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Of Plymouth Plantation Hardcover – March 25, 1998
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Few people realize that America was founded because a devout band of non-conformist Christians lived and breathed the covenant promises of Jesus Christ. Though the Pilgrims left England because of rel
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''O sacred bond,—whilst inviolably preserved! How sweet and precious were its fruits! But when this fidelity decayed, then their ruin approached. Oh that these ancient members had not died (if it had been the will of God); or that this holy care and constant faithfulness had still remained with those that survived. But, alas, that still serpent hath slyly wound himself to untwist these sacred bonds and ties. I was happy in my first times to see and enjoy the blessed fruits of that sweet communion; but it is now a part of my misery in old age to feel its decay, and with grief of heart to lament it. For the warning and admonition of others, and my own humiliation, I here make note of it.''
This paragraph was added decades after the initial writing. Bradford was 'humiliated' from the loss of the 'sacred bond', that is, the deep religious faith and devotion that bonded the first settlers. This account highlights the benefits of sincere Bibical faith when applied with wisdom - and the pain when lost or misused for selfish ends.
Reading this history requires adjusting to the style of that time. Assumes the reader can follow extended lines of reasoning, is familiar with Bibical stories, recognizes Seneca, Plato, Cato, Paul, etc.. The education, the vast reading and even more, the understanding of these thinkers, seems unlike modern writers.
For example, Plato's theory of government, communism, was first implemented. Horrible result - starvation! Now, private property -
''So they began to consider how to raise more corn, and obtain a better crop than they had done, so that they might not continue to endure the misery of want. At length after much debate, the Governor with the advice of the chief among them, allowed each man to plant corn for his own household, and to trust to themselves for that; in all other things to go on in the general way as before. So every family was assigned a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number with that in view,—for present purposes only, and making no division for inheritance,—all boys and children being included under some family.''
''This was very successful. It made all hands very industrious, so that much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could devise, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better satisfaction. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to plant corn, while before they would allege weakness and inability; and to have compelled them would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.''
''The failure of this experiment of communal service, which was tried for several years, and by good and honest men proves the emptiness of the theory of Plato and other ancients, applauded by some of later times,—that the taking away of private property, and the possession of it in community, by a commonwealth, would make a state happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For in this instance, community of property (so far as it went) was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment which would have been to the general benefit and comfort. For the young men who were most able and fit for service objected to being forced to spend their time and strength in working for other men’s wives and children, without any recompense.''
''The strong man or the resourceful man had no more share of food, clothes, etc., than the weak man who was not able to do a quarter the other could. This was thought injustice. The aged and graver men, who were ranked and equalized in labour, food, clothes, etc., with the humbler and younger ones, thought it some indignity and disrespect to them. As for men’s wives who were obliged to do service for other men, such as cooking, washing their clothes, etc., they considered it a kind of slavery, and many husbands would not brook it.''
Interesting that Bradford and others, understood Plato enough to try his system at first. They also understood Bible principles sufficiently to adopt them when Plato failed. This, as he wrote, increased their faith in God and lost faith in Plato.
Bradford's devotion shown -
''Thus out of small beginnings greater things have grown by His hand Who made all things out of nothing, and gives being to all things that are; and as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light enkindled here has shone to many, yea, in a sense, to our whole nation; let the glorious name of Jehovah have all the praise.''
This focus on Jehovah's name is strange today. Even the faithful look to their religion to receive salvation more than giving praise to Jehovah's name. What a difference!
(The film by Ric Burns - ''American Experience: The Pilgrims''; is an excellent presentation of Bradford's book)
Both books really put you back in that era and you end up with a greater understanding of how our country was founded. After reading these books it is astonishing that these people stuck it out here in the wilderness, with none of the comforts of home, and carved out a settlement here. They had the true grit and determination and work ethic that our country needs to remember.
William Bradford, the author of the book, was elected the first governor for five times and the scope of the book lasted about fifty two years (1608-1660).
Bradford told the story of the settlers from the original planting corn, using the wampum as money, to the dispersion of the population on account of more wealth.
I notice a lot of American virtues that grew out from this period such as you help those who are close to you in the wilderness, American women do men's jobs as well, emphasis on strong people, necessity causes changes, the effects from both good and bad men alike.
The story was told mainly by presenting historical documents interspersed with his narrations. It is rather tedious and befuddled since I know very little context of the situations that the documents were referring to. But it will be of great scholastic use for historians and American scholars who need original accounts.
And the reason for vacating England for America was:
"to advance the kingdom of Our Lord Jesus Christ and to enjoy the liberties of the gospel in purity and peace." Chapter XXIII