As an 11th generation descendant of Governor William Bradford, I have studied his amazing leadership, and I’ve always considered him to be The Grandfather of America, though that’s not exactly an official title. But see if you agree …
Governor William Bradford was the first elected leader in the New World. He assembled a terrific A Team – “the chiefest amongst us” as he called them – to run the first British settlement of families in the New World. And fortunately for all of us, that little band of Pilgrims that sailed from England on the Mayflower and landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620… succeeded! Before then, there had been plenty of colonies full of all male settlers sent from other European countries, but they all failed. However, with the success of Bradford and the Pilgrims, hundreds of Brits populated what became New England. The other countries who had previously sent settlers were left in the dust, thanks to Bradford and the Pilgrims. Had they not succeeded, we all might be speaking another language!
Among Bradford-the-Topgrader’s accomplishments:
- Held the first Thanksgiving (which lasted 3 days and was with 44 Native American guests
- Led the first family colony in the New World
- Picked A Players to serve as his “cabinet”
- Was elected 31 times Governor; he was loved, respected, trusted, and admired by all as a man of deep principles, unshakable integrity, calm reason, and generosity (took in 9 orphans). Yes … you read that … wouldn’t you say this fellow was unusual for a “politician?”
- Signed the Mayflower Compact (like our constitution), assuring democracy in Plymouth Colony
- Ran what he called “town meetings” as the main vehicle for democratic rule
- Enjoyed fabulous relationships with the neighboring Native Americans for all his years as Governor
- Gave away, to all the Plymouth citizens, equal portions of the land (after the King of England gave all the land to Bradford)
- Granted the first “woman’s property rights” in the known world (so if a woman’s husband died, she, for the first time, would inherit the property; until then the husband’s brother would inherit it)
- Instituted trial by jury of 12 citizens
- Abandoned socialism (all work for common good) when in the first year Plymouth almost failed; instituted a free market system (work some for the common good and, if you want to, work hard after that and keep and sell your stuff), enabling Plymouth Colony to succeed
Wednesday of this week in the editorial section of the Wall Street Journal, you can read what Bradford wrote in 1620, as the Mayflower passengers said good-bye to their loved ones. This same reproduction of Bradford’s words has been reproduced every Wednesday before Thanksgiving since 1962. It might bring tears to your eyes. These incredibly brave men and women risked everything – everything – in order to have the economic and religious freedom they believed every human should enjoy.