Listen: Rush Limbaugh on the ‘True Story of Thanksgiving’ — ‘Long Before Karl Marx’ the Pilgrims Experimented with Socialism

Earlier this week, on his nationally syndicated radio show, conservative talker Rush Limbaugh continued his annual tradition of telling the “true story of Thanksgiving.”

According to Limbaugh, the story of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock had been mischaracterized over the years, and the real story of the Pilgrims’ success is their rejection of socialism.

LIMBAUGH: So my second book was “See, I Told You So.” The first book is “The Way Things Ought to Be” and the second book is “See, I Told You So.” “Chapter 6, Dead White Guys, or What the History Books Never Told You: The True Story of Thanksgiving.”

Now, normally what I do is simply read from my first book. But there has now been another book added in the Rush Revere series, and the first Rush Revere book is Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims. These are children books that were written to help young people get the true stories of America’s founding because so little of it is actually correctly taught.

In the children’s book version, Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims, I went into a little bit more detail about the Indians, the Native Americans who helped the arriving Pilgrims and what that story actually is and how the True Story of Thanksgiving has been obscured by what is taught — what I was taught, you were probably taught. Here’s the version you were probably taught:

The Pilgrims arrived here after an arduous trip across the Atlantic Ocean. They didn’t know why they were, had no idea what to do. They had nothing. The Indians took pity on them. The Indians saw them, and the Indians saved them. The Indians taught ’em how to do things they didn’t know how to do, like grow food, catch beavers, stuff like that.

The Indians saved them, and the Pilgrims thanked them by growing a whole bunch of food and having this big feast. So the story of Thanksgiving that’s taught is basically how without the Native Americans there wouldn’t be a country because the Pilgrims would have died. At least the Pilgrims were nice enough to pay the Indians back with a big Thanksgiving dinner.

That’s not at all what happened. It’s not even close to what happened, which is why I decided to write about it. Now, in the Revere book — the children’s book, as I say — I went into greater detail about some of the Native Americans who provided assistance to the arriving Pilgrims, particularly a young native by the name of Squanto.

Now, I’m doing show prep today, and I come across a story in the Federalist. I quote from this website all the time, and I’m reading this story here, and by the way, folks, it is… (chuckles) I don’t know. It’s right out of the Rush Revere book, and it’s right out of my See, I Told You So book. There’s a whole lot of discussion here of Squanto, who he was, what he did, how he helped, the details.

The point is The True Story of Thanksgiving is spreading, and I couldn’t be happier about that. Bottom line: It is spreading. I’m just gonna cut to the chase here before getting into reading the text. The Real Story of Thanksgiving, going back to the very first early days of the Pilgrims arriving at Plymouth Rock, is that socialism failed.

This is crucially important today, because we have just elected a Democrat Party that is going to implement socialism if they win these two seats in Georgia, and they’re gonna try regardless. But if they win those two seats in Georgia, you can say good-bye to the United States as you know it. It will become a socialist state. It will begin the process of becoming…

Well, we’re way down the road towards it anyway. So it is crucially important here for people to understand this. It’s not antiquated. It’s not a cliche. It’s not something that you can make fun of people about. You know, it used to be when I first started this show in the late eighties, early nineties, if you dared to refer to the Soviet Union as “communist,” people made fun of you.

“Ah, come on, Rush! You see a communist behind every rock,” and they tried to ridicule you out of identifying communists and communism. Castro, the ChiComs. I never buckled, but a lot of people did — and they’re doing it now. If you say, “The United States, the Democrat Party’s on the pathway to socialism,” they make fun of you. They mock you.

“Come on! You don’t believe that. You can’t believe that! That’s just silly,” and they try to mock you and make fun of you, to silence you. But, folks, it’s real. Now… “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 [the church’s] absolute civil and spiritual authority,” actually, the state.

“Those who challenged ecclesiastical authority and those who believed strongly in freedom of worship were hunted down…” This is in England in the 1600s. They “were hunted down and imprisoned, and sometimes executed for their beliefs. A group of separatists,” people who didn’t want any part of this, “first fled to Holland,” they liked wooden shoes and cheese, “and established a community.”

They were there for eleven years. “After eleven years, about forty of” these separatists who liked wooden shoes and cheese, “agreed to make a perilous journey to the New World…” They had heard about it. Some new, exciting place that hadn’t been developed. They knew they would “face hardships,” hardships like you and I don’t know — and I’m not preaching to you.

I’m just telling you, we don’t know the hardship these people endured. We can’t. We are way too advanced now. People who lived in the 1600s would not believe life today. (Snort!) Try to explain flight, jet travel. They wouldn’t understand it. They knew they would “face hardships,” but paramount importance to them was living freely and worshiping God according to the dictates of their own consciences, their own beliefs.

That’s what they were denied the freedom to do in England. “On August 1, 1620, the Mayflower set sail. It carried a total of 102 passengers, including forty” of these separatists, the Pilgrims. There were just 40 of them. They were “led by William Bradford. On the journey” across the Atlantic… You talk about something that had to be frightening and scary?

The Mayflower was not much bigger than a 50-foot boat, and 102 people on it. “On the journey, Bradford set up an agreement, a contract” if you will, “that established just and equal laws for all [40] members of the [Pilgrim] community, irrespective of their religious beliefs.” It didn’t matter what their religious beliefs were.

These are the laws they were all agreeing to live by. “Where did the revolutionary ideas,” these laws, come from? We’re talking about the Mayflower Compact. That is what Bradford wrote. The Mayflower Compact derived “[f]rom the Bible. The Pilgrims were a people completely steeped in the lessons of the Old and New Testaments.”

They were devoutly religious people. No matter what else is said about them (and even that is denied), they were devoutly religious. “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.”

They never doubted they would get to the New World. They never doubted that once they got there, they would thrive. The journey was long; it was arduous; it was dangerous. And when they finally landed, when the Pilgrims finally landed in New England in November, according to William Bradford’s detailed journal, they found a cold, barren, desolate wilderness. Imagine New England as it exists today as nothing but rocks, forest, undeveloped nature in November and getting colder.

There were no friends to greet them. There was no shelter of any kind other than hiding under a tree, there was nothing, folks. It was desolate. There were no hotels. There were no inns. There were no places to clean up. There were no houses. I mean, this was real hardship. The sacrifice that they had made for the freedom to worship was just beginning.

During that first winter — remember, they arrive in November — during that first winter, half of them, including William Bradford’s own wife, died of starvation, of sickness, exposure to the elements. Now we’re getting close to what you were taught in school. When spring finally came — and, by the way, writing that doesn’t do it justice. Spring didn’t just finally come. It was a survival. It was an act of survival that you and I cannot possibly relate to or understand.

American Special Forces can. Military people who’ve been trained can understand what the Pilgrims were — you and I can’t. We’ve never done anything like that first winter in the New World. They survived it. Spring finally came. They did meet the Indians, the Native Americans who were there, who did help them in planting corn and fishing for cod. They showed ’em where the beavers were so the beavers could be skinned for coats, other things. You animal rights people are not gonna like some of this story, but it happened.

But even at this, even with this degree of assistance from the Indian, the Native Americans, there wasn’t any prosperity yet. They had the Mayflower Compact. They had these laws they were living by, and there was no prosperity. And I wonder why. Now, this is important to understand here, folks, because this is where modern American history lessons end, with the Indians teaching the Pilgrims how to eat, how to fish, how to skin beavers, and all that.

That’s where it ends. And that’s the feel-good story. But that doesn’t even get close to the true story. You know, Thanksgiving is actually explained in some textbooks as a holiday for which the Pilgrims gave thanks to the Indians for saving their lives. It wasn’t that. That happened, but Thanksgiving was a devout expression of gratitude, the Pilgrims, to God for their survival, and everything that was a part of it.

Now, here’s the part that has been omitted. The original contract the Pilgrims entered into in Holland — they had sponsors. They didn’t have the money to do this trip on their own. They had sponsors. There were merchant sponsors in London and in Holland. And these merchant sponsors demanded that everything that the Pilgrims produced in the New World would go into a common store, a single bank, if you will. And that each member of the Pilgrim community was entitled to one share.

So everybody had an equal share of whatever was in that bank. All of the land they cleared, all of the houses they built belonged to that bank, to the community as well. And they were going to distribute it equally, because they were gonna be fair. So all of the land that they cleared and all the houses they built belonged to everybody. Belonged to the community. Belonged to the bank, belonged to the common store. Nobody owned anything. They just had an equal share in it. It was a commune.

The Pilgrims established a commune, essentially. Forerunner of the communes we saw in the sixties and seventies out in California. They even had their own organic vegetables, by the way. Yep. The Pilgrims, forerunners of organic vegetables. Of course, what else could there be? No such thing as processed anything back then.

Now, William Bradford, who had become the governor of the colony ’cause he was the leader, recognized that this wasn’t gonna work. This was costly and destructive, and it just wasn’t working. It was collectivism. It was socialism. It wasn’t working. That first winner had taken a lot of lives. The manpower was greatly reduced. So William Bradford decided to take bold action, which I will describe when we get back.

(BREAK TRANSCRIPT)

LIMBAUGH: William Bradford, the governor of the Pilgrim community, saw that none of this was working. The Mayflower Compact was not working. Giving everybody a single share of stock in the common store, in the common bank was not working. Collectivism. It was as costly and destructive to the Pilgrims as it is and has been to anybody who has ever tried it.

So Bradford decided to scrub it. He threw it out and took bold action. He assigned a plot of land to each family. Every family was given a plot of land. They could work it, manage it however they wanted to. If they just wanted to sit on it, get fat, dumb, happy, and lazy, they could. If they wanted to develop it, if they wanted to grow corn, whatever on it, they could. If they wanted to build on it, they could do that. If they wanted to turn it into a quasi-business, they could do whatever they wanted to do with it.

He turned loose the power of the capitalist marketplace. Long before Karl Marx was even born. Long before Karl Marx was a sperm cell in his father’s dreams, the Pilgrims had discovered and experimented with what could only be described as socialism, and they found that it didn’t work. Now, it wasn’t called that then. But that’s exactly what it was. Everybody was given an equal share. You know what happened? Nobody did anything. There was no incentive. Nothing worked. Nothing happened.

“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! 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 to scrap it permanently. What Bradford wrote about this social experiment should be in every schoolchild’s history lesson. If it were, we might prevent much needless suffering,” if the true story of Thanksgiving had been taught for years and years and years.

(BREAK TRANSCRIPT)

LIMBAUGH: So William Bradford, after putting everybody in a common store, the Mayflower Compact… They wanted to be fair. They wanted everybody to have one common share of stock in everything that happened that the Pilgrims produced — and it bombed. It didn’t work.

There was no prosperity; there was no creativity because there was no incentive. Here’s what Bradford wrote about the failure: “‘For this community [so far as it was] was found to breed much confusion and discontent…’” They were not happy, on other words. “‘[T]his community was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort.’”

In other words, nobody worked.

The way they set it up, killed and discouraged work.

There was no need.

“‘For young men that were most able and fit for labor and service’” sat around and did nothing. “‘[T]hey should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without’” being paid for it? Why should they do that? So they didn’t. “‘[T]hat was thought injustice.’ Why should you work for other people when you can’t work for yourself? What’s the point? Do you hear what he was saying, ladies and gentlemen?

“The Pilgrims found that people could not be expected to do their best work without incentive. So what did Bradford’s community try next? They unharnessed the power of good old free enterprise by invoking” capitalism, “the principle of private property,” all the way back in the 1600s. It was incredible. “Every family was assigned its own plot of land,” and they could do with it whatever they wanted to do.

“‘This had very good success,’ wrote Bradford, ‘for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.’” So when profit was introduced, when the opportunity to prosper was introduced, it went gangbusters. That, my friends, is the essence of the True Story of Thanksgiving. “Now, this is where it gets really good, folks, if you’re laboring under the misconception that I was, as I was taught in school.

“So they set up trading posts and exchanged goods with the Indians” after they had enjoyed this prosperity. It was not the Indians that brought them in prosperity. It’s not said to insult anybody. The Indians assisted in their arrival undeniably. But what led to prosperity for these original settlers was the common store failed. Socialism didn’t work.

It’s when they introduced what turns out to be capitalism. They didn’t have the name for it, but when they turned loose individual incentive — keep what you produce, sell what you don’t need — it went crazy. This is not something they were taught by anybody by self-experience. It was not the Indians. None of this is said to put anybody down. Don’t misunderstand.

The Indians did a lot of things that helped them, which I’ll get to in just a second, but it was their own industriousness. “[T]hey set up trading posts and exchanged goods with the Indians.” They sold stuff to them, and those “profits allowed them to pay off their debts to the merchants,” their sponsors in London and in Holland, and you know what?

The success of that colony after they had abandoned socialism and tried what was essentially capitalism, the word spread throughout the Old World of this massive amount of prosperity that was there for the taking in the New World. And guess what happened? The New World was flooded with new arrivals. “[T]he success and prosperity of the Plymouth settlement attracted more Europeans and began what came to be known as the ‘Great Puritan Migration.’”

And all it took was prosperity and the word spreading across the Atlantic Ocean of how there was prosperity and it was there for the taking. All you had to do was get there and give it a shot. The lesson is — The True Story of Thanksgiving is — that William Bradford and his Pilgrim community were thanking God for the blessings on their community after the first miserable winter of a documented failure brought on by their attempt at fairness and equality, which was socialism.

It didn’t work.

Only when they abandoned it did it work — and I need to say again, because I don’t want people misunderstand and get noses out of joint. The Native Americans, the indigenous people, the Injuns, whatever you want to call ’em, they were of considerable assistance, and they were friendly when the Pilgrims arrived. But they had little, if anything, to do with the prosperity that occurred.

Because that was the result of Bradford and the Pilgrim leadership deciding to change their structure the Mayflower Compact. Now, Indians assisted, naturally. I can’t deny it. I mean, they taught them how to fish and this kind of thing that they didn’t know how to do, and that led them to be productive, undeniably so. But it was the Pilgrim community itself which experienced this massive prosperity.

The word of which spread all the way back to the Old World, Europe across the Atlantic Ocean.

Now, I mentioned earlier that The Federalist has a story on all this, and in it they describe much of what we did in the second book that dealt with this, the children’s book, Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims. That book goes into great detail about how the Indians did provide assistance and what kind of assistance it was, how valuable it was and how crucial it was.

In Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims, we focus on a Native American by the name of Squanto. Now, as I told you, “During the winter of 1620, only 44 out of the original 102 [Pilgrims] survived, including their first elected governor of the colony, John Carver,” and it was “an Indian named Squanto came to their rescue.” As I say, this is, as I say, explored in great detail in Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims.

“Squanto was no ordinary native. Early settlers in 1610 had captured him and sold him into slavery. A group of Catholic friars freed him and brought him to England, where he learned to speak English. In 1618, serving as an interpreter on an English ship, he was brought back to the New World.” It was Squanto — who is a famous Native American in his own right in the Pilgrim story. it was Squanto who “taught the Pilgrims how to plant and fish,” how to skin beavers. It was Squanto who “broker[ed] a peace treaty between the Pilgrims and other Indian tribes.”

There was more than one tribe of Indians. It was not copacetic. It was not friendly and at one with nature. It was not anything like the multiculturalists would have you believe. There were squabbles; there were power struggles; turf battles. It was human. The Indians, the Pilgrims, everybody was scrambling for power, for survival. Survivability was the name of the game. And it was not guaranteed.

Now, many of the Pilgrims literally believed that God had sent Squanto to save them. And they believed, the Pilgrims believed that without Squanto they never would have survived, or thrived. And they experienced a tremendous harvest in 1621, and that’s the big gathering that is taught in the history books, the native Indians and the Pilgrims joined together for a huge feast, which is the foundational story of the Thanksgiving story that’s taught in public schools.

But again, that is not The Real Story of Thanksgiving. That’s the textbook brand. It did happen, but it’s so much more than that. And I love taking the opportunity every year to explain the truth of, especially now given this election’s apparently, allegedly fallen out. Because even at the Federalist — this is so great that the story is spreading. “One of the most important legacies of early settlers is that they experimented with socialism in the 1620s, and it didn’t work. Private property rights and personal responsibility, two pillars of a free market economy, saved the Plymouth colony from extinction and laid the economic foundation for he free and prosperous nation that we all enjoy today.”

And that is exactly right. And that is The True Story of Thanksgiving. And that has been what should have been shared with you every Thanksgiving for the past 31 years.

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