Two communities were founded in the New World at about the same time. One was built in a more temperate climate than the other, with land far more suitable for cultivation. That settlement was known as Jamestown. Unlike the the Pilgrim's settlement further North, which was built on rocky New England soil, Jamestown had all the promise of being a singular success.
The Pilgrims, who were Puritans, had come to America looking for a home where they could practice their religion without persecution or interference. They were humbled by the seeming hostility in the New World, but relied on God, prayers and hard work to build a successful community.
Jamestown, on the other hand, was founded by lesser aristocrats and opportunists looking to strike it rich through finding gold in their area of the New World. The Pilgrims, recognizing that a community would take cooperation and equal standing among its citizenry, wrote and signed the "Mayflower Compact".
THE MAYFLOWER COMPACT
"In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are under-written, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign Lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, etc.
Having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine our selves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the eleventh of November [New Style, November 21], in the year of the reign of our sovereign lord, King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Dom. 1620."
The Puritans were well aware of the abuses of Monarchy and Tyranny. In England, they had been driven to madness by oppression, beaten as dumb beasts, many fled to Holland. There they found support for their Calvinistic ways, but became concerned with the corrupting influence of the society.
"Having gone back to England to obtain the backing of the Virginia Company, 102 Pilgrims set out for America. The reasons are suggested by William Bradford, when he notes the "discouragements" of the hard life they had in Holland, and the hope of attracting others by finding "a better, and easier place of living"; the "children" of the group being "drawne away by evill examples into extravagence and dangerous courses"; the "great hope, for the propagating and advancing the gospell of the kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of the world" (Wheelwright, 7-8). In these reasons, the second sounds most like the Pilgrims many Americans are familiar with--the group that wants to be left alone and live in its own pure and righteous way. Behind it seems to lie not only the fear of the breakdown of individual families, but even a concern over the dissolution of the larger community."
Recognizing that it was more difficult to corrupt a majority of the body politick than an individual, the Pilgrims agreed to be bound by laws that were made and instituted by the majority. Now, as the Book of Mormon so masterfully explains:
"26 Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the voice of the people.
27 And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land." (Source)
Americans owe a debt of gratitude to the wisdom and foresight of these founders of American Democracy.
"Upon arrival in America, the Pilgrims signed the Mayflower Compact, which became the governing document of the Plymouth Colony for over 70 years. This document was unlike any other in history, as a group of men came together of their own free will and agreed to be governed by themselves according to the will of the majority.
Throughout the Separatists’ journey from England to Holland to America, they came to understand the need for democracy in order to protect religious freedom. They had lived under a monarch and had seen first hand the damage that could be wrought when the ruling class dictated laws to the commoners.
Years later, after the American Revolution, when our founding fathers were writing our Constitution, they looked to the Mayflower Compact. John Adams described the agreement as “the only instance in human history of that positive, original social compact.”
The Pilgrims were the pioneers of American democracy, establishing for the first time in history a self-governed society in which all men were created equal, and subject to equal justice under the law." (Source)
The wisdom of the Puritans also involved living in peace with the Native Americans that preceeded them. As a result, these possible enemies became their saviors in the land.
"After arriving in Plymouth in 1620, the Pilgrims had endured hardships but had managed to survive, in a large part due to the help of Squanto, an Indian who taught the Pilgrims how to fish, grow corn, and farm the land. At the end of their first year, the Puritans held a "harvest feast" celebrating the fruits of their farming efforts. The feast honored Squanto and their friends, the Wampanoag Indians. The feast was followed by three days of "thanksgiving" celebrating their good fortune." (Source)
Meanwhile in Jamestown, which was governed as an autocracy, things deteriorated into starvation and death. In their lust for gold, the settlers had neglected to plant the necessary crops for their survival. They also failed to establish a lasting peace with the Native Americans that preceeded them.
"The Starving Time at Jamestown in the Colony of Virginia was a period of forced starvation initiated by the Powhatan Confederacy to remove the English from Virginia. The campaign killed all but 60 of the 500 colonists during the winter of 1609–1610.
The colonists, the first group of whom had originally arrived at Jamestown on May 14, 1607, had never planned to grow all of their own food. Instead, their plans depended upon trade with the local Native Americans Powhatan Confederacy to supply them with food between the arrival of periodic supply ships from England.
"However, the efforts by anti-English leaders amongst the Powhatan Confederacy succeeded in isolating the tenuous English colony. Additionally, lack of access to water and a relatively dry rain season crippled the agricultural production of the colonists. After Captain John Smith's return to England in October 1609, the Powhatan placed the colony completely under siege and attempted to end the English settlement through starvation. A fleet from England, damaged by a hurricane, arrived months behind schedule with new colonists, but without expected food supplies." (Source)
The lessons are as plentiful as the food my friends, if you know where to look. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!