The Pilgrims are generally credited with starting the Thanksgiving tradition (actually, the first Thanksgiving was in
It is common knowledge that the Pilgrims settled in
"…they cherished a great hope and inward zeal of laying good foundations, or at least of making some way towards it, for the propagation and advance of the gospel of the
Bradford was born in the small English
The Pilgrims knew that the new Colony would need a means of support—an economy. King James I of
"When the Pilgrim leaders sought from the king of England, James I, his permission to settle in America, James asked his chief secretary, 'What profit might arise in the part they intend?' 'Fishing,' the secretary replied. 'So God have my soul,' declared King James, 'tis an honest trade. 'Twas the Apostles' own calling.'"
So the Pilgrims' plans were to catch fish, dry them, and ship them back to
On December 16, 1620, the tiny ship loaded with "tools and weapons, a stock of dried and salted foods, a few goats, pigs, and chickens" landed at Plymouth Rock. Their hardy Christian faith and work ethic enabled them to hang on with tenacity, despite battles with the elements and Indians. The Pilgrims also experienced the devastating "Starving Time" when half of them perished from malnutrition, pneumonia, and tuberculosis. This time of want was due primarily to their unbiblical economic system.
For the first two years of the settlement, the colonists labored under an economic system that they called, "The Common Course and Condition." This was a primitive and simple form of socialism. The family households commonly shared whatever products they could produce. If one family worked diligently, rising early, working hard until sundown, and produced a bumper crop, while his neighbor lay in bed until noon and produced little, they shared equally the sum of both. There was no incentive to work hard and apply one's God-given talents and abilities. This system produced consistent shortages. There was never enough food for everyone. It also produced squabbles among the colonists. There was resentment and envy—predictable results in socialist economies. Fortunately, the colonists had elected a young, but wise and godly governor for the colony—William Bradford. In 1623,
"This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use."
While under the original system, the women of the colony had complained that they were "oppressed." The Pilgrims experience proved that a biblically based economic system could provide liberty and a "family-friendly" means of production: "The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn."
"The rains came, without wind, or thunder or any violence and by abundant degrees it wetted the earth and soaked the crops. Within a quick period of time, the decayed corn and other fruits began to wonderfully revive. Even the Indians were astonished to behold the transformation. And afterwards all through the hot summer months, God sent seasonable showers. Through God's blessings, He caused a fruitful and liberal harvest to our comfort and rejoicing."
A group of Puritans would also establish a colony in Salem in 1630 and the economic foundations laid by these two groups would eventually make America the financial powerhouse it is today.
William Bradford went to be with his Savior on May 9, 1657 at the age of 68. The lessons Bradford and the Pilgrims have taught us have allowed them to become "stepping stones to others in the performance of so great a work" and made America the primary source of funding for missionary endeavors around the world. It is a lesson our nation so desperately needs to revisit.