The Pilgrims originally celebrated Thanksgiving in 1621.
In 1789 (October 3), President Washington designating Thursday, November 26 of that year as a national day of thanks.
In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving an official federal holiday. The fourth Thursday of November remained the annual day of Thanksgiving from 1863 until 1939.
In 1939 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declares the second-to-last Thursday in November to be Thanksgiving Day instead of the last Thursday in the month.
This is done to benefit retailers by extending the Christmas shopping season by one week as the holiday season officially starts the day after Thanksgiving.
1941 President Roosevelt signs legislation to reestablish Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November.
Presidential Proclamation on Thanksgiving Day, 2019.
On Thanksgiving Day, we remember with reverence and gratitude the bountiful blessings afforded to us by our Creator, and we recommit to sharing in a spirit of thanksgiving and generosity with our friends, neighbors, and families.DONALD J. TRUMP
(Read the full text)
The most real story.
There are many “real” stories of Thanksgiving. The one I like the most comes from Rush Limbaugh. I hate to read transcripts with all those “BREAK TRANSCRIPT” and capital [L]etters in square brackets, so I did my best to remove them.
Just to be perfectly clear. This Thanksgiving Story was taken from the Rush Limbaugh’s website. I’ve just made it easier to read for people like me for whom English is the second language. You can read the original right here.
So, here it goes. Enjoy your new knowledge.
The story of the Pilgrims begins in the early part of the seventeenth century (that’s the 1600s for those of you in Rio Linda, California).
The Church of England under King James 1st was persecuting anyone and everyone who did not recognize its absolute civil and spiritual authority. The first Pilgrims were Christian rebels, folks. Those who challenged King James’ ecclesiastical authority and those who believed strongly in freedom of worship were hunted down, imprisoned, and sometimes executed for their beliefs in England in the 1600s.
A group of separatists, Christians who didn’t want to buy into the Church of England or live under the rule of King James, first fled to Holland and established a community of themselves there. After eleven years, about forty of them have heard about this New World Christopher Columbus had discovered, decided to go. Forty of them agreed to make a perilous journey to the New World, where they knew, they would certainly face hardships, but the reason they did it was so they could live and worship God according to the dictates of their consciences and beliefs.
On August 1, 1620, the Mayflower set sail. It carried a total of 102 passengers, including forty Pilgrims, led by William Bradford.
On the journey, Bradford set up an agreement, a contract that established how they would live once they got there. The contract set forth just and equal laws for all members of the new community, irrespective of their religious beliefs, or political beliefs. Where did the revolutionary ideas expressed in the Mayflower Compact come from? From the Bible.
The Pilgrims were a devoutly religious people wholly steeped in the lessons of the Old and New Testaments. They looked to the ancient Israelites for their example. And, because of the biblical precedents outlined in Scripture, they never doubted that their experiment would work. They believed in God. They believed they were in the hands of God.
As you know, this was no pleasure cruise, friends. The journey to the New World on the tiny, by today’s standards, sailing ship. It was long, and it was arduous.
There was sickness, and there was seasickness, it was wet. It was the opposite of anything you think of today as a cruise today on the open ocean. When they landed in New England in November, they found, according to Bradford’s detailed journal, a cold, barren, desolate wilderness. There were no friends to greet them, he wrote. There were no houses to shelter them. There were no inns where they could refresh themselves. There was nothing.
The sacrifice they had made for freedom was just the beginning. During the first winter, half the Pilgrims — including Bradford’s wife — died of either starvation, sickness or exposure. They endured the first winter. When spring finally came, they had, by that time, met the indigenous people, the Indians, and indeed the Indians taught the settlers how to plant corn, fish for cod and skin beavers, and other animals for coats. But there wasn’t any prosperity. They did not yet prosper! They were still dependent. They were still confused. They were still in a new place, essentially alone among like-minded people.
This is where modern American history lessons often end. Thanksgiving is actually explained in some textbooks as a holiday for which the Pilgrims gave thanks to the Indians for saving their lives, rather than what it really was.
That happened, don’t misunderstand. That all happened, but that’s not — according to William Bradford’s journal — what they ultimately gave thanks for.
Here comes the part that has been omitted: The original contract that they made on the Mayflower as they were traveling to the New World.
They actually had to enter into that contract with their merchant-sponsors in London, because they had no money on their own. The needed sponsor. They found merchants in London to sponsor them. The merchants in London were making an investment, and as such, the Pilgrims agreed that everything they produced to go into a common store, or bank, common account, and each member of the community was entitled to one common share in this bank. Out of this, the merchants would be repaid until they were paid off.
All of the land they cleared and the houses they built belong to the community as well. Everything belonged to everybody, and everybody had one share in it. They were going to distribute it equally. That was considered to be the epitome of fairness, sharing the hardship burdens and everything like that. Nobody owned anything. It was a commune, folks. It was the forerunner to the communes we saw in the ’60s and ’70s out in California and other parts of the country, and it was complete with organic vegetables, by the way.
Bradford, who had become the new governor of the colony, recognized that it wasn’t working. It was as costly and destructive… His journals chronicle the reasons it didn’t work. Bradford got rid of the whole commune structure and assigned a plot of land to each family to operate and manage as their own, and whatever they made, however much they made, was theirs. They could sell it, they could share it, they could keep it, whatever they wanted to do.
What really happened is they turned loose the power of a free market after enduring months and months of hardship — first on the Mayflower and then getting settled and then the failure of the common account from which everybody got the same share. There was no incentive for anybody to do anything. And as is human nature, some of the Pilgrims were a bunch of lazy twerps, and others busted their rear ends. But it didn’t matter because even the people that weren’t very industrious got the same as everyone else. Bradford wrote about how this wasn’t working.
What Bradford and his community found, and I’m going to use basically his own words, was that the most creative and industrious people had no incentive to work any harder than anyone else… While most of the rest of the world has been experimenting with socialism for well over a hundred years — trying to refine it, perfect it, and re-invent it — the Pilgrims decided early on, William Bradford decided, to scrap it permanently, because it brought out the worst in human nature, it emphasized laziness, it created resentment.
Because in every group of people you’ve got your self-starters, you’ve got your hard workers and your industrious people, and you’ve got your lazy twerps and so forth, and there was no difference at the end of the day. The resentment sprang up on both sides. So Bradford wrote about this. ‘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 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,’ without any payment, ‘that was thought injustice.’ Why should you work for other people when you can’t work for yourself? What’s the point? … The Pilgrims found that people could not be expected to do their best work without incentive.
So what did Bradford’s community try next? They unharnessed the power of good old free enterprise by invoking the undergirding capitalistic principle of private property. Every family was assigned its own plot of land to work and permitted to market its own crops and products. And what was the result? ‘This had very good success,’ wrote Bradford, ‘for it made all hands (everybody) industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.’…
Is it possible that supply-side economics could have existed before the 1980s. … In no time, the Pilgrims found they had more food than they could eat themselves. Now, this is where it gets really good, folks, if you’re laboring under the misconception that I was, as I was taught in school. So they set up trading posts and exchanged goods with the Indians. The profits allowed them to pay off their debts to the merchants in London.
And the success and prosperity of the Plymouth settlement attracted more Europeans and began what came to be known as the ‘Great Puritan Migration.’ The word of the success of the free enterprise Plymouth Colony spread like wildfire, and that began the great migration. Everybody wanted a part of it. There was no mass slaughtering of the Indians. There was no wiping out of the indigenous people, and eventually — in William Bradford’s own journal — unleashing the industriousness of all hands ended up producing more than they could ever need themselves.
So trading posts began selling and exchanging things with the Indians — and the Indians, by the way, were very helpful. Puritan kids had relationships with the children of the Native Americans that they found. This killing of the indigenous people stuff, they’re talking about has happened much, much, much later. It has nothing to do with the first Thanksgiving.
The first Thanksgiving was William Bradford and Plymouth Colony thanking God for their blessings. That’s the first Thanksgiving. Nothing wrong with being grateful to the Indians; don’t misunderstand. But the true meaning of Thanksgiving — and this is what George Washington recognized in his first Thanksgiving proclamation — was Plymouth Colony thanking God for their blessings.
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