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American Colonial Communism lasted less than 3 years; reality destroyed it.
April 03, 2010
Vic Biorseth, Friday, April 02, 2010
It is Good Friday, the day He suffered for our redemption; bless His holy name. Tomorrow the Vigil, and Sunday, the Easter Rising.
I am behind schedule writing on other topics, but off-line discussions with others brought to my mind the need to talk about our Colonial beginnings, the religious fervor of the Colonists, the immediate worldly needs of the Colonists, and the hard, cold, merciless reality of living independently in this New World. It must have been similar to going to the moon.
The Mayflower set sail from Plymouth England in November 1620 for Virginia, but sighted the coast of Cape Cod in December. They spent some weeks exploring the area and finally settled on beginning their new colony in Plymouth Harbor. This posed some immediate legal problems for them, because their Patent, granted them from the Virginia Company, was based on a larger Charter between the Virginia Company and the Crown which did not address the area of Plymouth Harbor at all. In other words, the Patent was invalid where they landed. Time and provisions were limited, survival was at stake, and so land they must, and land they did.
The whole reason for the attempt to establish a colony was to evade religious persecution in England. About half of the Mayflower voyagers were Separatists who sought freedom to worship as they pleased; all sought liberty from harsh English law. Those who were not of the congregation of Separatists were a bit at odds with them, since they had not landed in the agreed territory of Virginia, and might seek a different form of “liberty” from the larger group, since the original agreement had already been violated.
This first fracture could have spelled the doom of the whole enterprise. It was seen to be imperative that they all stuck together through the hardships that were sure to come. The matter was settled on board the Mayflower with the signing of the Mayflower Compact; America’s first written law.
The Mayflower Compact.
In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord, King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, Etc.
Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern Parts of Virginia; do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually in the Presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid; And by Virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the General good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience.
In Witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord, King James of England, France and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini, 1620
The Mayflower Compact was signed by all 41 adult males on board. It was considered by all to be a very serious legal instrument, and all knew, far better than men today, the meaning of the word covenant. They all willingly bound themselves to it, legally, morally and spiritually. In signing it, they did what they did not really want to do, which was to establish a sort of government, majoritarian in form, in order to prevent any future split and division of resources.It was a hard life in a hard land. The natives were friendly enough, but struggling for survival themselves, and not able help much beyond invaluable advice. What food they had they needed; they could spare very little. The first winter saw about half of the settlers die from exposure, starvation and scurvy; yet they remained. None of them wanted to sail back to England. The next year, 1621, they raised a little corn and celebrated their first Thanksgiving in October.
The first set of rules agreed upon after the Mayflower Covenant was to share equally in work and in produce. Each was assigned a plot to till, and they all brought their produce to be portioned out equally. It was the same with livestock, milk, wild game, fish, fur and whatever the land and the sea would provide. Each worked according to his ability, each was rewarded according to his need; sound familiar? Karl Marx could have been in charge.
But it simply wasn’t working. They were still starving; they were still entirely too dependent upon re-supply from the meager provisions of increasingly rare ships. When it looked like the end, when everyone was lacking in strength and health and the whole enterprise was on the brink of disaster, Governor Bradford reluctantly abandoned the Communist-like rules. He told everyone to take his assigned plot of ground and plant and do whatever he could for his own household and stave off starvation as best he could, completely on his own. Bradford, and everyone, thought that the colony was finished.
Poof. Instant success. Immediately, with that one rule change, everyone began growing and harvesting more, bringing in more fish and game and fur. Famine turned to prosperity, virtually overnight. By 1627 they even paid off their debt to the Virginia Company and were free of debt. Now ships were more frequent, but not for re-supply, but rather to export fur and produce. Ships brought in new waves of immigrants eager to share in the opportunity, wealth and abundance of the new colony.
It was the same soil, before and after the rule change. It was the same forest, river, lake and sea; it was the same meadows and pastures. What changed? It’s really very simple.
A man naturally works harder and more cheerfully to benefit himself and his family than he does to benefit strangers or non-family members.
That’s it. That’s all there is to it. Here, in our earliest colonial history, we see a crystal-clear historical example of the success of free market capitalism and individual liberty over socialism and group dependency. It presents a classic example of the failure of socialism, and a classic example of the success of liberty, both at the same time. While man is very much a social being, he most certainly is not a herd animal. The inner sense of the right to personal ownership of private property - (Thou shalt not steal) – is a natural and normal inner sense, and to oppose that inner sense is to oppose human nature as well as the Law of God.
This is the holiest of Liturgical seasons. Tomorrow, Holy Saturday, we will dwell in silence on the meaning of the Tomb, and a world without Light. But then on Sunday, the Easter Rising will come, and Light, Truth, Life and Joy will again enter the world. Our first colonists willingly enslaved themselves to God and His Law, stuck to their word, lived it as covenant, and by the grace of God they were born anew into a new sense of worldly liberty and productive work, praising His holy name. May we do the same.
May you and yours enjoy a most blessed Easter.
Addendum: This presents an historically verifiable example of Capitalism improving the condition of man after the experience of Socialism. I challenge anyone to provide any historically verifiable example of Socialism improving the condition of man after the experience of Capitalism. (Note: Pre-Communist Russia was a rigid status-class society. Before Communism, Russia never historically experienced free market Capitalism on a national scale.)
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