From first Thanksgivings came American principles

I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. I have much to be thankful for and I hope that you do too. This time of year reminds me of the song written by Irving Berlin that debuted in the 1954 film “White Christmas” called “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep).” As the song goes – “When I’m worried and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep. And I fall asleep counting my blessings.”

It’s also more effective. According to a British study, counting sheep doesn’t even work. The study found that counting sheep is so boring that it raises anxiety levels, actually delaying sleep. Think of something relaxing instead. Counting blessings works much better.

While every day should be a day of thanksgiving, in today’s world it is easy to let negativity creep into our everyday psyche. Thanksgiving gives us the opportunity to refocus on the positive. Its roots are found in 16th-century English traditions; prayer devoted to the Almighty to give thanks for the fruits of the harvest. Those traditions were brought to the new world by the Pilgrims. According to Wikipedia, “in the United States, the modern Thanksgiving is commonly, but not universally, traced to a poorly documented 1621 celebration at Plymouth … [and] was prompted by a good harvest.”

The Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620. Although the harvest of 1621 apparently was good, subsequent harvests evidently were not. The late Leonard Read, who founded the Foundation for Economic Education, gave a speech in 1961 called “The Essence of Americanism.” In it, Read contends that the experiences of the Pilgrims planted the seeds that eventually blossomed into “the real American revolution.”

According to Read, “that little colony [at Plymouth Rock] began its career in a condition of pure and unadulterated communism.” It didn’t matter how much an individual produced, everything wound up in a common warehouse “under authority” to be distributed based on the “the authority’s idea of need” – by force. Said Read, “[it was] the practice of a principle held up by Karl Marx two centuries later.”

Read relates that the colonists changed course because “the members of the Pilgrim colony were starving and dying.” During the third winter. Governor Bradford got together with the remaining Pilgrims and it was decided to try a different approach. Said Read: That was, said Read, “to drop the practice of ‘from each according to ability, to each according to need,” and to try the idea of “to each according to merit.”

Read asserts that by doing so Governor Bradford “enunciated the private property principle as clearly and succinctly as any economist ever had,” that each individual has a right to the fruits of his own labor. In subsequent years, Bradford recorded that “Any generall wante or famine hath not been amongst them since to this day.”

Read states: “It was by reason of the practice of this private property principle that there began in this country an era of growth and development which sooner or later had to lead to revolutionary political ideas.” It led to what Read referred to as the Essence of Americanism, which he defines as the words that appear in the Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Speaking more than 50 years ago, Read said that “the American people are becoming more and more afraid of, and are running from, their own revolution.” Today, while our politicians are still running, more and more Americans seem to have stopped running. Hopefully, we will act as the Pilgrims did nearly four centuries ago.

The origins of the Thanksgiving holiday derive from prayer – prayer to give thanks to our Creator for the harvest. After its beginnings at Plymouth, it became more formalized as it was adopted by the individual colonies and then states. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln established a precedent, making it a national holiday by proclamation. In 1941, federal legislation declared Thanksgiving to be the fourth Thursday of November.

This Thanksgiving I am going to thank my Creator for the blessings that are the Essence of Americanism. No matter how far we as Americans run, we cannot hide from the fact that Americanism is based on spiritual and moral principles, and that collectivism, under whatever name, is based on materialism. When I go to sleep Thanksgiving night, digesting turkey and thoughts of family, I will count my blessings instead of sheep.

On the lighter side, I have a friend that once quipped that we count sheep on Election Day. Happy Thanksgiving Day and all blessings to you.

— Elliot Simon writes from

Harpers Ferry


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