Rush Limbaugh Tells ‘The True Story of Thanksgiving’

On his Wednesday radio program, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh continued his annual tradition of tell the “true story of Thanksgiving,” which he originally detailed in a passage in his 1992 book, “See, I Told You So.

According to Limbaugh, the story had been mischaracterized over the years and the true success story of the Pilgrims stems from their rejection of socialism to ultimately become a thriving settlement.

Partial transcript as follows (courtesy of “The Rush Limbaugh Show”):

“The story of the Pilgrims begins in the early part of the seventeenth century… The Church of England under King James I was persecuting anyone and everyone who did not recognize its absolute civil and spiritual authority.

“Those who challenged ecclesiastical authority and those who believed strongly in freedom of worship were hunted down, imprisoned, and sometimes executed for their beliefs.  A group of separatists first fled to Holland and established a community. After eleven years, about forty of them agreed to make a perilous journey to the New World,” across the Atlantic Ocean, “where they would certainly face hardships, but could live and worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences.

“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 just and equal laws for all members of the new community, irrespective of their religious beliefs. Where did the revolutionary ideas expressed in the Mayflower Compact come from? From the Bible.  The Pilgrims were a people completely steeped in the lessons of the Old and New Testaments,” the Bible. The Pilgrims were religious, and they came here to establish freedom of religion; they fled across an entire ocean to escape religious persecution.

“They looked to the ancient Israelites for their example. And, because of the biblical precedents set forth in Scripture, they never doubted that their experiment would work.  But this was no pleasure cruise, friends. The journey to the New World was a long and arduous one.   And when the Pilgrims 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. And the sacrifice they had made for freedom was just beginning.

“During the first winter, half the Pilgrims — including Bradford’s own wife — died of either starvation, sickness or exposure.” Many of them lived on the Mayflower while houses and shelter were being built. “When spring finally came, Indians taught the settlers how to plant corn, fish for cod and skin beavers for coats. Life improved for the Pilgrims, but” even with all this “they did not yet prosper!  This is important to understand because 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 as a devout expression of gratitude grounded in the tradition of both the Old and New Testaments.” The Bible. The original Thanksgiving was a thanks to God.  It was not a thanks to the Indians.  This is not to disparage the Indians or the Native Americans.  The Pilgrims did not.  But it was not a thanks to the Indians for saving the Pilgrims.  The Pilgrims thanked God.  But it’s more detailed than this.

“Here is the part that has been omitted.” Here’s the part that the Huffing and Puffington Post either doesn’t know or omitted today. “The original contract the Pilgrims had entered into with their merchant-sponsors…” They didn’t have the money to do this.  They were beholden to the people who funded them, and they entered into contracts with these “merchant-sponsors in London [that] called for everything they produced to go into a common store, and each member of the community was entitled to one common share.

“All of the land they cleared and the houses they built belong to the community as well.  They were going to distribute it equally.” Everybody was going to get an equal share of what everybody combined produced. “All of the land they cleared and the houses they built belonged to the community as well. Nobody owned anything. They just had a share in it. It was a commune, folks.” And it was this way by contract, by design.  It was the forerunner to the communes we saw in the ’60s and ’70s out in California — and it was complete with organic vegetables, by the way.”

They could grow no other than organic. “Bradford, who had become the new governor of the colony, recognized that this form of collectivism was as costly and destructive to the Pilgrims as that first harsh winter, which had taken so many lives.” It just wasn’t working. There wasn’t any prosperity. From his own journal, “He decided to take bold action. Bradford assigned a plot of land to each family to work and manage,” and whatever they produced was theirs. The overages they could sell or share or do whatever they wanted with.  But what happened essentially was that Bradford was “thus turning loose the power of the marketplace.”

If you’re saying it to yourself, you’re right. The Pilgrims had discovered and experimented with what could only be described as socialism, and it fails.  It did not work.  “What Bradford and his community found was that the most creative and industrious people had no incentive to work any harder than anyone else, unless they could utilize the power of personal motivation!” If everybody got the same no matter what the end result was and if everybody got the same no matter how hard they worked, they were all essentially members of a union, and all socialized.

“But 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,” it didn’t take them long to realize it didn’t work and “to scrap it permanently.” You’re not taught this!  Nobody is taught this.  Even today in the true story of Thanksgiving, it was an epic failure of socialism.  “What Bradford wrote about this social experiment should be in every schoolchild’s history lesson. If it were, we might prevent much needless suffering in the future.”

Remember, this book is written 23 years ago, or maybe 24 years ago. It’s 1992.

This is Bradford writing: “‘The experience that we had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years…that by taking away property, and bringing community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing — as if they were wiser than God,’  Bradford wrote. ‘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 being paid for it, “that was thought injustice.’

Why should you work for other people when you can’t work for yourself?  What’s the point?  Bradford was saying, “It’s not working here.  There’s no personal incentive,” and there were sloths.  Not all these people were cream of the crop.  Some of them sat around, didn’t do anything while others did everything.  “The Pilgrims found that people could not be expected to do their best work without incentive. So what did Bradford’s community try next?” Free enterprise. “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,” sell whatever overages they had. “And what was the result? ‘This had very good success,’ wrote Bradford [in his journal], ‘for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.'” It’s an amazing story what happened. “In no time, the Pilgrims found they had more food than they could eat themselves.”  This is where it gets really good, folks.  If you’re laboring under the misconception that I was, that I was taught in school. “So they set up trading posts and exchanged goods with the Indians.”

They produced what they needed for themselves and they started doing business with the Indians. They “exchanged goods.  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.'” It was a rousing economic success after an attempt to establish themselves under socialism. It was not the name they knew.  They used “commune,” “communal,” and so forth. But it did not work.  And they had such great success that it began a migration of others who heard about it and wanted in on the action.

And the first Thanksgiving was the Pilgrims indeed getting together with the Indians, with whom they were trading.  There’s no question the Indians assisted them when they landed, but it’s not true that the Pilgrims then took advantage of ’em, conquered them, killed them, and took their land.  They ended up trading with them. All of this, this whole story is written about in a way that eight to 10-year-olds understand it and are taken right to it in the first Rush Revere book: Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims. I was never taught this.  I didn’t know it, until I started researching that book back 1992. That was the first I had heard of why the Pilgrims were really thankful.  It was thanks to God.  It was the virtue of gratitude, which is all through George Washington’s inaugural Thanksgiving address.

Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor


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