When is the last time you saw a Pilgrim or an Indian?
My son brought home from school a project he had made in arts and crafts showing a smiling Mayflower Pilgrim with a buckle on his hat, and I realized, thunderstruck, that I had not seen any Thanksgiving decorations in the public square or shopping markets, schools or streets since the turn of the millennium. Instead, Christmas music begins to play on my local radio station immediately after the Eve of the Feast of All Souls.
Thanksgiving is nearly a perfect holiday, since by rights it combines the awesome and uplifting act of humiliating oneself to God in thanks for the bounties and blessings poured onto this nation by Providence, with the tradition of gathering the family and clan together in a feast of sumptuous proportions, a feast meant to remind us of the wealth the hard work of our fathers created for us, and to remind us of the hard-won liberty and wise laws protecting our rights to enjoy that wealth and worship that God.
Thanksgiving sums up the three greatest blessings of America. Our political system is a voluntary mutual compact of limited and equal government enshrining individual rights; our economic system is a free market protecting individual property; and our religious heritage is one of the liberty of the individual conscience, a principle found in only faith in the world.
The 3 Cs of America are Constitutionalism, Capitalism, and Christianity. At Thanksgiving, we give thanks for all three at once.
Or we once did.
The first foreshadowing of the Constitutional form of government on this continent was the Mayflower Compact. How is it remembered and honored?
I looked up two textbooks to see. The first was Triumph of the American Nation, published in 1986. If you read this textbook, this is the Mayflower Compact you remember. It is a purely political document with no mention of the central purpose of the pilgrimage (ellipses in the original):
We whose names are underwritten, …having undertaken … a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do … solemnly and in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic 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.
Keep in mind this was a deliberately pro-American textbook written in the days when Political Correctness was just getting started.
By way of contrast, my son’s textbook McDougal Littell The Americans, published in 2003, mentions the Mayflower Compact only in a sidebar, where it is described in two paragraphs, one of which says the Compact was written in response to the Pilgrim fear that the non-Pilgrims aboard the vessel would challenge their authority.
The textbook quotes but a dozen words from the charter, in this sentence:
The Mayflower Compact stated that the purpose of their government in America would be to frame “just and equal laws…for the general good of the colony.” Laws approved by the majority would be binding on Pilgrim and non-Pilgrim alike.
So if you read this more modern textbook, you remember the Mayflower Compact as something born of the fear of the Pilgrim’s losing their authority over the non-Pilgrims, and using the document to set the minority under their control. So it is not even a political document any more, merely a political sleight of hand.
Here is the original. I have emphasized the omitted words:
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 advancements of the Christian faith and honor 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 another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic; 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.
The observant reader will see in a trice what is missing from both textbook versions, or, rather, who is missing. The purpose of the expedition is explicitly stated to be glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith.
Do not be puzzled that the Compact refers to New England is the ‘Northern Parts of Virginia.’ In those days, the First Virginia Company Charter issued by the Crown extended from the area between 34 and 41 degrees latitude plus fifty English miles beyond, that is, from present day South Carolina to the spot where, twenty years later, New Amsterdam would stand, and, forty years after that, New York. Practically the whole coastline north of Florida was called Virginia.
There being no local squire or royal governor set over them, the pragmatic Pilgrims did what religious orders since before the Middle Ages had done for the government of their monastic communities: they mutually agreed to follow the laws mutually enacted, and having an elected leader rather than an appointed one.
That this is a Catholic custom from time immemorial is usually omitted from histories written by English Protestants, who preferred to think that democracy was invented by the Greeks and independently reinvented ex nihilo, somehow, by German pirates and barbarians who raided the Roman Britain in the Sixth Century. (That the Germans never had any such traditions before being Christianized, and that Roman monasteries and chartered townships never ceased to have such a tradition does not deter truly partisan historians from overlooking the obvious.)
This same tradition reaching back from the Parliament of England to the Senate of pre-Imperial Rome is embodied in the Mayflower Compact. The various colonial constitutions and charters also drew from it, and eventually the US Constitution, which is the pinnacle and best example of the lawgiver’s art history has ever seen. All constitutions since then, as in Revolutionary France or Russia, have been markedly inferior, if not positively grotesque.
The Pilgrim’s story concerning constitutional government is plain and is inspiring. And so it is never repeated these days.
The economic side of the story is even clearer. It seems that the Pilgrims, having decided to share all property in common, and share all labor between themselves in the communal fashion of the first Apostles, found nothing but misery and poverty in the prospect.
In Bradford’s History of the English Settlement, Governor Bradford gives this account of the experiment in communism:
The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years, and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince, the vanity of that conceit of Plato’s, and other ancients, applauded by some of later times that the taking away of property, and bringing in community into a commonwealth; would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God.
For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion, and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort.
For the young men that were most able and fit for labor and service, did repine that they should spend their time, and strength to work for other men’s wives and children, without any recompense.
The strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals and clothes, than he that was weak, and not able to do a quarter the other could, this was thought injustice.
The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalised, in labors, and victuals, clothes, &c., with the meaner and younger sort, thought it some indignity, and disrespect unto them.
And for men’s wives to be commanded, to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, &c., they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many husbands well brook it.
Upon the point all being to have alike, and all to do alike, they thought themselves in the like condition, and one as good as another; and so if it did not cut off those relations, that God hath set amongst men; yet it did at least much diminish, and take off the mutual respects, that should be preserved amongst them.
And would have been worse if they had been men of another condition.
Let none object this is men’s corruption; and nothing to the course itself; I answer, seeing all men have this corruption in them, God in his wisdom saw another course fitter for them.
For those of you unfamiliar with archaic turns of speech, what the Governor is saying here is that under “community” that is, communist living, the unproductive is rewarded equally with the productive, the successful with the unsuccessful, wise greybeards with loud young sophomores, respectable people with those not so respectable. A woman might be a queen in her own house, but when forced to work in another’s wagelessly is indeed a slave. And communism destroys mutual respect between all these relations, inside and outside the family. No one like to wipe the bottoms of the children of other men.
He emphasizes that the failure of communism is not due to the folly and weakness of men. These men were stout and honest. The failure is not due to a lack of will or virtue in those who have attempted it.
I suggest that when someone tells you real communism has never been really tried, the best reply is to pitch him out an upper story window and tell him on the way down that holding oneself aloft by means of breathing out a jet-stream of high-velocity nonsense form the mouth has never been really tried, nor by means of sustaining a compete vacuum in the skull to provide buoyancy. But had that someone learned the lesson of the Pilgrims as a schoolboy, he might have saved himself a defenestration.
Give thanks that the Pilgrims were not so devoted to communism as the Socialists of the Twentieth Century, whose respect for their follow man was not merely destroyed, and turned into a murderous hatred, but indeed became a perverted sadism of death camps and gulags and orchestrated mass-starvations and mass-slaughters, a lust to destroy human life on a scale never seen before or since, so hellish that new words had to be invented to describe it: Holocaust, Genocide, Democide.
Bradford mentions the happier sequel:
SO they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done; that they might not still thus languish in misery.
At length, after much debate of things, the Governor, with the advice of the chiefest amongst them, gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves; in all other things to go on in the general way as before.
And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number… and ranged all boys, and youth under some family.
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, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content.
The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn, which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny, and oppression.
The moral of this story is that even after years of a foolish and godless scheme, the return of sanity can happen, and will have immediate results. When the corn is your own, even women and children will volunteer for work as hard as they can manage to do.
What the Progressives call “progress” is the descent down the slippery, sewage-covered slope of mutual envy and mutual recrimination and mutual hatred, to immorality, poverty, and tyranny to barbarism. They call this inevitable. Like everything they say, it is a lie. The lesson of the Pilgrims is the lesson of men humble enough to learn their lesson, and return to what works.
All we need do is stop listening to the cozening lies and bad leadership, the Madison Avenue antics and P.T. Barnum con-artistry of men who think themselves wiser than God.
What about the final and most important aspect of the Pilgrim’s story in America?
There has been a debate in recent years among the historically illiterate, educated from textbooks such as these, or, rather, brainwashed, on the question of whether America was founded as a Christian nation.
For the debate to go forward, the Christian parts of our history have to be as carefully removed out of the record as Trotsky was airbrushed out of photographs of Lenin. It is for this reason that the signers of the Constitution, including Charles Carroll of Carrollton (the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence) are now depicted as freemasons, freethinkers and Deists rather than as Christians. It is for this reason that the Mayflower Compact is not mentioned in textbooks but in passing. It is for another reason, and far more dramatic, that the economic experience of this, the second colony planted in North America, is not mentioned at all.
Most literate people of my generation know the story of Squanto and the Pilgrims. I will recount it in brief for those of you who went to public school.
The colonists were suffering a dramatic death toll due to disease and starvation. Half were dead, and the half a dozen hale and healthy folk in the colony tended to the others, dressing meat and cleaning and changing their soiled clothing for them: five or so nurses tending fifty or so sick and doing all the other labor of the colony besides.
They had seen no Indians save for a few who stood aloof, running away when approached, or who stole some tools left unwatched during dinner.
In March, an Indian came forth from the woods speaking perfect English. His name was Squanto. Befriending the Pilgrims, he showed them were to find fresh springs of water, where and when to fish, where and how to grow maize (which we Americans to this day call corn) and how to make popcorn.
His story is dramatic and terrible: for he and four others had been lured aboard an English ship, captured, enslaved, given away, used a native guide, and abducted a second time to be sold to the Spanish. Squanto was saved by a Franciscan friar and set free, and spent years looking for a way home from Europe.
Meanwhile his tribesmen back home had come across sailors shipwrecked on the American shores, whom they slaughtered, except for three, whom they enslaved, and sent around from chieftain to chieftain to be tortured for their amusement.
The Europeans, however, carried diseases to which the Northern Americans had never developed any immunities. Before ever the first Pilgrim set foot on Plymouth Rock, the Patuxet Indian villages were wiped out by plague so swiftly that the Pilgrims found their huts still standing, eerie ghost towns, with the dead unburied. The surviving Indians naturally feared a curse and fled the area, so that by mere happenstance the one spot in America that was unoccupied was where the storm-tossed Pilgrims were driven ashore.
Squanto had labored for a shipbuilder in London and eventually made his way back to Newfoundland, and, later (on John Smith’s ship) to New England. Here found all his family dead and his tribe practically extinct.
Squanto acted as a translator and ambassador between the Pilgrims and the Indians, and secured a peace treaty which latest twenty five years. He also saw to it that the stolen tools were returned. It is thanks to his intervention that the colony survived at all.
Governor Bradford gives this account of Squanto’s death while he accompanied them to Manamoick Bay:
“Here Squanto fell ill of Indian fever, bleeding much at the nose, which the Indians take as a symptom of death, and within a few days he died. He begged the Governor to pray for him, that he might go to the Englishman’s God in heaven, and bequeathed several of his things to his English friends, as remembrances. His death was a great loss.”
After the appalling way the English had treated his people, and after the appalling way his people had treated the English who fell into their hands, despite all the suffering and disease and woe those days brought into their lives, Squanto nonetheless turned to God, and heard the Christian word of salvation.
And, if heaven shows on him the mercy we know in our own lives, Squanto is now exalted in paradise in greater splendor than the pagan gods of Olympus, a creature both happy and divine.
Immortal, he will outlive the stars and outlast the heat death of the universe. The salvation of his soul was the only really important thing the Pilgrims accomplished. Everything else will pass away.
And that is the part of the story the Politically Correct modern world most desperately wants you to forget.
Political Correctness is a new religion as well as being a new political and economic system. It is alien to the American character in every way, but most especially because there is no room, in a worldview where everyone is a helpless victim or a ruthless oppressor, for the emotion of gratitude.
There will be no further giving thanks for anyone to anything once Political Correctness completes the spread of its choking darkness over our land, kills all hope, halts all industries, destroys all wealth, shatters all laws, burns all churches, reduces all art to rubbish, all men to eunuch and all words to jabberwocky.
There is no room in postmodern history showing peaceful cooperation between races, no room for decorations showing Pilgrims and Indians together. There is no room for gratitude toward an Indian for saving our ancestors, hence us.
We are not allowed to call them Indians, nor to show admiration for them, wear Halloween costumes or put up decorations depicting them, or name our ball teams after them.
We are not allowed to express any emotion toward these native peoples on whose generosity in the early days – (the Indian wars were much later) – the survival of our ancestors depended, except that contempt mingled with pity which the sole emotion Political Correctness allows toward the weak. Hatred is the only emotion allowed toward everyone else.
There is no room for Thanksgiving in the PC reaches of desolation occupying the land once called America.
Photo by badmanproduction/Getty Images
John C. Wright is a retired attorney and newspaperman who was only once hunted by the police. He is a graduate of St. John College (home of Mortimer Adler’s “Great Books Program“). In 2004 he foreswore his lifelong atheism and joined the Roman Catholic Church. He has published over 10 SF novels, including one nominated for a Nebula award, and was described by Publisher’s Weekly as “this fledgling century’s most important new SF talent.” He currently lives in fairytale-like happiness with his wife, the authoress L. Jagi Lamplighter, and their four children.
Note: If you follow the retail links in this post and make purchases on the site(s), Defy Media may receive a share of the proceeds from your sale through the retailer’s affiliate program.
Keep up with the best of The Wright Perspective below. Click through the gallery to read more from John C. Wright.
End of UnreasonLet's make 2016 the Year of Reason, when logic came back from its long exile in human affairs and was restored to its proper throne in the human soul.
Photo by Getty Images
Shockproofing SocietyDon't miss this two-part series from John C. Wright on the destruction of the West by the Left.
Photo by Getty Images
MohammedanismRead John C. Wright's latest in his "Help for the History Impaired" series -- On Mohammedanism.
Photo by jackof / Getty Images
Natural Law and Unnatural ActsJohn C. Wright weighs in on Kim Davis, the SCOTUS and same-sex marriage.
Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images
IlliteratureRead John C. Wright's piece on the truth about Leftism and literature.
Peace and NothingnessDespite that the mainstream doctrine of our postchristian and therefore postrational society is that thoughts have no meaning, unfortunately, thoughts do have meaning and ideas have consequences.
Equality and NothingnessOurs is the first civilization in the history of mankind ever to embrace Nihilism as the mainstream, if not the official, doctrine of our most foundational beliefs.
Help for the History ImpairedThis column is one in an ongoing series attempting to shed light into the wide vistas of history which modern education has left dark. Here, we discuss the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
The Nameless EvilThis odd reluctance to come to grips with their foe, or call things by their right names, is a quirk of Leftist psychology that crops up often enough to form a pattern.
Church and StateRead John C. Wright's column about the evisceration of church and state, as well as these other essays you shouldn't miss:
Faith and PoliticsJohn C. Wright voices his opinion on faith in several of his articles. Read some of our favorites:
Political CorrectnessJohn C. Wright propose that Political Correctness rots the brain, and that brainrot in turn will rot the heart, which in turn will rot the soul.
The Seven Right Ideas of ConservatismConservatism is summed up in seven ideas. Read the overview of The Seven Right Ideas of Conservatism, and an in-depth piece on each.
The Seven Bad Ideas of Leftism.