The First Thanksgiving

On Thursday, we will be giving thanks to an unspecified being for our enormous good fortune, much as the early Pilgrims did in Plymouth some four hundred years ago when they gave thanks for their bountiful harvest and celebrated with the Native Americans.  Only, that’s not the real story behind the first Thanksgiving.  My co-blogger Gipper Clone emailed me this article by Richard Mayburyin which he explains why our traditional understanding of the original day of Thanksgiving is faulty.  Further, it masks the real story of Thanksgiving: our forebears only succeeded once they ditched the socialist utopia that was killing them off in droves.

The problem with this official story is that the harvest of 1621 was not bountiful, nor were the colonists hardworking or tenacious. 1621 was a famine year and many of the colonists were lazy thieves.

In his ‘History of Plymouth Plantation,’ the governor of the colony, William Bradford, reported that the colonists went hungry for years, because they refused to work in the fields. They preferred instead to steal food. He says the colony was riddled with “corruption,” and with “confusion and discontent.” The crops were small because “much was stolen both by night and day, before it became scarce eatable.”

. . .To rectify this situation, in 1623 Bradford abolished socialism. He gave each household a parcel of land and told them they could keep what they produced, or trade it away as they saw fit. In other words, he replaced socialism with a free market, and that was the end of famines.

So the true story of the first Thanksgiving is that the colonists were giving thanks to . .  capitalism!

Except that’s not the truth behind the first Thanksgiving.  In fact, it was a small holiday celebrated in Virginia on Berkeley Plantation.

Each first Sunday in November a Thanksgiving Festival is held at the Berkeley Plantation in accordance with documentation from 1619. The event fulfills instructions given to the 38 settlers who arrived on the banks of the James River at Berkeley Hundred as documented in the proclamation:

    Wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.

Very interesting.  Except that’s not the real story behind the first Thanksgiving.  As Jay Anderson explains, there is another account of the first Thanksgiving.

If you want to know about the real first Thanksgiving on American soil, travel 1,200 miles south and more than 50 years earlier to a grassy spot on the Matanzas River in North Florida.

This is where Spanish Adm. Pedro Menendez de Aviles came ashore on Sept. 8, 1565. This is where he, 500 soldiers, 200 sailors, 100 civilian families and artisans, and the Timucuan Indians who occupied the village of Seloy gathered at a makeshift altar and said the first Christian Mass. And afterward, this is where they held the first Thanksgiving feast.

Jay notes that there were several other “first” Thanksgivings, including the first official US proclamation issued by President Washington.  And as we all know, Thanksgiving did not become an official holiday until 1863, when it was instituted by President Lincoln.

So, what’s the real story?

Does it matter?

Whatever the real story of the first Thanksgiving is, let us all just take a moment to give thanks to God for all that he has bestowed upon us that live in this greatest Nation in the world.


Published in: on November 24, 2009 at 3:37 pm  Comments (1)  
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