3. The persons transported & ye adventurers shall continue their joint stock & partnership together, ye space of 7 years…during which time, all profits & benefits that are got by trade, traffic, trucking, working, fishing, or any other means of any person or persons, remain still in ye common stock until ye division…
5. That at ye end of ye 7 years, ye capital & profits, viz. the houses, lands, goods and chattels, be equally divided betwixt ye adventurers, and planters…
10. That all such persons as are of this colony, are to have their meat, drink, apparel, and all provision out of ye common stock & goods.”
Pilgrim Governor William Bradford wrote in his Of Plymouth Plantation, that sharing everyone’s profits & benefits equally “in ye common stock,” regardless of how hard each individual worked, was a failure:
“The failure of that experiment of communal service, which was tried for several years, and by good and honest men, proves the emptiness of the theory of Plato and other ancients, applauded by some of later times, – that the taking away of private property, and the possession of it in community, by a commonwealth, would make a state happy and flourishing; as it they were wiser than God.”
William Bradford continued:
“For in this instance, community of property (so far as it went) was found to breed much confusion and discontent; and retard much employment which would have been to the general benefit and comfort.
For the young men who were most able and fit for service objected to being forced to spend their time and strength in working for other men’s wives and children, without any recompense.
The strong man or the resourceful man had no more share of food, clothes, etc., than the weak man who was not able to do a quarter the other could. This was thought injustice.
The aged and graver men, who were ranked and equalized in labor, food, clothes, etc., with the humbler and younger ones, thought it some indignity and disrespect to them.”
The women did not like this communistic plan as well, as William Bradford wrote:
“As for men’s wives who were obliged to do service for other men, such as cooking, washing their clothes, etc., they considered it a kind of slavery, and many husbands would not brook it…”
William Bradford added:
“If (it were thought) all were to share alike, and all were to do alike, then all were on an equality throughout, and one was as good as another; and so, if it did not actually abolish those very relations which God himself has set among men, it did at least greatly diminish the mutual respect that is so important should be preserved amongst them.
Let none argue that this is due to human failing, rather than to this communistic plan of life in itself. I answer, seeing that all men have this failing in them, that God in His wisdom saw that another plan of life was fitter for them.”
William Bradford also wrote:
“So they began to consider how to raise more corn, and obtain a better crop than they had done, so that they might not continue to endure the misery of want.
At length after much debate, the Governor, with the advice of the chief among them, allowed each man to plant corn for his own household, and to trust themselves for that; in all other things to go on in the general way as before. So every family was assigned a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number…
This was very successful. It made all hands very industrious, so that much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could devise, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better satisfaction.
The women now went willing into the field, and took their little ones with them to plant corn, while before they would allege weakness and inability, and to have compelled them would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.”
This Thanksgiving, as we partake of the bounty that the Almighty has provided, let us not just recall the Pilgrims’ historic meal, but let us recall the economic wisdom that helped the Pilgrims to produce their bountiful harvest.