Miracle of How Private Property Saved Plymouth

A well-meaning debate about the relative value of capitalism versus socialism is ongoing in this country. But few know the details of what happened in the spring of 1622 in Plymouth Colony that determined America’s financial direction. William Bradford was elected governor on the death of the first governor. A young man in his 30s, Bradford was left to make decisions that would impact the success of the small colony.

Ships at Sunset
Ships at Sunset

One issue was how to get more food supplies. New colonists arrived by the dozens, but none brought supplies. And Bradford was ordered by the man back in England who had funded the expedition, to feed and house any new arrivals without  additional support forthcoming. Most of these latter arrivals would eventually move north toward what would become Boston. They would compete for the animal skins that would be sent to England to pay the colony’s debt.

Living through two dire years, Bradford felt sure that one problem with their inadequate food harvest was inherent in the system that required all to work for the general good. With no incentive to earn more than an allotted share, some worked less while others worked more. To remedy that, Bradford made a radical decision. He gave each household a few shares of private property to plant as they saw fit. Here in his own words, complete with old English spelling, was the result:

“This had very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corne was planted then other waise would have bene by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deall of trouble, and gave farr better contente.”*

Bradford set the financial principle that would define America down through the centuries. Times have changed, but people have not. Free enterprise offers incentives that free handouts never could.

*To learn more about the Pilgrims read:
William Bradford: Plymouth’s Faithful Pilgrim, by Gary D. Schmidt, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 1999

 

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My Mini Christmas Miracle

beachpost

You may not consider what happened to me near the close of the 1990s a miracle. But looking back, I do. How else would you describe the turning of a modern day Scrooge into a Christmas angel?

My transformation began while reading a magazine article as the holidays approached…

Christmas had never provided me with the warm and fuzzy feelings others have for this day. My father and mother had married on Christmas eve, but the company party was always that same day. My father came home drunk and only after the stores closed. My mother cried; they argued. We kids kept the tears inside knowing the only Christmas presents we would get would be bought at day-after sales.

This article’s author was describing how to get over a case of Christmas blahs. I needed more help than that, but for some reason kept on reading. She wrote that the answer was as simple as buying yourself a Christmas present.

Absurd, of course. And what would I even want for a present? I’m not impressed by diamond and sapphire jewelry, like my sister had just received. Flowers are lovely and OK for birthdays. But what would I actually want that I could buy myself for Christmas?

An idea occurred. Bill Cosby had just given away millions to a college. I would love to give away money like that to help others. So I decided to give $75; not a lot. And it would have to go to someone I knew who would not be expecting a gift from me. A Santa Claus gift indeed.

Our new company secretary was becoming a good friend. I could see she needed a new winter coat and spotted a bright red dress version on sale. Her surprise was hardly more than my own at the joy I received from giving this gift.

I kept up this annual practice for many years. Once I gave a co-worker $100 so he could buy his daughter her first new bicycle for the holidays. Years after he left the company to work elsewhere, he inquired about me and mentioned to that co-worker about the gift.

Yes, indeed. A modern day miracle that has changed me forever. An article written by an author, like myself. Miraculous.