The Article: When Pilgrims Privatized America by Andro Linklater in Bloomberg.
The Text: The 102 Pilgrims who sailed to the New World in 1620 were destined to be communists. Under the terms of their agreement with the Plymouth company, they were to work communally for the first seven years, ‘‘during which time, all profits & benefits that are got by trade, traffick, trucking, working, fishing or any other means … remaine still in ye comone stock.’’ After that time the proceeds would be shared with the investors in England.
The arrangement was particularly welcome to the tightly knit core of migrants united by the common experience of persecution by the Church of England. Their chief spokesman, Robert Cushman, condemned personal greed as ungodly, and pointed to the better example of the early Christian societies where property had been held ‘‘in common.’’
Arriving late in the year, they spent most of the first bitter winter living aboard ship, but when the 53 hardy souls who survived the disease that raged through the Mayflower dragged their weary bodies onshore in the springtime, the hard business of farming for the common good aroused little enthusiasm. ‘‘The young men, that were most able and fit for labour and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense,’’ William Bradford, their future governor, wrote. Only repeated whipping kept them at work.