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The Pilgrims and Private Property: What the Pilgrims Might Have Thought About Communism & Socialism

June 2, 2017

Plimoth Plantation

Did you know that the Pilgrims were among the first Americans to demonstrate the value of self-reliance and private property (one’s labor, skills, land, possessions, etc.)?  In Plymouth Colony, food and supplies were initially shared and allocated among colonists in a communal system of farming and food distribution, which resulted in a lack of incentive to work and less overall productivity.  With the colony on the verge of starvation, Governor William Bradford let the Pilgrims farm their own land, for their own families, in an individualized, family-oriented system.  This system led to increased farming.  (A similar system had been applied successfully in Jamestown, Virginia.)  This shift to an individualized, family-focused economic system increased productivity and benefited the colony.  Bradford describes this early economic shift in Plymouth in his JournalHistory of Plymouth Settlement.  He writes: …

The Pilgrims’ early shift from a communal to a self-reliant economic system in Plymouth Colony exposed the practical flaws of the one and the qualities of the other system.  While the communal system led to low morale, poor relations, under-performance, and lack of sustenance in the community; the system of self-reliance led to high morale, proper relations, self-sufficiency, and increase in the colony.  This early trial and error in economics by this Christian people revealed the success of self-industry, led to an American view of work and reliance on God, and became a precursor to America’s free enterprise system.

From AHEF and Angela E. Kamrath.

Source for more information:
Kamrath, Angela E.  
The Miracle of America:  The Influence of the Bible on the Founding History and Principles of the United States of America for a People of Every Belief.  Second Edition.  Houston, TX:  American Heritage Education Foundation, 2014, 2015.

Bradford, William.  History of Plymouth Settlement, 1608-1650.  Edited by Harold Paget.  New York:  E. P. Dutton & Co., 1920.  Pilgrim’s Economic System, Chapter 4, pp. 115-116.  Google Books. 

Related Blog/Videos:
1.  The Principle of Popular Sovereignty
2.  Who were the Pilgrims?  Why did they come to America?
3.  Why the Pilgrims Identified with the Israelites
4.  The Mayflower Compact:  The Pilgrims’ First Self-Governing Act in America
5.  The Pilgrims’ Mayflower Compact as a Covenant
6:  The History of Thanksgiving Day in America
7.  Three P’s That Led to Freedom in the West:  Printing Press, Protestant Reformation, & Pilgrims

Activity:  Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 2, Part 3 of 3, Activity 5:  Sowing and Reaping: The Pilgrims’ Economic System, pp. 92-93, 94.  MS-HS.

Sowing and Reaping: The Pilgrims’ Economic System… 

Primary Source Reading:  History of Plymouth Settlement, 1608-1650by William Bradford.  Edited by Harold Paget.  New York:  E. P. Dutton & Co., 1920.  Pilgrim’s Economic System, Chapter 4, pp. 115-116.  Google Books.

To download this unit, sign up as an AHEF member (no cost) to access the member resources page on americanheritage.org.

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Published by: The Founding

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