Thursday, November 27, 2008

AMERICA'S FIRST THANKSGIVING (1621): Christians praise God for His Provision, celebrate His Bounty with Indian neighbors

The Pilgrims were Separatist Puritan Christians who removed themselves from the religious persecution of Romish-Episcopacy in England, went first to Holland for 11-12 years (1608 - 1620), and then ventured the dangerous journey to the New World, landing on Cape Cod (Mass.) on November 11 (21), 1620. "Of the 102 Mayflower passengers who reached Cape Cod," ** less than half were Pilgrim Separatists. During that first winter (1620-1621), half of the colonists died, "especially in January and February, being the depth of winter; and wanting houses and other comforts; being infected with the scurvy and other diseases which this long voyage and their inaccommodate condition had brought upon them." *** The first Thanksgiving was in Fall 1621 after harvest, a celebration and praise to God for His Provision and Bounty.

Thank You God, for these Christian Separatists.

Steve Lefemine
November 27, 2008 / Revised November 28, 2008

** Samuel Eliot Morison footnote (1952 ed.) in Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647, by William Bradford, Chapte XI, (1981 ed.) THE REMAINDER OF ANNO 1620
*** Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647, by William Bradford, Chapte XI, (1981 ed.) THE REMAINDER OF ANNO 1620 [THE MAYFLOWER COMPACT [The Starving Time]


The 1621 Thanksgiving

The tradition of the Pilgrims' first Thanksgiving is steeped in myth and legend. Few people realize that the Pilgrims did not celebrate Thanksgiving the next year, or any year thereafter, though some of their descendants later made a "Forefather's Day" that usually occurred on December 21 or 22. Several Presidents, including George Washington, made one-time Thanksgiving holidays. In 1827, Mrs. Sarah Josepha Hale began lobbying several Presidents for the instatement of Thanksgiving as a national holiday, but her lobbying was unsuccessful until 1863 when Abraham Lincoln finally made it a national holiday.

Today, our Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday of November. This was set by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 (approved by Congress in 1941), who changed it from Abraham Lincoln's designation as the last Thursday in November (which could occasionally end up being the fifth Thursday and hence too close to Christmas for businesses). But the Pilgrims' first Thanksgiving began at some unknown date between September 21 and November 9, most likely in very early October. The date of Thanksgiving was probably set by Lincoln to somewhat correlate with the anchoring of the Mayflower at Cape Cod, which occurred on November 21, 1620 (by our modern Gregorian calendar--it was November 11 to the Pilgrims who used the Julian calendar).

There are only two contemporary accounts of the 1621 Thanksgiving: First is Edward Winslow's account, which he wrote in a letter dated December 12, 1621.
The complete letter was first published in 1622.

"Our corn [i.e. wheat] did prove well, and God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn, and our barley indifferent good, but our peas not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sown. They came up very well, and blossomed, but the sun parched them in the blossom. Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."

The second description was written about twenty years after the fact by William Bradford in his History Of Plymouth Plantation. Bradford's History was rediscovered in 1854 after having been taken by British looters during the Revolutionary War. Its discovery prompted a greater American interest in the history of the Pilgrims. It is also in this account that the Thanksgiving turkey tradition is founded.

They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercising in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports.


Plentiful Harvest Celebrated. King Massasoyt attends.

Plimouth, Fall, 1621: Though the concept is historically nothing new--it's been practiced through the ages--the Pilgrims celebrated a harvest feast, a celebration we now call "Thanksgiving." To the Pilgrims, however, a day of thanksgiving meant one of prayer and fasting.

Three days of feasting and celebration topped off a bountiful harvest as Plimoth prepared for the Winter ahead. King Massasoyt, together with some ninety of his men, were entertained by the settlers. The King, in return, contributed several slain deer to the event which he presented to the governor. Wild fowl, venison, ducks, geese and turkeys were among the fare.


The First American Thanksgiving

In the spring of 1621, the colonists planted their first crops in Patuxet's abandoned fields. While they had limited success with wheat and barley, their corn crop proved very successful, thanks to Squantum who taught them how to plant corn in hills, using fish as a fertilizer as he had seen in Newfoundland.1

Through the treaty with Massasoit which Squantum facilitated, the Pilgrims enjoyed peace and an exchange of knowledge with their neighbours, the Pokanoket. They felt hope for the future and wish that those back home were "partakers of our plenty."

In October of 1621, the Pilgrims celebrated their first harvest with feasting and games, as was the custom in England. The celebration served to boost the morale of the 50 remaining colonists and also to impress their allies. Among the Native People attending were Massasoit and 90 Wampanoag men.


Mayflower Compact
November 11, 1621

We, whose names are underwritten, 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, &c. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour 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 another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, 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 hereunto subscribed our names at Cape-Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, Anno Domini; 1620.

signed: 41 adult men (including Mr. John Carver, Mr. William Bradford, Mr Edward Winslow, Mr. William Brewster, Myles Standish, and John Alden)
(women did not make civil governmental decisions, nor hold the office of civil minister, as is consistent with the teaching of the Bible)

Source: Federal and State Constitutions, Colonial Charters, and other Organic Laws of the States, Territories, and Colonies Now or Heretofore Forming the United States of America, compiled and edited under the Act of Congress of June 30, 1906, by Francis Newton Thorpe, Washington, D.C.


William Bradford's
Of Plymouth Plantation: 1620-1647
[excerpts, emphasis added]

Chapter I

[ CCL Note: Romish persecution in the 1550's followed by persecution by Episcopacy / Romish Anglicanism into 1600's ]

It is well known unto the godly and judicious, how ever since the first breaking out of the light of the gospel in our honourable nation of England, (which was the first of nations whom the Lord adorned therewith after the gross darkness of popery*** which had covered and overspread the Christian world), what wars and oppositions ever since, Satan hath raised, maintained and continued against the Saints, 1 from time to time, in one sort or other. Sometimes by bloody death and cruel torments; other whiles imprisonments, banishments and other hard usages; as being loath his kingdom should go down, the truth prevail and the churches of God revert to their ancient purity and recover their primitive order, liberty and beauty.

*** CCL Note: "popery" = Romanism, Roman Catholicism

Mr. Fox 6 recordeth how that besides those worthy martyrs and confessors which were burned in Queen Mary's days and otherwise tormented, "Many (both students and others) fled out of the land to the number of 800, and became several congregations, at Wesel, Frankfort, Basel, Emden, Markpurge, Strasburg and Geneva, etc." Amongst whom (but especially those at Frankfort) began that bitter war of contention and persecution about the ceremonies and service book, and other popish*** and antichristian stuff, the plague of England to this day, which are like the high places in Israel which the prophets cried out against, and were their ruin. Which the better part sought, according to the purity of the gospel, to root out and utterly to abandon. And the other part (under veiled presences) for their own ends and advancements sought as stiffly to continue, maintain and defend.

*** CCL Note: "popish" = Romish, Roman Catholic

The one side laboured to have the right worship of God and discipline of Christ established in the-church, according to the simplicity of the gospel, without the mixture of men's inventions; and to have and to be ruled by the laws of God's Word, dispensed in those offices, and by those officers of Pastors, Teachers and Elders, etc. according to the Scriptures. The other party, though under many colours and presences, endeavoured to have the episcopal dignity (after the popish manner) with their large power and jurisdiction still retained; with all those courts, canons and ceremonies, together with all such livings, revenues and subordinate officers, with other such means as formerly upheld their antichristian greatness and enabled them with lordly and tyrannous power to persecute the poor servants of God. This contention was so great, as neither the honour of God, the common persecution, nor the mediation of Mr. Calvin and other worthies of the Lord in those places, could prevail with those thus episcopally minded; but they proceeded by all means to disturb the peace of this poor persecuted church, even so far as to charge (very unjustly and ungodlily yet prelatelike) some of their chief opposers with rebellion and high treason against thc Emperor, and other such crimes.

And this contention died not with Queen Mary, nor was left beyond the seas. But at her death these people returning into England under gracious Queen Elizabeth, many of them being preferred to bishoprics and other promotions according to their aims and desires, that inveterate hatred against the holy discipline of Christ in His church 8 hath continued to this day.

*** CCL Note: Roman Catholic "Bloody" Queen Mary (who martyred hundreds of Christians) ruled 1553-1558; Protestant Queen Elizabeth, 1558-1603.

And many the like to stop the mouths of the more godly,... began to persecute all the zealous professors in the land (though they knew little what this discipline meant) both by word arid deed, if they would not submit to their ceremonies and become slaves to them and their popish trash, which have no ground in the Word of God, but are relics of that man of sin.... they opprobriously and most injuriously gave unto and imposed upon them that name of Puritans,... sin hath been countenanced; ignorance, profaneness and atheism increased, and the papists encouraged to hope again for a day. 10

*** CCL Note: "papists" = Romanists, Roman Catholics

How not only these base and beggarly ceremonies were unlawful, but also that the lordly and tyrannous power of the prelates ought not to be submitted unto; which thus, contrary to the freedom of the gospel, would load and burden men's consciences and by their compulsive power make a profane mixture of persons and things in the worship of God. And that their offices and callings, courts and canons, etc. were unlawful
and antichristian:
being such as have no warrant in the Word of God, but the same that were used in popery and still retained. Of which a famous author thus writeth in his Dutch commentaries, 13 at the coming of King James into England:

The new king (saith he) found there established the reformed religion according to the reformed religion of King Edward VI, retaining or keeping still the spiritual state of the bishops, etc. after the old manner, much varying and differing from the reformed churches in Scotland, France and the Netherlands, Ernden, Geneva, etc., whose reformation is cut, or shapen much nearer the first Christian churches, as it was used in the Apostles' time.

So many, therefore, of these professors as saw the evil of these things in these parts, and whose hearts the Lord had touched with heavenly zeal for His truth, they shook off this yoke of antichristian bondage, and as the Lord's free people joined themselves (by a covenant of the Lord) into a church estate, in the fellowship of the gospel, to walk in all His ways made known, or to be made known unto them, according to their best endeavours, whatsoever it should cost them, the Lord assisting them. 14 And that it cost them something this ensuing history will declare.

But after these things they could not bug continue in any peaceable condition, but were hunted and persecuted on every side, so as their former afflictions were but as fleabitings in comparison of these which now came upon them. For some were taken and clapped up in prison, others had their houses beset and watched night and day, and hardly escaped their hands; and the most were fain to flee and leave their houses and habitations, and the means of their livelihood.

Yet these and many other sharper things which afterward befell them, were no other than they looked for, and therefore were the better prepared to bear them by the assistance of God's grace and Spirit.

Yet seeing themselves thus molested, and that there was no hope of their continuance there, by a joint consent they resolved to go into the Low Countries, where they heard was freedom of religion for all men; as also how sundry from London and other parts of the land had been exiled and persecuted for the same cause, and were gone thither, and lived at Amsterdam and in other places of the land. So after they had continued together about a year, and kept their meetings every Sabbath in one place or other, exercising the worship of God amongst themselves, notwithstanding all the diligence and malice of their adversaries, they seeing they could no longer continue in that condition, they resolved to get over into Holland as they could. Which was in the year 1607 and 1608; of which more at large in the next chapter.

6. Acts and Mon{uments]: pag. 1587 edition 2 Bradford) His reference is to John Fox Acts and Monuments (familiarly known as the Book of Martyrs) p. 1587 of 2nd edition.


Chapter II
(into Holland)

Being thus constrained to leave their native soil and country, their lands and livings, and all their friends and familiar acquaintance, it was much; and thought marvellous by many. But to go into a country they knew not but by hearsay, where they must learn a new language and get their livings they knew not how, it being a dear place and subject to the miseries of war, it was by many thought an adventure almost desperate; a case intolerable and a misery worse than death. Especially seeing they were not acquainted with trades nor traffic (by which that country cloth subsist) but had only been used to a plain country life and the innocent trade of husbandry. But these things did not dismay them, though they did sometimes trouble them; for their desires were set on the ways of God and to enjoy His ordinances; but they rested on His providence, and knew Whom they had believed.

1. In England, as in other European nations at the time, a license was required to go abroad, and such licenses were commonly refused to Roman Catholics and dissenters.
This first attempt of the Scrooby congregation to flee was in the fall of 1607.

4. About 125 members of the Scrooby congregation "get over" to Amsterdam, including the two ministers Clyfton and Robinson, William Brewster and Bradford himself.


Chapter IV
(from Holland, 11 or 12 years later)

After they had lived in this city about some eleven or twelve years... and sundry of them were taken away by death and many others began to be well stricken in years (the grave mistress of Experience having taught them many things), those prudent governors with sundry of the sagest members began both deeply to
apprehend their present dangers and wisely to foresee the future and think of timely remedy. In the agitation of their thoughts, and much discourse of things hereabout, at length they began to incline to this conclusion of removal to some other place. Not out of any newfangledness or other such like giddy humor by which men are oftentimes transported to their great hurt and danger, but for sundry weighty and solid reasons, some of the chief of which I will here briefly touch.

And first, they saw and found by experience the hardness of the place and country to be such as few in comparison would come to them, and fewer that would bide it out and continue with them... Yea, some preferred and chose the prisons in England rather than this liberty in Holland with these afflictions.

Secondly. They saw that though the people generally bore all these difficulties very cheerfully and with a resolute courage, being in the best and strength of their years; yet old age began to steal on many of them; and their great and continual labours, with other crosses and sorrows, hastened it before the time.

Thirdly. As necessity was a taskmaster over them so they were forced to be such, not only to their servants but in a sort to their dearest children, the which as it did not a little wound the tender hearts of many a loving father and mother, so it produced likewise sundry sad and sorrowful effects. But that which was more lamentable, and of all sorrows most heavy to be borne, was that many of their children, by these occasions and the great licentiousness of youth in that country,5 and the manifold temptations of the place, were drawn away by evil examples into extravagant and dangerous courses, getting the reins off their necks and departing from their parents. ... So that they saw their posterity would be in danger to degenerate and be corrupted. 6

Lastly (and which was not least), a great hope and inward zeal they had of laying some good foundation, or at least to make some way "hereunto, for the propagating and advancing the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of the world; yea, though they should be but even as stepping-stones unto others for the performing of so great a work.

These and some other like reasons moved them to undertake this resolution of their removal; the which they afterward prosecuted with so great difficulties, as by the sequel will appear.

The place they had thoughts on was some of those vast and unpeopled countries of America, which are fruitful and fit for habitation, being devoid of all civil inhabitants, where there are only savage and brutish men which range up and down, little otherwise than the wild beasts of the same.

5 The Dutch, curiously enough, did not "remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy" in the strict sense that other Calvinists did. Sunday after church was a day of feasting and merrymaking, especially for children. This was one of the conditions that the English community found most obnoxious.

6 Both Nathaniel Morton in New Englands Memoriall p. 3, and Edward Winslow in Hypocrisie Unmasked p.89 stressed the fear of the Pilgrims lest their children lose their language and nationality. And their fear of the Dutch "melting pot" was well taken; for the offspring of those English Puritans who did not emigrate to New England or return to England became completely amalgamated with the local population by 1660.


Chapter IX

Being thus arrived in a good harbor, and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven 10 who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth, their proper element.

What could now sustain them but the Spirit of God and His grace? May not and ought not the children of these fathers rightly say: "Our fathers were Englishmen which came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this wilderness; but they cried unto the Lord, and He heard their voice and looked on their adversity," 13 etc.
"Let them therefore praise the Lord, because He is good: and His mercies endure forever." "Yea, let them which have been redeemed of the Lord, shew how He hath delivered them from the hand of the oppressor. When they wandered in the desert wilderness out of the way, and found no city to dwell in, both hungry and thirsty, their soul was overwhelmed in them. Let them confess before the Lord His loving kindness and His wonderful works before the sons of men." 14

7 Nov. 11/21, 1620. Thus the Mayflower's passage from Plymouth [ England to Cape Cod, Massachusetts ] took 65 days.

© 2000-2003 Copyright and All Rights Reserved by
Patricia Scott Deetz and Christopher Fennell


Related Reports:

William Bradford Web Site

A Brief History of the Pilgrims by Ron Collins


Thanksgiving, more than any other American holiday, points us directly to Christ and His providential hand in our national history. It points to the fact that this was a nation founded by Christians.
It points to the fact that our governmental system was built upon biblical principles. It points to the fact that the inalienable rights of men such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were given by God and not by governments. It points to the fact that individual liberty to know God and worship Him freely must be the
bedrock of good government. No other form of government has allowed common men individual liberty to pursue and complete the work God gave them to do.

Thanksgiving points to the fact that there is another King, one called Jesus! "Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."
II Cor 3:17

This is why the devil hates Thanksgiving! This is why he is busying himself revising American history in school textbooks. He is terrified that we might remember the manifold works of Christ in the establishment of America. The devil has pulled out all the stops to steal Thanksgiving from the American memory in the same way he killed those who translated the Bible into English. He must remove those witnesses and the evidences of God's hand at work in our history lest we remember who we and why we were brought to this continent.

The devil knows very well what will happen to him when we remember who we are and why we are here... He may bruise our heal but we will crush his head. Thanksgiving, that great day of remembrance, points to God and His manifold workings on man's behalf. It reminds us that we are beholden to Him and to no other. It reminds us that He is the sovereign of the cosmos and that apart from Him we can do nothing.

Flip Benham
Director, Operation Save America;
Operation Rescue National



Psalm 33:12; Proverb 14:34; Psalm 9:17; 2 Kings 24:1-4; Jeremiah 19:3-5; Psalm 106:37-42

"America repent" (music video)
"Contemporary Christian Artist: Tim Juillet"

"The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God."
Psalm 9:17, KJB

"But judgment shall return unto righteousness: and all the upright in heart shall follow it."
Psalm 94:15, KJB

The people of Iraq have far greater freedom to enshrine their national religion of Islam in the legal structure of their country than do Americans to honor Christianity and Biblical Law in the United States. Christianity was by far the predominant faith of the founding generations of America, from Jamestown in 1607 to the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and beyond, as the historical record clearly shows:

No King but King Jesus! (Yeshua Messiah)
Declarations and Evidences of Christian Faith in America’s Colonial Charters, State Constitutions, and other Historical Documents during over 375 Years of American History: 1606 to 1982

The Sixth President of the United States, John Quincy Adams (son of John Adams, the Second US President, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence), said: "The highest glory of the American Revolution was this; it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity." and "From the day of the Declaration... they (the American people) were bound by the laws of God, which they all, and by the laws of The Gospel, which they nearly all, acknowledge as the rules of their conduct." Tragically, today in 2008, American law has become exceedingly anti-Christian. Witness the government-protected murder of One Million pre-birth human beings each year ( ).

The Constitution of the United States should be amended as first proposed by the National Reform Association in 1864, with a Christian Amendment:

Confession of the Saviour (Messiah) as the Ruler of Nations, including America, by amending the Preamble to the United States Constitution
In 1864, the National Reform Association advocated amending the Preamble of the Constitution of the United States to read, in substance:
"We, the people of the United States, humbly acknowledging Almighty God as the source of all authority and power in civil government, the Lord Jesus Christ as the Ruler among the nations, his revealed will as the supreme law of the land, in order to constitute a Christian government, and in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the inalienable rights and the blessings of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to ourselves, our posterity, and all the people, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Explicitly Christian Politics: The Vision of the National Reform Association
"Since 1864 the National Reform Association has advocated an explicitly Christian approach to politics. In this book their vision of politics, based on the mediatorial reign of Jesus Christ over the nations, is explained for a new generation."

February 5, 1874, Wednesday

Further articles on the National Reform Association,_U.S.)

"... I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Matthew 16:18
Yeshua Messiah

Hallelu-Yah !

Steve Lefemine, pro-life missionary
dir., Columbia Christians for Life
PO Box 50358
Columbia, SC
(803) 794-6273
November 27, 2008

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