Indians fed them, showed them how to feed themselves and make coats and stay warm and Thanksgiving happened.
That’s not the story. That’s not why the Pilgrims gave thanks. That’s not why George Washington proclaimed the first Thanksgiving holiday. The Indians did indeed help them, and they learned how to plant corn, and they had a big feast. And we celebrate that today. But Thanksgiving is actually explained in textbooks as a holiday for which the Pilgrims gave thanks to the Indians for saving their lives, rather than what it was.
You cannot escape the fact that Thanksgiving was a national holiday rooted in thanking God for America. That was George Washington’s purpose. Thanksgiving was to thank God for America, for everything that had happened leading to the founding of America, everything. Washington, many of the founders felt divine inspiration throughout the entire period of time following the Pilgrims’ arrival.
Now, here’s the part that’s been omitted from the textbooks. Remember that original contract that the Pilgrims all signed aboard the Mayflower. Well, they had merchant sponsors. They didn’t have any money. They had people paying them, sponsoring their trip. They didn’t have the money to make the trip themselves. These sponsors were in Holland and London. They had to be repaid.
So that contract called for everything the Pilgrims produced to go into a common store, a single bank account, if you will. And each member of the community was entitled to an equal share of the gross. This was fair. This was equal. This was same. All the land they cleared, the houses they built, they belonged to the community as well.
Nobody owned anything. Everything was owned by the community, everybody equal share to all of it. They were gonna distribute it equally. Everybody would get the same, everybody would be the same. All the land they cleared, the houses they built, belonged to the community.
Nobody owned anything. It was a commune. It was Humboldt County, California, minus the weed. They even had organic vegetables. Now, William Bradford, who had become the new governor of the colony, recognized that this wasn’t working. They weren’t making any money to pay off the sponsors. But you know what else was happening? Since everybody got an equal share no matter what, there were some lazy sloths. Yes. Some of the original Pilgrims, some of their offspring just sat around and did nothing all day while the others picked up the slack.
And Bradford saw this isn’t gonna work. And so they essentially tore up that first contract, which, they didn’t know it, but that was socialism. And what they did was create a new community based on what we would call capitalism today. The more you produce, the more you got to keep. The harder you work, the greater were the fruits of your labors. If you wanted a bigger home than somebody else, and you could afford to build it, you did it, you didn’t have to share it.
And this change unleashed everything, and the Pilgrims became a going economic concern. And they experienced economic plenty far greater than any they had had under the previous Mayflower Compact arrangement. Bradford writes about all of this in his journal, and it is for this that the original Pilgrims gave thanks. Not to the Indians saving them, but to God for helping them to survive and thrive in a place none had ever been.
William Bradford, the governor of the colony, after abandoning the original compact and then converting to, “Hey, you can keep what you earn and earn as much as you produce,” when free enterprise of turned loose in Bradford’s journal, this had very good success, “for it made all hands industrious so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.”
In other words, they had economic growth, they had prosperity because there was personal incentive rather than everybody getting a share of what others, some, not everybody else produced. And so the Pilgrims found that they had more food than they could eat themselves.
Now, this is where what you’ve been told about Thanksgiving enters the picture. The Pilgrims had more than they could share, more than they could eat, more food than they could serve each other. They invited the Indians. They set up trading posts. They exchanged goods with the Indians, and the profits finally allowed them to pay off the debts to the sponsors, the merchants in London and Holland who had sponsored them.
But it was the sharing of the bounty that was created by the change in governing structure that led to the plenty that allowed them to invite the Indians and share all of this with them. That’s the story most people get, but they’ve been mis-taught that the Indians provided all the food ’cause the Pilgrims were incapable. It is the exact opposite.
Now, there just one more time element to this, The True Story of Thanksgiving. You may or may not have heard the story of the great Puritan migration. That is what happened after the Pilgrims original two or three years setting up shop. Now, this is fundamentally important to understand.
The great Pilgrim migration occurred because of the overwhelming success at growing their community. The word of what the Pilgrims had done spread — I mean, there are ships going back and forth, New World to England and Europe all the time, and word spread of this newfound prosperity, of this New World, of the new opportunities, of the religious freedom and other freedoms that had been created after the arrival of the Pilgrims.
Had none of that happened, had the real story of Thanksgiving been that the Pilgrims were a decrepit bunch, out of place and didn’t know how to take care of themselves and if it weren’t for the Indians they would have died, there would have been no reason for anybody to follow ’em. It would have been judged a failure. But it was anything but. And it’s it is not taught today.
But the fact of the matter is that the Pilgrims — they were not ideologues. It wasn’t that somebody said, “We’re gonna try socialism.” It’s just the way they set it up. They wanted to be fair with everything. It was a natural thing. “We’ll have a common store. Everybody has one share, and everything we do and make goes into that bank, and everybody gets an equal percentage of it.” Well, human nature interceded, and there were some lazy people that didn’t do anything, they don’t have to, they were entitled to an equal share no matter what they did.
That didn’t work very long. They set up free enterprise where the fruits of your labor determined what you got, what you had, and what you’re able to do. And it formed the basis of forming the basic arrangements they had as a community. Well, it was so successful, and that’s what they gave thanks for.
These were deeply religious people. They were giving thanks for having been shown the light, and the word spread, and that began the Great Puritan Migration, and that’s when the flood of European arrivals began, after the success of the original Plymouth colony.
That’s never taught as part of the original Thanksgiving story, and now you know it.
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