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Mayflower, Day by Day - Wednesday, 17 November 1621

17 Nov 2021 3:39 AM | Soule (Administrator)

Division of Property (part two)

Bradford believed that the incentive of property was important. Communal ownership of property, he later wrote, had produced confusion and discontent and had not given the stimulus necessary for the physical improvement of the colony. At Plymouth some men had not exerted themselves because tangible evidence was lacking that their efforts in any way contributed directly to their personal well-being: "The experience that was had in the commone course, . . . may well evince they [the] vanitie of that conceite of Platos and other ancients, applauded by some of later times: that the taking away of propertie and bringing in communitie into a comonewealth, would make them happy and florishing; as if they were wiser than God." Bradford continued: "For the yong men that were most able and fitte for labour and service did repine that they should spend their time and streingth to worke for other mens wives and children with out any recompence." A system which permitted each man to work for himself, the Governor believed, proved more satisfactory for the individual and for the plantation; "for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corne was planted than other waise would have bene by any means the Gov[erno]r or any other could use and saved him a great deall of trouble and gave farr better content."  Bradford wrote long before anyone was interested in defending the free enterprise system. Moreover, "communism" in early Plymouth was not communism at all, but an extreme form of exploitive capitalism in which all the fruits of men's labor were shipped across the seas and from which there seemed little tangible benefit. In the sense that communal economic patterns had existed at Plymouth, Governor Bradford thought they had not been a success.

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