Comic History of the United States - Bill Nye

The Advance of the Republic

The administration now began to suffer at the hands of the people, many of whom criticised the conduct of the war and that of the President also. People met at Hartford and spoke so harshly that the Hartford Federalist obtained a reputation which clung to him for many years.

There being no cable in those days, the peace by Treaty of Ghent was not heard of in time to prevent the battle of New Orleans, January 8, 1815, there having been two weeks of peace as a matter of fact when this hot and fatal battle was fought.

General Pakenham, with a force of twelve thousand men by sea and land, attacked the city. The land forces found General Jackson intrenched several miles below the city. He had used cotton for fortifications at first, but a hot shot had set a big bunch of it on fire and rolled it over towards the powder-supplies, so that he did not use cotton any more.

General Pakenham was met by the solid phalanx of Tennessee and Kentucky riflemen, who reserved their fire, as usual, until the loud uniform of the English could be distinctly heard, when they poured into their ranks a galling fire, as it was so tersely designated at the time. General Pakenham fell mortally wounded, and his troops were repulsed, but again rallied, only to be again repulsed. This went on until night, when General Lambert, who succeeded General Pakenham, withdrew, hopelessly beaten, and with a loss of over two thousand men.

The United States now found that an honorable peace had been obtained, and with a debt of $127,000,000 started in to pay it up by instalments, which was done inside of twenty years from the ordinary revenue.

In the six years following, one State per year was added to the Union, and all kinds of manufactures were built up to supply the goods that had been cut off by the blockade during the war. Even the deluge of cheap goods from abroad after the war did not succeed in breaking these down.

James Monroe was almost unanimously elected. He was generally beloved, and his administration was, in fact, known as the original "era of good feeling," since so successfully reproduced especially by the Governors of North and South Carolina. (See Appendix.)

Through the efforts of Henry Clay, Missouri was admitted as a slave State in 1821, under the compromise that slavery should not be admitted into any of the Territories west of the Mississippi and north of parallel 36 deg. 30' N.

Clay was one of the greatest men of his time, and was especially eminent as an eloquent and magnetic speaker in the days when the record for eloquence was disputed by the giants of American oratory, and before the Senate of the United States had become a wealthy club of men whose speeches are rarely printed except at so much per column, paid in advance.

Clay was the original patentee of the slogan for campaign use.

Lafayette revisited this country in 1819, and was greeted with the greatest hospitality. He visited the grave of Washington, and tenderly spoke of the grandeur of character shown by his chief.

He was given the use of the Brandywine, a government ship, for his return. As he stood on the deck of the vessel at Pier 1, North River, his mind again recurred to Washington, and to those on shore he said that "to show Washington's love of truth, even as a child, he could tell an interesting incident of him relating to a little new hatchet given him at the time by his father." As he reached this point in his remarks, Lafayette noted with surprise that some one had slipped his cable from shore and his ship was gently shoved off by people on the pier, while his voice was drowned in the notes of the New York Oompah Oompah Band as it struck up "Johnny, git yer Gun."

Florida was ceded to the United States in the same year by Spain, and was sprinkled over with a light coating of sand for the waves to monkey with. The Everglades of Florida are not yet under cultivation.

Mr. Monroe became the author of what is now called the "Monroe doctrine,"—viz., that the effort of any foreign country to obtain dominion in America would thereafter and forever afterwards be regarded as an unfriendly act. Rather than be regarded as unfriendly, foreign countries now refrain from doing their dominion or dynasty work here.

The Whigs now appeared, and the old Republican party became known as the Democratic party. John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay were Whigs, and John C. Calhoun and Andrew Jackson were Democrats. The Whigs favored a high protective tariff and internal improvement. The Democrats did not favor anything especially, but bitterly opposed the Whig measures, whatever they were.

In 1825, John Quincy Adams, son of John Adams, was elected President, and served one term. He was a bald-headed man, and the country was given four years of unexampled prosperity. Yet this experience has not been regarded by the people as it should have been. Other kinds of men have repeatedly been elected to that office, only to bring sorrow, war, debt, and bank-failures upon us. Sometimes it would seem to the thinking mind that, as a people, we need a few car-loads of sense in each school-district, where it can be used at a moment's notice.

[Illustration] from Comic History of the U.S.A. by Bill Nye


Adams was not re-elected, on account of his tariff ideas, which were not popular at the South. He was called "The old man eloquent," and it is said that during his more impassioned passages his head, which was round and extremely smooth, became flushed, so that, from resembling the cue-ball on the start, as he rose to more lofty heights his dome of thought looked more like the spot ball on a billiard-table. No one else in Congress at that time had succeeded in doing this.

John Quincy Adams was succeeded in 1829 by Andrew Jackson, the hero of New Orleans. Jackson was the first to introduce what he called "rotation in office." During the forty years previous there had been but seventy-four removals; Jackson made seven hundred. This custom has been pretty generally adopted since, giving immense satisfaction to those who thrive upon the excitement of offensive partisanship and their wives' relations, while those who have legitimate employment and pay taxes support and educate a new official kindergarten with every change of administration.

The prophet sees in the distance an eight-year term for the President, and employment thereafter as "charge-d'affaires" of the United States, with permission to go beyond the seas. Thus the vast sums of money and rivers of rum used in the intervening campaigns at present will be used for the relief of the widow and orphan. The ex-President then, with the portfolio of International Press Agent for the United States, could go abroad and be feted by foreign governments, leaving dyspepsia everywhere in his wake and crowned heads with large damp towels on them.

Every ex-President should have some place where he could go and hide his shame. A trip around the world would require a year, and by that time the voters would be so disgusted with the new President that the old one would come like a healing balm, and he would be permitted to die without publishing a bulletin of his temperature and showing his tongue to the press for each edition of the paper.

South Carolina in 1832 passed a nullification act declaring the tariff act "null and void" and announcing that the State would secede from the Union if force were used to collect any revenue at Charleston. South Carolina has always been rather "advanced" regarding the matter of seceding from the American Union.

President Jackson, however, ordered General Scott and a number of troops to go and see that the laws were enforced; but no trouble resulted, and soon more satisfactory measures were enacted, through the large influence of Mr. Clay.

Jackson was unfriendly to the Bank of the United States, and the bank retaliated by contracting its loans, thus making money-matters hard to get hold of by the masses.

"When the public money," says the historian, "which had been withdrawn from the Bank of the United States was deposited in local banks, money was easy and speculation extended to every branch of trade. New cities were laid out; fabulous prices were charged for building-lots which existed only on paper" etc. And in Van Buren's time the people paid the violinist, as they have in 1893, with ruin and remorse.

Speculation which is unprofitable should never be encouraged. Unprofitable speculation is only another term for idiocy. But, on the other hand, profitable speculation leads to prosperity, public esteem, and the ability to keep a team. We may distinguish the one from the other by means of ascertaining the difference between them. If one finds on waking up in the morning that he experiences a sensation of being in the poor-house, he may almost at once jump to the conclusion that the kind of speculation he selected was the wrong one.

[Illustration] from Comic History of the U.S.A. by Bill Nye


The Black Hawk War occurred in the Northwest Territory in 1832. It grew out of the fact that the Sacs and Foxes sold their lands to the United States and afterwards regretted that they had not asked more for them: so they refused to vacate, until several of them had been used up on the asparagus-beds of the husbandman.

The Florida War (1835) grew out of the fact that the Seminoles regretted having made a dicker with the government at too low a price for land. Osceola, the chief, regretted the matter so much that he scalped General Thompson while the latter was at dinner, which shows that the Indian is not susceptible to cultivation or the acquisition of any knowledge of table etiquette whatever. What could be in poorer taste than scalping a man between the soup and the remove? The same day Major Dade with one hundred men was waylaid, and all but four of the party killed.

Seven years later the Indians were subdued.

Phrenologically the Indian allows his alimentiveness to overbalance his group of organs which show veneration, benevolence, fondness for society, fetes champetres, etc., hope, love of study, fondness for agriculture, an unbridled passion for toil, etc.

France owed five million dollars for damages to our commerce in Napoleon's wars, and, Napoleon himself being entirely worthless, having said every time that the bill was presented that he would settle it as soon as he got back from St. Helena, Jackson ordered reprisals to be made, but England acted as a peacemaker, and the bill was paid. On receiving the money a trunk attached by our government and belonging to Napoleon was released.

Space here, and the nature of this work, forbid an extended opinion regarding the course pursued by Napoleon in this matter. His tomb is in the basement of the Hotel des Invalides in Paris, and you are requested not to fumer while you are there.