Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving: A celebration of the end of communism in early colonial America

Like most people in Britain, until I read Murray Rothbard's 'Conceived in Liberty', I had little to no idea what 'Thanksgiving' was.

Fortunately, Uncle Murray put me right. Most early English colonies in the US were formed from various British outcast groups (Cavaliers in Virginia, Puritans in Massachusetts, etc), mostly either religious in origin or emanating from the struggles of the second English civil war. (Cromwell himself toyed with the idea of emigrating to America.)

Most of the northern Puritan groups, who later became Lincoln's Yankees, adopted a communitarian way of living, direct from the New Testament of the Bible. They shared their property in common and each gave according to his ability and took according to his need. Hence, they all nearly starved to death and the colonies were full of of feckless layabouts who stole food and who did little work. (The later underlying socialist nature of Massachusetts is no coincidence.)

Finally, one northern Puritan colony, in desperation, decided to adopt private property and a free market. In 1623, William Bradford, the colonial governor of the Plymouth colony, abandoned socialism and adopted capitalism. Hence, from that moment forward, there was plenty of food to go round, and everyone later thanked God each year for Bradford having adopted the free market. And that gives us the modern American celebration of Thanksgiving, though of course the later US state has usurped this to become another one of its glorious celebrations of Socialist Leviathan.

Read about that, here. (Which also explains why Thanksgiving didn't come from either 1621 or 1622, in case I've got any pedants on my case.)

Governor Bradford and his northern Puritans were actually a bit late to the game. The southern Cavaliers in Virginian Jamestown had pulled the same capitalist trick from 1614 onwards, after years of communitarian starvation and mass wipe-outs, and were swimming in food by the time their rival northern Puritans got around to finally adopting their Cavalier free market practices.

So, so much for 1621 and 'The Pilgrim Fathers'. What's really interesting, is how this same English split, which arose in the second English civil war, between Roundheads and Cavaliers, became the self-same political fault line in the American civil war, or 'The War of Northern Aggression', as I prefer to put it, with North versus South almost being a rematch between Roundheads and Cavaliers.

What comes around goes around, I suppose.

To get the full picture, read the full four volumes of 'Conceived in Liberty', a beautifully written account of early American history:


Or subscribe to the growing Podcast series, which is now well into volume III:


And to all of our American readers, I hope you have a great Thanksgiving and an even better Christmas, particularly if you consider yourself a capitalist Cavalier rather than a socialist Puritan.

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