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Pilgrims' Alliance - A Lesson For Today

Updated on November 7, 2012

Brave Pilgrims 391 Years Ago Taught Us A Lesson For Today

The rocky New Englad coast which first greeted the Pilgrims.
The rocky New Englad coast which first greeted the Pilgrims. | Source

What were the Pilgrims most thankful for that first Thanksgiving?

Many today say they were thankful for a good harvest, for their freedom to worship . or for even surviving in this new land.

All of those reasons for being thankful were valid ones, but what led up to that first Thanksgiving paints an even clearer picture, and gives us a lesson to learn from.

That first Thanksgiving found the Pilgrims at peace with their Indian neighbors, but it was a peace they had won by an act of courage.

Chief Massasoit and the Pilgrims had signed a treaty by which each side bound itself to refrain from injuring the other, in the event of war to render aid, and in case of conference to come unarmed to the interview. The treaty was to last for more than half a century, but its first test came in August, prior to their feast of Thanksgiving.

A rumor had reached the Pilgrims that Massasoit had been captured by Corbitant, the chief of the Pocassets, who was said to be denouncing Massasoit's treaty and good relations with the Pilgrims. To check the rumor, the Pilgrims sent two Indian friends, Squanto and Hobomok. Corbitant captured them, but while he was holding a knife at Squanto's throat and threatening this Pilgrim interpreter's life, Hobomok managed to escape and reach Plymouth with news of Squanto's captivity.

The Pilgrims, despite being outnumbered, decided in a council of war that a timid policy would be dangerous, and that to neglect their ally Massasoit, would discourage other Indians from making alliances with them. Ten men, led by Miles Standish, left the following day with orders that, if Squanto had been killed, they should behead Corbitant. They surrounded the indian's house at midnight and called to Corbitant, ordering through Hobomok, that no one was to leave the house until it had been searched.

Corbitant was away from the house. Squanto was found alive, and the small band of Pilgrims left a message for Corbitant to the effect that if Corbitant continued his hostile course, forming conspiracies against Massasoit, their friend, or offering violence to their friends or his, no place would be safe for Corbitant.

Their prompt defense of their ally secured other allies. Before Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims received requests from eight other tribal chiefs to enter into common alliances, five of them signing formal documents acknowledging themselves as the loyal subjects of King James.

In risking the best 20 percent of their force for an ally, the Pilgrims increased the number of neighboring tribes allied to them by 500 percent.

We are still the "land of the Pilgrim's pride," but there is also this legacy of the lesson that to be the "land of the free" we must also be "the home of the brave." To have the respect we value, we must understand this other Thanksgiving lesson: if we would have friends, we must be friends; if we would ourselves be secure, we must be willing to risk our own security for the well-being of those to whom we have pledged our willingness to make such sacrifices. Only then do we have the right to expect that their sacrifices for us will be made promptly and willingly.

Growing up as a boy in America, I recall a deep sense of pride that the philosophy of "one for all and all for one" seemed alive and well at that time. It made America the proud and special country we had inherited from these same Pilgrims.

If the Pilgrims, who numbered less than 50 souls when they sent 10 able-bodied men to keep their part of America's first treaty, could take such risks for an ally rather than pursue some less risky course of action, what should we as a nation be prepared to do from our position of enormous strength to keep our commitment that the purpose of government is to secure the rights of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" to all men?

The smallest unit of our military is the squad, numbering about 10 able-bodied men and women. Just such a "squad" of Pilgrims taught us all a lesson of loyalty and bravery nearly 400 years ago. That lesson should never be forgotten in the Thanksgiving aroma of pumpkin pies and domesticated turkeys.

© This work is licensed under a Creative Comments Attribution-No Derivs 3.0 United States License

Those 50 Pilgrims Are the Ancestors of Many Of Today's Americans

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The Blunderbus

Lessons from America's Pilgrims:


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    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 5 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      The pumpkin pies and roasted turkeys can remind us again of some important lessons from our American past.

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 6 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      Unless you have Mayflower ancestors it is likely that you think of Pilgrims only at Thanksgiving time, or when watching a John Wayne movie in which he calls someone "pilgrim." But there was a lesson from the bravery which gave them alliances with the local Indian tribes, which we should all be aware of at some season of our lives, for it speaks to the heart of any meaningful alliances we have today.

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      rorshak sobchak 6 years ago

      Great hub. I absolutely cannot wait until Thanksgiving! Voted up.