The Pilgrims’ story reminds us of the tremendous obstacles they overcame to leave the relative comfort of Leyden, Holland and settle a congenial community in the wilderness of the New World. Today we Americans live in the freedom that the colonists hoped to find in this new world. We can hardly imagine the hardships they suffered.
Yet some of us will gorge, watch football or shop on Thanksgiving Day. Others, like the Pilgrims, will reflect and thank God for the freedom they pursued and pioneered on Cape Cod in 1620.
*Freedom from Want is both a quote from President Franklin D. Roosevelt during a speech in 1941 and a well-known painting depicting a family Thanksgiving dinner by Norman Rockwell, published in 1943.
As we approach another Thanksgiving holiday we can celebrate once again the harvest festival as did those English colonists known today as Pilgrims. They gave thanks to God for their colony’s survival even though they lost half their community during the harsh winter of 1621.
These colonists settled Plimoth Plantation not as a trading post but as a permanent community for families. While still aboard the Mayflower they signed a binding compact unique in history because the signers agreed to submit to the authority of the community rather than a monarch.
How significant is this event in American history? It set a precedent for the form of self-government the Constitutional Congress would confirm one hundred fifty years later in the basic document of our American government.
So take note, Americans. We do not observe Thanksgiving because our first colonists ate turkey and pumpkin pie at harvest time. We celebrate the Pilgrims for their vision of a community governed by themselves, not an absent king across the sea. This belief in self-government still underlies our concept of proper order for the community. And despite the changes suggested by radical new ideas, this concept is inherent in our character. To compromise this basic belief would just be…un-American!
“The Pilgrims’ character has been much distorted in this century to defraud Americans of their heritage for they were to be the true founders of this nation.”
As we emerge from the murkey seas of a Presidential election, “driven by the wind and tossed,” we can look forward to a day of national Thanksgiving on which we can thank God that the losing side will inflict no riots, no car bombs, no suicide bombers to protest the country’s choices. Our elected leaders will sit down together to argue, bicker and harangue but will eventually thrash out solutions to our problems.
This legacy was first given to us by some English colonists desperate for freedom from tyranny who overcame horrendous opposition to their mission to settle Plimoth Plantation in the New World. They believed they had been given a mandate from their Christian God to leave their homeland to establish a community where they could practice their faith without oppression. Their first governor wrote that they lit “one small candle” whose “light kindled here has shown unto many, yea, in some sort to our whole nation.”
This Thanksgiving Day while you enjoy the ball games and big dinners, remember the blessings this nation offers humanity. And if you know God, thank Him, or if not, thank the men who did know Him, for America.