In recent years the unhinged Marxist Left in “higher” education along with the hard-Left pop communists in the teachers’ unions have been preaching that Thanksgiving is a celebration of genocide, mass murder, and imperialism. The Pilgrims murdered all the Indians, they say, and then sat down and treated themselves to big feast to celebrate their feat. They even invented the elementary schoolish word “Thankskilling” to describe it. (Send your kid to a university and he, too, can learn to sound like an uneducated Marxist moron for the rest of his life).
In reality, if the Pilgrims had anything to celebrate it was the destruction of an early form of socialism that allowed them to survive and prosper. When the first settlers arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in May of 1607 they found incredibly fertile soil and a cornucopia of seafood, wild game, and fruits of all kinds. Nevertheless, within six months all but 38 of the original 104 Jamestown settlers had starved to death. Two years later the Virginia Company sent 500 more settlers and within six months 440 of them were dead by starvation and disease. This became known as “the starving time.” The Massachusetts Pilgrims fared no better. About half of the 101 people who arrived on Cape Cod in November of 1620 were dead within a few months.
In 1611 the British government sent Sir Thomas Dale to serve as the “high marshal” of the Virginia colony. He immediately recognized the problem: The Virginia Company had adopted a system of agricultural socialism under which everything grown or produced would go to a “common store” and divided equally among all the family groups. The man who worked hard sixteen hours a day would be given the same remuneration as the man who did not work at all. Dale’s solution was to establish property rights by allotting three acres of land to each man, who was still required to pay a fee to the Virginia colony (most early American immigrants were indentured servants) but then could keep everything else for himself and his family.
Historian Mathew Page wrote that as soon as this happened free riding stopped and “the colonists quickly developed what became the distinguishing characteristic of Americans – an aptitude for all kinds of craftmanship coupled with an innate genius for experimentation and invention.” The Pilgrims went from accepting handouts of food from the Indians to doing business with them and bartering with them.
The exact same thing happened in Massachusetts, thanks to the discovery by William Bradford, the governor of the Mayflower colony, of the evils of agricultural socialism and the live-saving benefits of private property. As in Jamestown, he gave every family a private plot of land which “made all hands very industrious,” as Bradford wrote in On Plymouth Plantation. The women went into the fields with the men and even brought their “little ones” with them because the benefits to their families in doing so was so obvious.
Bradford blamed the disastrous policy of agricultural socialism on Plato’s advocacy of communal ownership of land that he said would make people “happy and flourishing,” a delusion that they were “wiser than God,” said the governor of the Mayflower colony.
So once the “starving time” was over the Pilgrims did have reason to celebrate: They celebrated life and the newborn prosperity that the abolition of socialism and the adoption of the key components of capitalism – private property and economic freedom – had given them. As for the Indians, today’s Marxists are just as washed up and uninformed when the accuse all European settlers of “genocide.” Indians did celebrate the early Thanksgivings with the Pilgrims. John Rolphe did marry Pocahontas. A white man, John Ross, was chief of the Cherokees of Tennessee and North Carolina; and there was always a great deal of trade with Indians. As Jennifer Roback wrote in Property Rights and Indian Economies, “Europeans generally acknowledged that the Indians retained possessory rights to their lands. More important, the English recognized the advantage of being on friendly terms with the Indians. Trade with the Indians, especially the fur trade, was profitable. War was costly.” Trade and cooperation with the Indians was therefore much more prevalent than conflict and violence up to the middle of the nineteenth century.
In a 1994 article in the Journal of Law and Economics entitled “Raid or Trade? An Economic Model of Indian-White Relations” Terry Anderson and Fred McChesney relate how Thomas Jefferson found that during his time negotiation was the Europeans’ predominant means of acquiring land from Indians. By the twentieth century some $800 million had been paid for Indian lands. That changed, however, after a large standing army was created during and after the War to Prevent Southern Independence. A standing army, wrote Anderson and McChesney, “creates a class of professional soldiers whose personal welfare increases with warfare, even if fighting is a negative-sum act for the population as a whole.” By contrast, they quote Adam Smith as pointing out that “In a militia, the character of the labourer, artificer, or tradesman predominates over that of the soldier.”
The militarization of (Northern) American society by the war and the creation of a large standing army changed everything. “Raid” replaced trade as the government-subsidized railroad corporations realized that they could have their governmental sponsors simply mass murder the Plains Indians instead of paying them for rights of way across their lands (as the only non-subsidized nineteenth-century transcontinental railroad entrepreneur, James J. Hill, did). They even got Congress to pass a law in 1871 prohibiting any more Indian treaties. General Sherman was let loose on the Plains Indians, orchestrating the murder of at least 45,000 of them during the twenty-five years after the war in order to “make way for the railroads” as he explained in his Memoirs. He called this “the final solution to the Indian problem” and he and General Philip Sheridan were known for the quip, “the only good Indian is a dead Indian.”
The chief engineer of the government-subsidized railroads (which were all out-competed by James J. Hill’s Great Northern) was Grenville Dodge, a friend and confidant of Abraham Lincoln’s who was made a general during the war and given the assignment of killing off as many Indians as possible who were in the designated path of the planned government-subsidized transcontinental railroads. They recruited ex-slaves to assist in the Indian genocide and celebrated them as “the Buffalo Soldiers” (named that by Plains Indians who thought their hair was like buffalo hair).
After the war Dodge proposed making slaves of the Indians and forcing them to dig the rail beds. The U.S. government decided to try to kill as many of them instead and place the rest in prison camps known as “reservations.”
So yes, there was a war of genocide waged against the Plains Indians but it was not waged by “Europeans,” or “white people” in general. It was waged by the men who controlled the Republican party, which essentially monopolized the federal government for half a century after the War to Prevent Southern Independence. The Republican party of that day was the party of corporate welfare, protectionism, nationalized money and banking, and imperialism. The campaign of genocide against the Plains Indians was to them just another form of corporate welfare for their financial backers, the railroad corporations, in the image of their idol and inspiration, the old lawyer/lobbyist for the Illinois Central Railroad, Abraham Lincoln, who in 1863 signed legislation creating Thanksgiving as a national holiday, nationalizing what had previously been localized or state-sponsored holidays.