On Thanksgiving: The Birth of Freedom, The Pilgrims and Our Founding
“Reason is that wherein man goes before all other earthly creatures and comes after God only.... For whereas God and nature hath furnished other creatures, some with hoofs, others with other instruments, and weapons both defensive and offensive, man is left naked, and destitute of all these, but may comfort himself in that one endowment of reason, and providence, whereby he is able to govern them all.” — Rev. John Robinson, “Of Faith, Hope, and Love, Reason and Sense”
The single initiative, the single act of courage which made possible humanity’s escape from the omnipresence of oligarchical slavery was the 1620 voyage of those who became known as the Pilgrims, and the establishment of the Plymouth colony that same year. This was the act which proclaimed the determination of a people to live free, and it was the 1620-1776 developments in America which created—for the first time in human history—the possibility of eliminating oligarchical slave systems worldwide. That 1620 voyage was perhaps the greatest blow against human slavery in the history of our species.
In 2020, we marked the 400th anniversary of that voyage. Where were the celebrations? Where were the names and motivations of these heroes proclaimed? In 1920, on the tercentenary of the Pilgrim voyage, parades, conferences, and celebrations were held across America. Proclamations were issued. Special coins were minted, and special postage stamps were issued. Today, history is turned on its head, and a lying narrative is propagated that, somehow, this initiative by the Pilgrim Brethren ushered in a new era of slavery and genocide. It is time to reclaim the glory and the wondrous truth of what was accomplished.
Between 1585 and 1626, several attempts at colonization were made in North America, including at Roanoke (VA), Cuttyhawk (MA), St. Croix (Maine), Popham (Maine), Jamestown (VA) and New Amsterdam (NY). Of these, all but Jamestown and New Amsterdam failed. The most significant characteristic of all these colonies, however, is that they were commercial efforts, established primarily with the intention of returning financial profits to London. One telling feature is that all of these colonies consisted entirely of men, except for a small number of women in the second attempt at Roanoke in 1587.
When the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth with 102 colonists, that number included 48 men, 24 women and 30 children. What the Pilgrims brought to Plymouth were families. Their intention was not to establish a colony which would transmit loot back to London, but to create an entirely new type of society, grounded in human freedom. This is identical in intent to John Winthrop’s later proclamation for establishing a “City Upon a Hill” in Boston.
The Pilgrims, in fact, were escaping from two oligarchies. They had fled England for the Netherlands in 1608 to escape from the oligarchical nightmare which was descending upon England in the wake of the coronation of James I in 1603, dark developments explored profoundly by William Shakespeare. But by 1619 their situation in the Netherlands had become untenable. Amsterdam was becoming a clone of the Venetian paradigm of slavery, usury, and financial speculation; the maritime Dutch Empire was expanding, and Europe was descending into the murderous chaos of the Thirty Years War. The decision was made by the Pilgrim congregation to relocate to the New World,—not a light commitment, given the record of previous colonization attempts in North America.
What the Pilgrims brought to North America was the belief that all human beings, of whatever station, were endowed with reason, that the potential for productive creativity, in the image of a creative deity, exists within each one of us, regardless of race, religion or status. That was the foundation on which they determined to build a new society, and the guiding spirit of their efforts was a commitment to the agapic ideal of the Common Good.
As the Pilgrim pastor John Robinson declared in his essay, “Of Created Goodness”:
First, We must do good in obedience to God’s commandments.... Secondly, That we do it at all times, as we have opportunity.... Thirdly, We must do good readily.... Fourthly, According to our ability.... Fifthly, We must have respect to men’s present wants; and not only consider what we can spare but withal what they stand most need of.... Sixthly, We must do good to all....
This dedication “to do Good” would later be enshrined by Cotton Mather in his work, Bonifacius: An Essay upon the Good ... to do Good.
Set into motion was a process of creating an anti-oligarchical culture, one coherent with the principle which Gottfried Leibniz later termed “Happiness.” This effort proceeded through stages, with many reversals and crises, but in 1776 the call went forth—as a self-evident truth—that “All men are created equal,” and in 1789 a new Republic was formed, pledged to defend the General Welfare and secure the “Blessings of Liberty” for future generations.
What we are discussing here is the “Idea of America,” the well-spring from which all later great developments flowed. Martin Luther King possessed a profound moral grasp of this issue, and Lyndon LaRouche battled for this ideal, this vision, throughout his life.
You can read more about the Pilgrims and our founding by Robert Ingraham here.