A day to thank God: From the Pilgrim fathers to 2023

Special to CosmicTribune.com, November 23, 2023

By Bill Federer, November 23, 2023

On Nov. 21, 1620, the Pilgrims signed the Mayflower Compact and began their Plymouth Colony.

Of the 102 Pilgrims, only 47 survived till Spring. At one point, only a half dozen were healthy enough to care for the rest.

‘We feel that we are on the spot where the first scene of our history was laid; where the hearths and altars of New England were first placed; where Christianity, and civilization … made their first lodgment, in a vast extent of country, covered with a wilderness.’

In the Spring of 1621, the Indian Squanto came among them, and showed them how to catch fish, plant corn, trap beaver, and was their interpreter with the other Indian tribes.

Gov. William Bradford described Squanto as “a special instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectation.”

Bradford added: “The settlers … began to plant their corn, in which service Squanto stood them in good stead, showing them how to plant it and cultivate it. He also told them that unless they got fish to manure this exhausted old soil, it would come to nothing … In the middle of April plenty of fish would come up the brook … and (he) taught them how to catch it.”

Pilgrim Edward Winslow recorded in Mourt’s Relation that in the Fall of 1621: “God be praised we had a good increase … 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 fruit of our labors.

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 they 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.”

Bradford described the same event: “And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc.

Besides, they had about a peck a meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion.”

Family saying grace before Thanksgiving dinner in Neffsville, Pennsylvania, 1942. / Library of Congress / fsa.8d10749

The idea of a Fall day of thanksgiving may have come to the Pilgrims after they moved to Leiden, Holland, in 1609. Dutch citizens there annually gave thanks to God for William of Orange, in 1574, ending the bloody Spanish Furies, where Spain’s “Iron Duke” of Alba had butchered tens of thousands.

Dutch historian Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs (Ph.D. Leiden, 1976), in his article “1621: A Historian Looks Anew at Thanksgiving,” documented that a friend of Pilgrim elder William Brewster, whose name was Jan Orlers, wrote of the City of Leiden’s Thanksgiving to God for Spain being driven out of the Netherlands: “Every year throughout the city a General Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving … held and celebrated on the Third of October, to thank and praise God Almighty that he so mercifully had saved the city from her enemies.”

Also in Leiden was a community of persecuted Jews who had been exiled from Spain. Beginning in 1575, at the University of Leiden, students were taught Hebrew, Aramaic and Syriac by a rabbi, just as Pilgrim elder William Brewster taught students English. Pilgrims would have observed Jews celebrating the annual Thanksgiving Feast of Tabernacles or “Sukkot” in September–October.

Pilgrims identified with Jews, who fled from Pharaoh across the Red Sea in search of their Promised Land, as the Pilgrims fled from the King of England across the sea in search of their Promised Land. The Israelites had self-government, called the Hebrew Republic, for four hundred years before they asked for a king. This example of self-government inspired the Puritan Reformers and the Pilgrim separatists.

Protestant scholars who studied the Hebrew Republic were called Christian Hebraists. When Harvard and Yale were founded in New England, Hebrew was taught.

On Nov. 9, 1621, 37 new Pilgrims arrived from England on the ship Fortune. The joy of greeting this second group of Pilgrims was quickly dampened when it was discovered they brought with them no food or supplies.

This resulted in the second winter having a “starving time,” where at one point, each person was rationed just five kernels of corn a day.

Attempting to repay the “merchant adventurers” who financed their trip, the Pilgrims filled the Fortune with £500 of furs, but tragically the ship was captured by French pirates, leaving the Pilgrims in greater debt.

In 1622, the friendly Indian Chief Massasoit became ill. Pilgrim leader Edward Winslow visited and doctored him. He thankfully regained health, which contributed to a peace which lasted over 50 years. Edward Winslow was especially grateful, because the Indian tradition was, if a person doctored a chief and the chief died, that person died too.

Two years after the Pilgrim landing, there was a drought in 1623. Edward Winslow recorded in Alexander Young’s Chronicles of the Pilgrims (Boston, 1841):

“Drought and the like considerations moved not only every good man privately to enter into examination with his own estate between God and his conscience, and so to humiliation before Him, but also to humble ourselves together before the Lord by Fasting and Prayer.”

Their attitude was:

  • when things were bad they would have days of prayer;
  • when things were real bad they would have days of fasting; and
  • when things turned around they would have days of thanksgiving.

After the Pilgrims prayed and fasted, Governor Bradford wrote:

“Afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair warm weather as, through His blessing, caused a fruitful and liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing.”

Decades later, a thanksgiving proclamation was issued by the Governing Council of Charlestown, Massachusetts, June 20, 1676:

“The Council has thought meet to appoint … day of solemn Thanksgiving and praise to God … that the Lord may behold us as a people offering praise and thereby glorifying Him; the Council doth commend it to the respective ministers, elders and people of this jurisdiction; solemnly and seriously to keep the same beseeching that being persuaded by the mercies of God we may all, even this whole people offer up our bodies and souls as a living and acceptable Service unto God by Jesus Christ.”

Ben Franklin wrote of the Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving (The Compleated Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin, editors Mark & Jo Ann Skousen, Regnery, 2006, p. 331):

“There is a tradition that in the planting of New England, the first settlers met with many difficulties and hardships, as is generally the case when a civiliz’d people attempt to establish themselves in a wilderness country.

Being so piously dispos’d, they sought relief from heaven by laying their wants and distresses before the Lord in frequent set days of fasting and prayer. …”

During the Cold War, socialists and communists began an effort to weaken America from the inside by infiltrating the media, entertainment, the pulpit, courts, political parties and the educational system.

On Jan. 10, 1963, Rep. Albert S. Herlong, Jr., of Florida, read into the Congressional Record, (Vol 109, 88th Congress, 1st Session, Appendix, pp. A34–A35), 45 tactics communists that were being used, including:

17. Get control of the schools. Use them as transmission belts for socialism and current communist propaganda. Soften the curriculum. Get control of teachers’ associations. Put the party line in textbooks.

18. Gain control of all student newspapers.

19. Use student riots to foment public protests against programs or organizations which are under communist attack …

25. Break down cultural standards of morality by promoting pornography and obscenity in books, magazines, motion pictures, radio, and TV …

27. Infiltrate the churches and replace revealed religion with “social” religion. Discredit the Bible and emphasize the need for intellectual maturity which does not need a “religious crutch.”

28. Eliminate prayer or any phase of religious expression in the schools on the ground that it violates the principle of “separation of church and state.”

29. Discredit the American Constitution by calling it inadequate, old-fashioned, out of step with modern needs, a hindrance to cooperation between nations on a worldwide basis.

30. Discredit the American Founding Fathers. Present them as selfish aristocrats who had no concern for the “common man.”

31. Belittle all forms of American culture and discourage the teaching of American history on the ground that it was only a minor part of the “big picture.”

32. Support any socialist movement to give centralized control over any part of the culture–education, social agencies, welfare programs, mental health clinics, etc …

41. Emphasize the need to raise children away from the negative influence of parents. Attribute prejudices, mental blocks and retarding of children to suppressive influence of parents.

42. Create the impression that violence and insurrection are legitimate aspects of the American tradition; that students and special-interest groups should rise up and use “united force” to solve economic, political or social problems.

Socialist infiltration tactics utilized an “unlearning” process called “deconstruction,” as in Howard Zinn’s A Peoples’ History of the United States, and in The New York Times’ 1619 Project.

Deconstruction is a cultural gene-replacement therapy, where the old identity is removed and replaced with a new identity:

1) the younger generation of students are separated from the country’s past by the negative portrayal of the country’s founders. Students not only reject the founders, but through guilt-by-association, reject the rights and freedoms which the founders established. This was explained by the Communist Party Education Workers Congress in 1918: “We must create out of the younger generation a generation of communists. We must turn children, who can be shaped like wax, into real, good communists … We must remove the children from the crude influence of their families. We must take them over and, to speak frankly, nationalize them.”

2) Students are then moved into a neutral point of view where they are open-minded to other belief systems. This was explained by the Communist Party Education Workers Congress in 1918: “We must create out of the younger generation a generation of communists. We must turn children, who can be shaped like wax, into real, good communists … We must remove the children from the crude influence of their families. We must take them over and, to speak frankly, nationalize them.”

2) Students are then moved into a neutral point of view where they are open-minded to other belief systems.

3) Finally, students are indoctrinated into accepting the socialism, communist, alternative sexual agendas, and non-Western beliefs which do not believe in individual rights but rather “group rights.”

Karl Marx is attributed with the statement: “Take away the heritage of a people and they are easily conquered.” ….

Franklin Roosevelt stated in his Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, Oct. 31, 1939: “More than three centuries ago at the season of the gathering in of the harvest, the Pilgrims humbly paused in their work and gave thanks to God for the preservation of their community and for the abundant yield of the soil.”

President John F. Kennedy proclaimed a National Thanksgiving Day, Oct. 28, 1961:

“More than three centuries ago, the Pilgrims, after a year of hardship and peril, humbly and reverently set aside a special day upon which to give thanks to God for their preservation and for the good harvest from the virgin soil upon which they had labored.

Grave and unknown dangers remained. Yet by their faith and by their toil they had survived the rigors of the harsh New England winter.

Hence they paused in their labors to give thanks for the blessings that had been bestowed upon them by Divine Providence…. We give thanks … for the heritage of liberty bequeathed by our ancestors which we are privileged to preserve for our children and our children’s children …

I ask the head of each family to recount to his children the story of the first New England Thanksgiving, thus to impress upon future generations the heritage of this nation born in toil, in danger, in purpose, and in the conviction that right and justice and freedom can through man’s efforts persevere and come to fruition with the blessing of God.” ….

At the Bicentennial Celebration of the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, Dec. 22, 1820, Daniel Webster declared: “We have come to this Rock, to record here our homage for our Pilgrim Fathers; our sympathy in their sufferings; our gratitude for their labors … and our attachment to those principles of civil and religious liberty, for which they encountered the dangers of the ocean, the storms of heaven, the violence of savages, disease, exile, and famine … We feel that we are on the spot where the first scene of our history was laid; where the hearths and altars of New England were first placed; where Christianity, and civilization … made their first lodgment, in a vast extent of country, covered with a wilderness.”

Gov. William Bradford wrote of the Pilgrims: “They shook off the yoke of anti-christian bondage, and as ye Lord’s free people, joined themselves (by a covenant of the Lord) into a church estate, in ye fellowship of ye Gospel, to walk in all his ways, made known or to be made known unto them, according to their best endeavors, whatsoever it should cost them, the Lord assisting them.”

On Nov. 12, 1620, the first full day in the New World, Gov. Bradford described the Pilgrims’ thankfulness: “Being thus arrived in a good harbor, and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth, their proper element.”

Pilgrim elder William Brewster commented: “The church that had been brought over the ocean now saw another church, the first-born in America, holding the same faith in the same simplicity of self-government under Christ alone.”

William J Federer of AmericanMinute.com is a nationally-known author and speaker.

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