Comic History of the United States - Bill Nye

The Early Aristocracy

Lord Clarendon and several other noblemen in 1663 obtained from Charles II. a grant of lands lying south of Virginia which they called Carolina in honor of the king, whose name was not really Carolina. Possibly that was his middle name, however, or his name in Latin.

The Albemarle Colony was first on the ground. Then there was a Carteret Colony in 1670. They "removed the ancient groves covered with yellow jessamine" on the Ashley, and began to build on the present site of Charleston.

The historian remarks that the growth of this Colony was rapid from the first. The Dutch, dissatisfied with the way matters were conducted in New York, and worn out when shopping by the ennui and impudence of the salesladies, came to Charleston in large numbers, and the Huguenots in Charleston found a hearty Southern welcome, and did their trading there altogether.

We now pass on to speak of the Grand Model which was set up as a five-cent aristocracy by Lord Shaftesbury and the great philosopher John Locke. The canebrakes and swamps of the wild and snake-infested jungles of the wilderness were to be divided into vast estates, over which were proprietors with hereditary titles and outing flannels.

This scheme recognized no rights of self-government whatever, and denied the very freedom which the people came there in search of. So there were murmurings among those people who had not brought their finger-bowls and equerries with them.

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


In short, aristocracy did not do well on this soil. Baronial castles, with hot and cold water in them, were often neglected, because the colonists would not forsake their own lands to the thistle and blue-nosed brier in order to come and cook victuals for the baronial castles or sweep out the baronial halls and wax the baronial floors for a journeyman juke who ate custard pie with a knife and drank tea from his saucer through a King Charles moustache.

Thus the aristocracy was forced to close its doors, and the arms of Lord Shaftesbury were so humiliated that he could no longer put up his dukes (see Appendix).

There had also been a great deal of friction between the Albemarle or Carteret and the Charleston set, the former being from Virginia, while the latter was, as we have seen, a little given to kindergarten aristocracy and ofttimes tripped up on their parade swords while at the plough. Of course outside of this were the plebeian people, or copperas-culottes, who did the work; but Lord Shaftesbury for some time, as we have seen, lived in a baronial shed and had his arms worked on the left breast of his nighty.

So these two Colonies finally became separate States in the Union, though there is yet something of the same feeling between the people. Wealthy people come to the mountains of North Carolina from South Carolina for the cool summer breezes of the Old North State, and have to pay two dollars per breeze even up to the past summer.

Thus there was constant irritation and disgust up to 1729 at least, regarding taxes, rents, and rights, until, as the historian says, "the discouraged Proprietors ceded their rights to the crown."

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


It will be noticed that the crown was well ceded by this time, and the poet's remark seems at this time far grander and more apropos than any language of the writer could be: so it is given here,—viz., "Uneasy lies the head that wears a seedy crown." (See Appendix.)

The year of Washington's birth, viz., 1732, witnessed the birth of the baby colony of Georgia. James Oglethorpe, a kind-hearted man, with a wig that fooled more than one poor child of the forest, conceived the idea of founding a refuge for Englishmen who could not pay up. The laws were very arbitrary then, and harsh to a degree. Many were imprisoned then in England for debt, but those who visit London now will notice that they are at liberty.

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


Oglethorpe was an officer and a gentleman, and this scheme showed his generous nature and philanthropic disposition. George II. granted him in trust for the poor a tract of land called, in honor of the king, Georgie, which has recently been changed to Georgia. The enterprise prospered remarkably, and generous and charitable people aided it in every possible way. People who had not been able for years to pay their debts came to Georgia and bought large tracts of land or began merchandising with the Indians. Thousands of acres of rich cotton-lands were exchanged by the Indians for orders on the store, they giving warranty deeds to same, reserving only the rights of piscary and massacre.

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


Oglethorpe got along with the Indians first-rate, and won their friendship. One great chief, having received a present from Oglethorpe consisting of a manicure set, on the following Christmas gave Oglethorpe a beautiful buffalo robe, on the inside of which were painted an eagle and a portable bath-tub, signifying, as the chief stated, that the buffalo was the emblem of strength, the eagle of swiftness, and the bath-tub the advertisement of cleanliness. "Thus," said the chief, "the English are strong as the buffalo, swift as the eagle, and love to convey the idea that they are just about to take a bath when you came and interrupted them."

The Moravians also came to Georgia, and the Scotch Highlanders. On the arrival of the latter, the Georgia mosquitoes held a mass meeting, at which speeches were made, and songs sung, and resolutions adopted making the Highland uniform the approved costume for the entire coast during summer.

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


George Whitefield the eloquent, who often addressed audiences (even in those days, when advertising was still in its infancy and the advance agent was unheard of) of from five thousand to forty thousand people, founded an orphan asylum. One audience consisted of sixty thousand people. The money from this work all went to help and sustain the orphan asylum. While reading of him we are reminded of our own Dr. Talmage, who is said to be the wealthiest apostle on the road.

The trustees of Georgia limited the size of a man's farm, did not allow women to inherit land, and forbade the importation of rum or of slaves. Several of these rules were afterwards altered, so that as late as 1893 at least a gentleman from Washington, D.C., well known for his truth and honesty, saw rum inside the State twice, though Bourbon whiskey was preferred. Slaves also were found inside the State, and the negro is seen there even now; but the popularity of a negro baby is nothing now to what it was at the time when this class of goods went up to the top notch.

Need I add that after a while the people became dissatisfied with these rules and finally the whole matter was ceded to the crown? From this time on Georgia remained a royal province up to the Revolution. Since that very little has been said about ceding it to the crown.

North Carolina also remained an English colony up to the same period, and, though one of the original thirteen Colonies, is still far more sparsely settled than some of the Western States.

Virginia Dare was the first white child born in America. She selected Roanoke, now in North Carolina, in August, 1587, as her birthplace. She was a grand-daughter of the Governor, John White. Her fate, like that of the rest of the colony, is unknown to this day.

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The author begs leave to express his thanks here for the valuable aid furnished him by the following works,—viz.: "The Horse and his Diseases," by Mr. Astor; "Life and Times of John Oglethorpe," by Elias G. Merritt; "How to Make the Garden Pay," by Peter Henderson; "Over the Purple Hills," by Mrs. Churchill, of Denver, Colorado, and "He Played on the Harp of a Thousand Strings, and the Spirits of Just Men Made Perfect," by S. P. Avery.