Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Mayflower Communism by William D. Guthrie 1918

Mayflower Communism by William D. Guthrie 1918

See also The Early Pilgrims and the Failure of Socialism by William Starr Myers 1919 and Our First Thanksgiving (and America's 1st Experiment in Communism)

The history of the Plymouth colony from 1620 until its absorption by the colony of Massachusetts in 1691 teaches us many lessons in political philosophy. There [is one] which I desire to recall to you: One as to the right to private property...The Pilgrims began government under the Mayflower Compact with a system of communism or common property. The experiment almost wrecked the colony. As early as 1623, they had to discard it and restore the old law of individual property with its inducement and incentive to personal effort. All who now urge communism in one form or another, often in disguise, might profitably study the experience of Plymouth, which followed a similarly unfortunate and disastrous experiment in Virginia. History often teaches men in vain. Governor Bradford's account of this early experiment in communism in his annals of “Plimoth Plantation” is extremely interesting. The book is rich in political principles, as true to-day as they were three hundred years ago. After showing that the communal system was a complete failure, and that as soon as it was abandoned and a parcel of land was assigned to each family, those who had previously refused to work became “very industrious,” even the women going “willingly into ye feild,” taking “their litle ons with them to set corne, which before would aledg weaknes, and inabilitie,” Bradford proceeds as follows: “The experience that was had in this comone course and condition, tried sundrie years, and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanitie of that conceite of Platos & other ancients, applauded by some of later times, —that ye taking away of propertie, and bringing in comunitie into a comone wealth, would make them happy and florishing; as if they were wiser then God. For this comunitie (so farr as it was) was found to breed much confusion & discontent, and retard much imploymet that would have been to their benefite and comforte. For ye yong-men that were most able and fitte for labour & service did repine that they should spend their time & strength to worke for other men's wives and children, without any recompence. The strong, or man of parts, had no more in devission of victails & cloaths then he that was weake and not able to doe a quarter ye other could; this was thought injuestice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalised in labours, and victails, cloaths, &c., with ye meaner & yonger sorte, thought it some indignite & disrespect unto them. Let none objecte, this is men's corruption, and nothing to ye course it selfe. I answer, seeing all men have this corruption in them, God in his wisdome saw another course fiter for them.

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