Thanksgiving – A Brief History

The Mayflower Compact has always been one of my personal favorite American documents. I always like to read it around Thanksgiving. It is a short and simple statement that life should be ordered by mutually-agreed to laws. Written by rational, thinking, and consummately civilized persons, The Mayflower Compact is universally considered to be the first basis in the New World for written law: 

“In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord, King James, by the Grace of God, of England, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, e&. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour 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 of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid; And by Virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the General good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In Witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord, King James of England, France and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini, 1620.”

It was signed by 41 of the Mayflower’s 102 passengers. Contrast the words of the Pilgrim settlers, half of whom died in the first New England winter, with those being spouted by partisans of the current movement to erase the mere mention of God from any area of public and government life. I am sure that many such persons and groups, led by the government schools, the ACLU, and many others, cannot have much stomach for the fact that our forebears came to this land “for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith.” It really flies in the face of their arguments in favor of removing “under God” in our Pledge and “In God We Trust” from our money.

One Compact signer, Edward Winslow eventually became one of the Pilgrim leaders. He served as the governor of the Plymouth colony on three different occasions. His wife, Elizabeth (Barker) Winslow, died soon after their arrival. He then married, in May 1621, Mrs Susannah White, the mother of Peregrine White, the first white child born in New England. This marriage was the first in the New England colonies.

Winslow is also noted for writing one of the few known personal accounts of the first Thanksgiving. From a document known as “Mourt’s Relation” he writes,

“Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruits of our labor. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which we brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”

I would like to wish all readers a very happy Thanksgiving. As you gather with families and friends in celebration, make sure you remember to take the time to thank God for all that He does. As the Pilgrims knew, it is but “by the goodness of God” that we find ourselves in this great land and Nation. And don’t forget to thank the soldiers who defend against those who would take it away if given the chance…

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