|Philosophy of Evil
Socialism In America
By Jerry McDaniel
Socialism in America
"The struggle of History is not
between the bourgeoisie and the
proletariat; it is between government
and the governed."
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The Pilgrims - Plymouth Colony
The first attempt to establish a colony in America by the Plymouth Company was a failure. In 1607, George
Popham attempted to start a colony in what is now Maine, but after a harsh winter, the effort was abandoned and
the settlers, including Popham, all returned to England. The charter became inactive after 1609 but was replaced
by a new one in 1620 issued to another group of investors known as the Council of New England.
As the Jamestown colonists were struggling to establish a colony on the James River, a congregation of
Separatists living in Scrooby in Nottinghamshire, England, attempting to escape the persecutions they endured
there migrated to Amsterdam, Holland. Their ruling elder was William Brewster, the postmaster of Scrooby; their
minister was a man named John Robinson.
After a year in Amsterdam, the little congregation moved to Leyden where they lived for the next eleven years.
The congregation called themselves “Pilgrims” because they felt they had no earthly home; neither did they find
the peace they were looking for in Holland. They did not like the prospect of the acculturation of their children
into the Dutch society, yet many of the children had no memory of life in England. At the same time, they did not
wish to return to the persecutions they had endured in England.
The Pilgrims heard about the colony in Virginia and decided to start a new life in America where they could
establish their own culture according to their shared Christian beliefs. They applied to the Virginia Company for a
land patent under its charter and their proposal was accepted. However, they chose instead to accept a land
patent from the Council of New England, which had received a proprietary Charter from King James in 1609
covering a large grant of land in a more northerly part of America.
The Plymouth Pilgrims occupy two unique places in American history. They were the first settlers to establish an
enduring religious colony in America in order to escape persecution in their home country. The French Huguenot
settlement in Florida thirty-five years earlier had lasted only three years before being destroyed by the Spanish.
The Jamestown colony was made up of members of the Church of England, and therefore had not experienced
the history of persecution suffered by the Pilgrims and the Huguenots.
The original destination for the Pilgrims was the mouth of the Hudson River, however storms at sea had blown
them some hundred miles off course and they landed instead at Cape Cod. Shortage of supplies and other
problems prevented them from proceeding on to their original destination.
The Pilgrims did not have authorization from the Crown to settle at the Cape Cod location leaving them without
legal status. Without the sanction provided by a charter, there was no authority for establishing their local
government. While exploring the New England coast in search of the best spot to establish their settlement,
dissension developed among some of their fellow travelers. Of the one hundred and two men, women and
children who crossed the Atlantic on the Mayflower only thirty-five were members of the Pilgrim’s congregation.
Before disembarking at their new home, they drew up a rudimentary governing document known today as the
“Mayflower Compact”. The compact drawn up on the Mayflower and signed by 41 adult men became the basis for
the Plymouth Colony‘s future system of government and law. It was the first constitution drawn up in America for
the purpose of self-government.
“In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign, The Pilgrim’s code of law would serve them until the colony was absorbed into the Massachusetts Bay Colony in
Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the faith,
etc. Having undertaken for the glory of God, and the advancement of the Christian faith, and the honor of
our King and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia; do by these
presents solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God and one another, covenant and combine
ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation, and furtherance of the
ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof, do enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws,
ordinances, acts, constitutions, and officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and
convenient for the general good of the colony; unto which promise all due submission and obedience.”
As provided for in the compact, the colonists added specific laws as the need arose. Over the next several
decades laws were enacted restricting the ability of craftsmen to perform work outside the colony before
meeting the needs of those within; a building code outlawing the use of thatch in housing construction; and
moral codes including sanctions on tobacco use, drunkenness, adultery, sodomy, theft, fraud etc.
By 1636, the Colony had established a comprehensive code of law known as “The General
Fundamentals”. In it, we find the first clear statement of republicanism and representative government.
“Wee the Associates of New-Plimouth, comeing hither as Freeborn Subjects of the State of England,
endowed with all and singular; the Privileges belonging to such being; Assembled; Do in Act [enact],
Ordain and Constitute; That no Act, Imposition, Law or Ordinance, be made or imposed upon us, at
present or to come; but such as shall be made or imposed by consent of the Body of Freemen or
Associates, or their Representatives legally assembled: which is according to the free Liberties of the
State of England.” (Emphasis added)
1691. Like the Jamestown Colony, the Plymouth colony would experience similar problems, although less severe,
from experimenting with socialism as a form of community management. Thanks to the journal of Governor
William Bradford, we have a more detailed account of their experiences with Socialism. At first, labor was shared
among the people, and all goods were held in a common storehouse for their use, leading to continuous
bickering and jealousies among the colonists.
In 1623 when an expected supply ship did not come, a town meeting was held and a new course of action was
decided on. Under the new plan, each family was assigned a plot of land on which to plant corn and other crops
for their own family’s use. Bradford tells of the results of this plan in his journal, “History of Plymouth Plantation”.
“… This had very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted
then other wise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a
great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took
their little ones with them to set corn, which before would allege weakness, and inabilities; whom to have
compelled would have been thought great tyrannies and oppression.”
“The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years, and that amongst
godly and sober men, may well evince the vanity of that conceit of Plato’s & other ancients, applauded by
some of later times;—that the taking away of property, and bringing in community into a common-wealth,
would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser then God. For this community (so far as it
was) was found to breed much confusion & discontent, and retard much employment that would have been
to their benefit and comfort. For the young-men that were most able and fit for labor & service did repine
that they should spend their time & strength to work for other men’s wives and children, without any
recompense. The strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals & clothes, then he that was
weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to
be ranked and equalized in labors, and victuals, clothes, &c., with the meaner & younger sort, thought it
some indignity & disrespect unto them. And for men’s wives to be commanded to do service for other men,
as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, &c., they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many
husbands well brook it.”
“Upon the point all being to have alike, and all to do alike, they thought themselves in the like condition,
and one as good as another; and so, if it did not cut of those relations that God hath set amongst men, yet
it did at least much diminish and take of the mutual respect that should be preserved amongst them. And
would have been worse if they had been men of another condition. Let none object this is men's
corruption, and nothing to the course itself. I answer, seeing all men have this corruption in them, God in
his wisdom saw another course fitter for them.” (original spelling updated)
In the last two sentences quoted above, Bradford points out a very important truth of natural law. It would be well
if the political class of today would take it to heart. One group of people will not labor, without recompense, for
the benefit of another group, for an extended period of time. It invariable leads to resentment and animosity, and
is the thing strife, revolutions and lost elections are made of. After the experiences at Jamestown and Plymouth,
we do not read of any future noteworthy experiments in socialism in America until after the Revolution and the
establishment of a new government under the Constitution.
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