From The Naked Communist by W. Cleon Skousen

One of the forgotten lessons of U.S. history is the fact that the American founding fathers tried Communism before they tried capitalistic free enterprise.

In 1620 when the Pilgrim Fathers landed at Plymouth, they had already determined to establish a Communist colony. In many ways this communal society was set up under the most favorable circumstances. First of all, they were isolated from outside help and were desperately motivated to make the plan work in order to survive. Secondly, they had a select group of religious men and women who enjoyed a cooperative, fraternal feeling toward one another. The Pilgrims launched their Communist community with the most hopeful expectations. Governor William Bradford has left us a remarkable account of what happened. The Governor reports:

"This community … was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For the young men that were most able and fit for labor and senice did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense. The strong … had no more in division of victuals and clothes than he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought an injustice … and for men’s wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc, they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many husbands well brook it." (Note that even in a Christian brotherhood, Communism cannot be practiced without setting up a dictatorship.)

But the colonists would have continued to endure communism if it had only been productive. The thing which worried Governor Bradford was the fact that the total amount of production under this communal arrangement was so low that the colonists were faced with starvation. Therefore, he says:

"At length, after much debate … the governor gave way that they should set corn every man for his own purpose, and in that regard trust to themselves … and so assigned to every family a parcel of land according to the proportion of their number."

Once a family was given land and corn they had to plant, cultivate and harvest it or suffer the consequences. The Governor wanted the people to continue living together as a society of friends but communal production was to be replaced by private, free enterprise production. After one year the Governor was able to say:

"This had very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so that much more com was planted than otherwise would have been…. The women now went willing into the fields, and took their little ones with them to set corn, which before would allege weakness and inability; who to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression."

The Pilgrim Fathers had discovered the great human secret that a man will compel himself to go ever so much farther than he will permit anyone else to compel him to go. As Governor Bradford thought about their efforts to live in a Communist society, he wrote down this conclusion:

"The experience that was had in this common cause and condition, tried sundrie years, and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanity of that conceit of Plato and other ancients – applauded by some in later times – that the taking away of property, and bringing it into a commonwealth, would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God ."

It becomes apparent that Governor Bradford concluded that Communism is not only inefficient but that it is unnatural and in violation of the laws of God. This may raise a question in the minds of some students who have heard that Communism provides the most ideal means of practicing the basic principles of Christianity. Elsewhere, we have considered the historical background of this problem.

It is interesting that after the pilgrim fathers tried communism they abandoned it in favor of a free enterprise type of capitalism which, over the centuries, has become more highly developed in the united states than in any other nation. In its earliest stages this system was described as a heartless, selfish institution, but economists have pointed out that after a slow and painful evolution it has finally developed into a social-economic tool which has thus far produced more wealth and distributed it more uniformly among the people of this land than any system modern men have tried.  The evolutionary process of further improving and further adapting capitalism to the needs of a highly industrialized society is still going on.