When we hear talk about Pilgrims and Plymouth Rock, it often conjures up images of Thanksgiving, cornucopias, and funny hats with buckles. We seldom think about the hardships they endured in order to establish their colony in the new world. Less so, do we consider their plight as it relates to the modern day prepper.
Obviously, the circumstances of the Pilgrim’s exodus are a bit different from our modern day bug out scenario. Separatists seeking to start anew from the Church of England, left a place they deemed no longer hospitable to their cause.
Definitively, this is not an end of the world, apocalyptic event. But in some ways, it would still be similar to leaving one’s home during a SHTF scenario to relocate to a safer and more suitable place. (Minus the transatlantic crossing, of course.)
Despite the differences, there are a few things we can learn about surviving in a newly created settlement. Chief among these are the way we would structure such a society.
Starting from Scratch
After 2 months aboard the Mayflower, the 102 voyagers landed in modern day Massachusetts. Successfully on shore, they were now faced with the arduous task of establishing their colony.
Fortunately, along with the Pilgrims, there were a good number of tradesmen, builders and farmers that ventured to the new world. Some of whom already had some experience in the New World from living in Jamestown.
This was an excellent strategic move by the Separatists to help ensure they had the right personnel to rebuild their new society. With the combined knowledge and skills of the selected group, the colony had everything it needed to thrive.
Why did the colony almost fail?
It is a commonly held belief that the starvation they faced in Plymouth was due to a lack of knowledge and experience in farming. Additionally, many believe that it was the Native Americans who came to the colony’s rescue. While there may be a bit of truth to this, we can read from William Bradley’s personal diary as to the primary cause of the disaster.
According to his writing, we learned that it was actually the communal structure that was to blame. In developing the Mayflower Compact, the Pilgrims set out to create a collectivist society. Bradford notes that the once hardworking people, slowly became more and more lazy in regards to procuring their food. Even to the point of leaving crops to rot in the field.
As a solution, a more capitalist approach was put in place. It was decided that “they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land”. Bradford also noted that “this had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.”
What we can learn from their mistakes
In contemplating the structure of our own post-apocalyptic communities we must remember what history has taught us. The notion of collectivism can be quite tempting. Having everyone pitch in and work together so that they can all share in the spoils, sounds great on paper. But human nature being such as it is will always result in the eventual collapse of this system.
John Stossel says it best that “when people can get the same return with less effort, most people make less effort.”
Or in the immortal words of Nick Offerman, “paddle your own canoe”.