Pilgrims and George Washington.

25 11 2009

New Hampshire Historic Markers look better.

image Located at Plymouth Rock, of course!

On Pilgrim’s and Prosperity, Steve Malanga

Reading Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower, an account of the voyage of the Pilgrims and the settling of Plymouth Colony, what strikes me most is not simply the extraordinary suffering of those who made the crossing, or how close to failure the entire venture teetered for years, or even the author’s recounting of the first celebration we’ve since dubbed Thanksgiving.

What leaps out from the pages of the history, probably because it’s so little a part of the common narrative of the Pilgrims, is a crucial decision by the colony’s governor, William Bradford, to change the fundamental organization of Plymouth’s economy, a move which secured the colony’s future. As Philbrick describes it, after three years in America the Pilgrims "stumbled on the power of capitalism" and in the process ensured the colony’s survival.

For three years Plymouth had operated like other English colonies such as Jamestown, on a communal system where everyone worked the land and shared the fruits of labor. Now instead, in 1623, Bradford decided that each family should have its own plot of land to cultivate and would get to keep what it produced.

"the change in attitude was stunning." While previously men had tended the fields while women cared for the children, Bradford wrote that now women and children took to the fields, too, and the colony’s output increased sharply. "The inhabitants never again starved," Philbrick relates, and eventually Winslow described Plymouth as a place where "religion and profit jump together."

Read the whole thing.

George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor — and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be — That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks — for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation — for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed — for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted — for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions — to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually — to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed — to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord — To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us — and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York  the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

George Washington

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Mike

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