Quand il est apparu clairement que la famine devait également se poursuivre l’année suivante, si rien ne venait l’en empêcher, les colons commencèrent à réfléchir aux moyens de faire pousser plus de maïs qu’auparavant afin d’obtenir une meilleure récolte et de ne plus continuer à vivre dans la misère. Après de longs débats, […] Nous avons donc accordé à chaque famille une parcelle de terre. Cela a été un grand succès, chacun est devenu plus travailleur, de telle sorte que plus de maïs a été planté que les années précédentes. […] À partir de ce moment, les récoltes devinrent abondantes et, à la place de la famine, Dieu donna beaucoup aux colons ; la face des choses avait changé, pour le bonheur de beaucoup. William Bradford
Quand les pèlerins ont d’abord fondé la colonie de Plymouth, ils ont organisé leur agriculture selon un principe de collectivisation des ressources. L’objectif était de tout partager de manière égale, aussi bien le travail que la production. Presque tous ont souffert de la faim. Pourquoi ? Quand des personnes peuvent obtenir la même chose avec peu d’efforts ou avec beaucoup, la plupart ne fourniront que de faibles efforts. Les colons de Plymouth feignaient la maladie plutôt que de travailler à l’accroissement de la propriété commune. Certains volèrent même, en dépit de leurs convictions puritaines. La production totale était trop faible pour l’ensemble de la population, et il en résulta la famine. (…) Cela dura deux ans. John Stossel
En 1623, la faiblesse des technologies accessibles aux cultivateurs de nouvelle Angleterre condamnait la collectivisation à la faillite rapide, ce qui força tout naturellement l’Amérique à faire le choix d’une société fondée sur la liberté, l’entreprise et la propriété privées. A l’opposé, au XXème siècle, lorsque les expériences collectivistes furent imposées à de nombreuses populations, les technologies accessibles à ces régimes, malgré le retard d’investissement que les pays communistes accumulaient au fil du temps, leur permirent d’éviter les famines extrêmes, sauf, naturellement, lorsque les dirigeants communistes s’en servirent comme d’une arme de répression de la paysannerie insoumise. Le communisme mit donc bien plus longtemps à s’effondrer, car les fragments de technologies péniblement copiés à l’ouest permettaient aux régimes communistes de reculer le « seuil de douleur » qui aurait rendu les soulèvements massifs inévitables. Les libéraux ne doivent donc pas croire que la bête immonde est morte à cause de ses échecs et crimes du passé : plus le progrès technologique – qui nait de la compétition des entreprises dans un monde libéral – ira croissant, plus les gens pourront avoir l’impression que le collectivisme, rampant ou déclaré, n’est pas un facteur de misère insurmontable. Si nous venions à négliger de combattre les idées communistes avec détermination, si la mémoire du passé se brouillait à l’excès, alors nous serions, plus que les générations passées, vulnérables face à de nouvelles tentatives d’asservissement. Vincent Benard
Wee ordaine that the day of our ship’s arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be celebrated yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God. Captain John Woodliffe (proclamation, Berkeley Plantation, Virginia, Dec. 4, 1619)
Massachussets contre Virginie, Pèlerins contre Pocahontas. Bradford contre Woodliffe …
Attention, un Thanksgiving peut en cacher un autre!
Qui nous valent aujourd’hui dans toute l’Amérique les festivités que l’on sait …
Dont à nouveau un somptueux match de football américain qui vit d’autres survivants et Saints autoproclamés eux aussi arracher in extremis le succès à une défaite quasi assurée contre America’s team elle-même …
Que, plus de 2 ans avant le rocher de Plymouth, cette revendication virginienne… du premier Thanksgiving?
November 25, 2010
Since many Northern Virginians are not natives to the state and many of our readers are fairly new to the area each year, we think it annually appropriate to let them know that some folks think Thanksgiving Day began in the Old Dominion, not on some big rock in New England.
The story that most children learn explains that the first Thanksgiving occurred in Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts when, after a hard winter and a good harvest, Gov. William Bradford issued a proclamation of thanks in the fall of 1621.
His announcement sparked a three-day celebration during which the citizens and their native guests feasted on wild turkey and other fixings. Special days set aside to give thanks to the Almighty continued rather haphazardly until President George Washington (a Virginian, it should be noted) named a national day in 1798.
Sarah hale, the editor of a Boston Women’s magazine, nagged President Abraham Lincoln into naming it a formal holiday in 1863.
Almost 80 years later, Congress finally got into the act, as it were, and adopted a resolution making it official in 1941.
Virginians’ claim to the first Thanksgiving comes from an event two whole years before Gov. Bradford’s constituents gathered.
According to several reports, the REAL first Thanksgiving took place on Dec. 4, 1619, when Captain John Woodlief led the newly arrived English colonists off his ship and onto a hill by the James River. He told them to drop to their knees and pray — thanking God for a safe arrival. Thirty-eight men from Berkeley Parish in England reportedly vowed:
« Wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrivall at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually keept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God. »
If you travel to Berkely Plantation in Charles City, Va., you will find these words etched in brick.
Now, some naysayers might point out that these guys basically just got off a boat, thanked God and moved on, so the Plymouth contingent should indeed get credit for the first celebration. There is no indication that the new Virginians whooped it up in a three-day blowout with the whole neighborhood.
However, one historical account does mention that the Pilgrims were actually headed to Virginia, but lost their way and drifted north. That could mean the first Thanksgiving party was INTENDED for Virginia, even if it did end up elsewhere.
We cling loyally to the idea that Captain Woodlief was way ahead of Gov. Bradford, but we know it really doesn’t matter today. It is more important to join the millions of those who came after and take time to recognize our many blessings of family, friends and liberty and to thank the One responsible.
November 26, 1998
It is altogether fitting and proper to conclude that the first Thanksgiving was held here.
Now begins the season for giving thanks — something that more of us could profit from doing more often. As an inevitable consequence, this also is the season for refueling the debate about where the first Thanksgiving occurred.
For centuries the New England version went practically unchallenged. Many children know the general story, even in this contemporary culture that so frequently reviles its past.
In 1621, at Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts, the Pilgrims held a harvest festival. The colonists were ever so thankful for their safe passage, for their survival of that first awful winter, and for the good offices of the remarkable Indians — Samoset and Squanto.
As William Bradford, governor of the colony, described it: « For summer being done, all things [stood] upon them with a weatherbeaten face, and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage view. » They were understandably thankful.
But at the risk of sounding chauvinistic, the truth is that the right to claim firstness, like so many other « firsts » attributed to New England, probably belongs to Virginia. Indeed, it is altogether fitting and proper to conclude that the first Thanksgiving was held here.
The Virginia version is not widely known — particularly outside the South.
ON SEPTEMBER 16, 1619, a group of 38 English colonists headed by Captain John Woodlief sailed from England aboard the Margaret. They landed at Berkeley Hundred 10 weeks later. The settlers were sent by the London Company; it owned thousands of acres in the area, and settled and supported Berkeley Plantation.
Exhibit A in the Virginia claim to firstness is this sentence in the company’s instructions to the settlers — instructions to be opened upon reaching Virginia:
We ordaine that the day of our ships arrivall at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.
These settlers held that Thanksgiving at Berkeley Hundred on December 4, 1619 — a year before the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth. Surely Woodlief and his followers were equally as grateful as the Pilgrims — equally schooled in adversity, equally determined to renew themselves with roots in the land. Surely they were equally devout and equally thankful. To suggest that they were disobedient and did not give thanks requires a superabundance of credulity and moral pretension.
But lest we forget, there were numerous trips to Virginia prior to Woodlief’s: the Raleigh expeditions of the 1580s, and the London Company’s initial expeditions — beginning with the one under Christopher Newport that founded Jamestown in 1607.
The London Company’s charter of May 23, 1609, was written principally by Sir Edward Sandys with the concurrence of Sir Francis Bacon, the early philosopher of natural right. It was probably the first document to say that government derives its authority from the consent of the governed. It was the closest thing to a constitution and bill of rights that colonists in Virginia had for three years, until refined in 1612. The Sandys charter was written 11 years before the first Pilgrim reached Plymouth.
On November 18, 1618, the London Company issued instructions to Sir George Yeardley upon his appointment as Governor of Virginia; those instructions provided for a liberal form of government. At Jamestown, in 1619, Yeardley convened the first legislative assembly in the New World. That was a year before the landing at Plymouth.
THOSE WERE firsts of considerable magnitude. They, and the events in Virginia during the 35 years prior to the Plymouth landing, tell us a good deal about the Virginia colonists.
They were God-fearing people. Just about every one of their existing documents speaks of their duties and obligations to a God almost always described as « almighty. »
These also were people of discipline and self-will. Contrary to so many of us today, they were people determined not to tear down the old to make way for the ersatz old. They retained their umbilical ties to the past, as Virginians — inhabitants of the most English of states — tend to do still. Their past was England, and central to England were the church and God.
Even without the instructions to Woodlief, is it not logical to assume that the colonists in Virginia regularly prayed and gave thanks prior to 1621? Do we not have to overlook too much to believe they did not? In 1962, the evidence proved overwhelming to Harvard historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., then an adviser to President John Kennedy. In December of that year he repented of « an unconquerable New England bias » on the question, and acknowledged that Virginia’s claim is « quite right. » But despite the evidence, the bias persists.
Robert “Rocky » Cahill
November 19, 2010
« Wee ordaine that the day of our ship’s arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be celebrated yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God. » This is a proclamation read Dec. 4, 1619 by Captain John Woodcliffe of the ship Margaret when he, his crew and some 38 colonists landed at what would become Berkeley Plantation along the James River in the future commonwealth of Virginia.
The folks at Berkeley, upon arriving, came ashore and held a worship service, with thankful prayers for a safe passage from England. The captain then read the above proclamation, which the company that owned and financed the expedition had sent along to be read on the day of landing. This was a year and 17 days before the Pilgrims arrived. Apparently the Pilgrims had a better public relations agent.
Thursday, Nov. 25, we will celebrate Thanksgiving. It is a favorite holiday for many of us. On this day, most of us will gather together with family, eat far more than we should, watch football on TV and probably take a long food-induced nap.
Most Americans have always been taught that the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock and established the colony of Massachusetts originated this holiday. But then we were also taught that they always wore black and white clothing, wore funny hats and had huge buckles on their belts and shoes. Well, friends and neighbors, it ain’t necessarily so.
Black and white clothes were reserved for Sunday’s religious services. The Pilgrim clothing was likely red and other colors common in clothing in their day. Metals were too precious to use for decorative buckles. Any such items were more likely to have been from wood or even carved from bone. I have no idea where the funny looking hats came from.
The pilgrims came because of persecution for their religious differences with the Church of England, which was the official church of the English monarchy. Separatists as they were called, were not only fined for not attending services of the official church, they had even had leaders executed over their different beliefs.
The majority of them first migrated to Holland where they were tolerated, then later decided to try life in the New World. According to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia — en.wikipedia.org, younger, stronger members of the religious group were to sail first, allowing the older folks to get their financial affairs in order and to allow the younger folks to get the settlement started and the rougher work done.
This group set sail in July 1620 on two ships, the Speedwell and the Mayflower, but the Speedwell started taking on water so they stopped for repairs. They departed again and the Speedwell still had trouble so some of its passengers joined the folks on the Mayflower and sailed on. Later it would come to light that some crew members of the Speedwell were actually sabotaging the ship. The crew had signed year-long contracts for the voyage, and some were not happy about the length of time for the voyage.
Eventually, 102 people set out on in early September. About halfway they ran into bad weather, enough so that a main beam of the Mayflower cracked and the group considered turning back, but were able to make temporary repairs and sailed on. Along the way, two people, a crew member and a passenger would die. Also a child named Oceanus was born.
The Pilgrims first sighted land in mid-November. However, due to rough seas and damage to their landing craft, it would be mid-December before they actually landed. Small parties did wade ashore. In these early explorations, the settlers discovered abandoned buildings, most built by Native Americans, some apparently by Europeans, but the group did not find any inhabitants.
They did find mounds that would turn out to be burial mounds of the Native Americans. In exploring these, they discovered bodies of deceased natives. They also discovered pallets of supplies such as corn, beans and implements.
These not only replenished their depleted food supplies, but they also supplied seed for planting the following spring. By December most of the passengers and crew had become ill with a fever and coughing. Others suffered scurvy. During the first winter nearly half of the group died.
It would be some time before the colonists and natives had much contact. This was due in part to earlier visits by English ships fishing the rich waters of the area. During these early trips a Captain Thomas Hunt had kidnapped 27 natives, taking them back to Europe to sell as slaves. Fortunately, one of these natives, Squanto, would make his way back to his homeland. He eventually befriended the Pilgrims. It was mainly through his efforts that they learned to survive in America.
In 1621, after a bountiful harvest, the Pilgrims held a harvest festival, inviting their native neighbors. There were approximately 50 colonists and 90 natives attending. The feast ran for three days. The menu apparently contained wild turkeys, many types of waterfowl, fish and venison from deer the natives brought as their contribution to the party. Although they held a bigger event in 1623, many historians consider the 1621 feast as the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving (over a year after the one held in Virginia.)
Both these may now be in question however. A 2007 story in USA Today told about a fifth-grade teacher in Florida who had published a children’s book. In it she covered research done by Michael Gannon, a retired history professor and researcher from the University of Florida. Gannon wrote about Pedro Menendes de Aviles, a Spanish explorer. On Sept. 8, 1565, de Aviles landed in St. Augustine. The explorer celebrated a feast of thanksgiving with Timucua Indians. Their meal was bean soup. This was 56 years before the Pilgrims, 55 before the one in Virginia. (I’d have to say there’s not much to celebrate if you’re so hungry you consider bean soup a feast.)
Regardless of which feast you consider the first, Thursday we here in this region will celebrate Thanksgiving. In many ways it is still similar to the early days of our history. Many area residents like to deer hunt during this time. Traditionally, area farm families often kill hogs at this time. Most families gather for a big meal and a chance to visit with relatives they don’t always see very often.
Please remember not every family in the area has the wherewithal to celebrate with a huge feast. Area food banks are pressed heavily just to provide basic food for many families who, without this help would have nothing at all.
Be as generous as you can during this time. Let us forego that extra pumpkin pie, cut back on the size of the turkey or ham, let one dessert be enough, then donate the savings to area charities so that all our folks here in southwestern Virginia may have enough to eat. I can’t think of a better way to show thanks for the fact that most of us will have far more to eat than we actually should than by sharing with those less fortunate.
May this Thanksgiving find your home filled with the aroma of good food cooking, the sounds of family gathering and the warmth of friends visiting. May you all be blessed on this Thanksgiving Day.
One final note. Though it may be a day late when this is published, happy birthday to my youngest brother. Ron. whose birthday is Nov. 19. It is always easy for me to remember as he was born on the birthday of our Grandmother Bessie Smith.
A freelance journalist, Robert “Rocky” Cahill writes regularly for the News & Messenger. His Possum Philosophy column appears in each Saturday edition.
November 25, 2009
Forget cranberry sauce, Plymouth Rock, and pilgrims. Think olives, garbanzo beans, and Spanish soldiers and sailors and settlers. The first Thanksgiving in our country took place in September 1565, when famed Spanish mariner Pedro Menéndez de Avilés along with 800 Spanish settlers celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving to commemorate the successful sea voyage and founding of the town of St. Augustine, which would go on to be the first and longest-lasting port within the present-day United States. Occurring as it did so soon after trans-Atlantic landfall, this was a maritime Thanksgiving, with sailor’s fare making up the bulk of the feast, probably along with native Timucuan food, which would likely have included oysters and fish. The local St. Augustine Timucua were known by the Spanish as the « Agua Salada, » or Salt Water, Timucua, a testament to the maritime culture that existed in St. Augustine even prior to European colonization. As is often the norm, our country’s history books and school rooms tend to forget our Spanish colonial and maritime roots, and we have ended up celebrating as our national holiday the Thanksgiving of the pilgrims which occurred some 56 years after St. Augustine’s first Thanksgiving.
Famed historian of Florida history Michael Gannon was dubbed « the Grinch Who Stole Thanksgiving » by New England news media when, in 1985, he was interviewed live via satellite by WBZ-TV in Boston and informed their viewers that the first Thanksgiving was in Florida, not Massachusetts. He went on to tell them, in a quote made famous by countless St. Augustinian politicians, that « by the time the Pilgrims came to Plymouth, St. Augustine was up for urban renewal. »
Our family here at the St. Augustine Lighthouse is preparing to close the site for tomorrow, and we all wish you and your families the best during this holiday. Before I leave you to it, I thought I’d include the complete essay written in 2002 by Dr. Gannon and published in the magazine St. Augustine Catholic (Volume XII, Issue 2, p. 8-9). Its a great summary of the origins of our national holiday with plenty of juicy historical details. Enjoy your traditional Thanksgiving meals of salt pork, garlic, and garbonzo bean soup!
We Gather Together…
Michael Gannon, Ph.D.
When on September 8, 1565 Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and his 800 Spanish settlers founded the settlement of St. Augustine in La Florida, the landing party celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving, and, afterward, Menéndez laid out a meal to which he invited as guests the native Seloy tribe who occupied the site.
The celebrant of the Mass was St. Augustine’s first pastor, Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales, and the feast day in the church calendar was that of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. What exactly the Seloy natives thought of those strange liturgical proceedings we do not know, except that, in his personal chronicle, Father Lopez wrote that « the Indians imitated all they saw done. »
What was the meal that followed? Again we do not know. But, from our knowledge of what the Spaniards had on board their five ships, we can surmise that it was cocido, a stew made from salted pork and garbanzo beans, laced with garlic seasoning, and accompanied by hard sea biscuits and red wine. If it happened that the Seloy contributed to the meal from their own food stores, fresh or smoked, then the menu could have included as well: turkey, venison, and gopher tortoise; seafood such as mullet, drum, and sea catfish; maize (corn), beans and squash.
What is important historically about that liturgy and meal was stated by me in a 1965 book entitled The Cross in the Sand: « It was the first community act of religion and thanksgiving in the first permanent [European] settlement in the land. » The key word in that sentence was « permanent. » Numerous thanksgivings for a safe voyage and landing had been made before in Florida, by such explorers as Juan Ponce de León, in 1513 and 1521, Pánfilo de Narváez in 1528, Hernando de Soto in 1529, Father Luis Cáncer de Barbastro in 1549, and Tristán de Luna in 1559. Indeed French Calvinists (Huguenots) who came to the St. Johns River with Jean Ribault in 1562 and René de Laudonnière in 1564 similarly offered prayers of thanksgiving for their safe arrivals. But all of those ventures, Catholic and Calvinist, failed to put down permanent roots.
St. Augustine’s ceremonies were important historically in that they took place in what would develop into a permanently occupied European city, North America’s first. They were important culturally as well in that the religious observance was accompanied by a communal meal, to which Spaniards and natives alike were invited. The thanksgiving at St. Augustine, celebrated 56 years before the Puritan-Pilgrim thanksgiving at Plymouth Plantation (Massachusetts), did not, however, become the origin of a national annual tradition, as Plymouth would. The reason is that, as the maxim holds, it is the victors who write the histories.
During the 18th and 19th centuries British forces won out over those of Spain and France for mastery over the continent. Thus, British observances, such as the annual reenactment of the Pilgrims’ harvest festival in 1621, became a national practice and holiday in the new United States, and over time obliterated knowledge of the prior Spanish experiences in Florida, particularly at St. Augustine. Indeed, as the Pilgrims’ legend grew, people of Anglo-American descent in New England came to believe that Plymouth was the first European settlement in the country and that no other Europeans were here before the arrival of the Mayflower – beliefs that are still widespread in that region.
In recent years, Jamestown, Virginia has enjoyed some success in persuading its Anglo-American cousins in Plymouth that it was founded in 1607, thirteen years before the Pilgrims’ arrival, and that there were regular ship schedules from England to Jamestown before the Mayflower’s voyage of 1620. Furthermore, Berkeley Plantation near Charles City, Virginia, has convincingly demonstrated that it conducted a thanksgiving ceremony on December 4, 1619, nearly two years before the festival at Plymouth. Thought to have been on Berkeley’s menu were oysters, shad, rockfish, and perch.
Along the old Spanish borderlands provinces from Florida to California an occasional voice is heard asserting that this site or that was the first permanent Spanish settlement in the United States – a claim often made in Santa Fe, New Mexico which was founded in 1610 – or that it was the place where the first thanksgiving took place. An example of the latter claim appeared last year in the New York Times, which, while recounting the colonizing expedition of Juan de Oñate from Mexico City into what became New Mexico, stated that celebrations of Oñate’s party in 1598 « are considered [the Times did not say by whom] the United States’ first Thanksgiving. »
The historical fact remains that St. Augustine’s thanksgiving not only came earlier; it was the first to take place in a permanent settlement. The Ancient City deserves national notice for that distinction.
Perhaps most of New England is now willing to concede as much, though that was not the case in November 1985, when an Associated Press reporter built a short Thanksgiving Day story around my aforesaid sentence of 20 years before in The Cross in the Sand. When his story appeared in Boston and other papers, New England went into shock. WBZ-TV in Boston interviewed me live by satellite for its 6:00 p.m. regional news program.
The newsman told me that all of Massachusetts was « freaked out, » and that, as he spoke, « the Selectmen of Plymouth are holding an emergency meeting to contend with this new information that there were Spaniards in Florida before there were Englishmen in Massachusetts. »
I replied, « Fine. And you can tell them for me that, by the time the Pilgrims came to Plymouth, St. Augustine was up for urban renewal. »
The somewhat rattled chairman of the Selectmen was quoted as saying: « I hate to take the wind out of the professor’s sails, but there were no turkeys running around in Florida in the 1500s. But there may be a few loose ones down there now at the University of Florida. » So there!
Within a few days of the tempest a reporter from the Boston Globe called to tell me that throughout Massachusetts I had become known as « The Grinch Who Stole Thanksgiving. »
Well, let’s hope that everyone up north has settled down now.
And let’s enjoy all our Thanksgivings whenever and wherever they first began.
Dr. Michael V. Gannon is a Distinguished Service Professor of History at the University of Florida. He has had a long interest in the early Spanish missions of Florida about which he has written extensively. Two of his books, Rebel Bishop (1964) and The Cross in the Sand (1965) treat of the early history of this state.
In 1990, Juan Carlos I, King of Spain, conferred on Dr. Gannon the highest academic honor of that nation, Knight Commander of the Order of Isabel la Católica.