Comic History of the United States - Bill Nye

Closing Chronicles

In 1876 the peaceful Sioux took an outing, having refused to go to their reservation in accordance with the treaty made with the Great Father at Washington, D. C., and regular troops were sent against them.

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


General Custer, with the 7th Regiment, led the advance, and General Terry aimed for the rear of the children of the forest up the Big Horn. Here, on the 25th of June, without assistance, and with characteristic courage, General Custer attacked the enemy, sending Colonel Reno to fall on the rear of the village.

Scarcely enough of Custer's own command with him at the time lived long enough to tell the story of the battle. General Custer, his two brothers, and his nephew were among the dead. Reno held his ground until reinforced, but Custer's troops were exterminated.

It is said that the Sioux rose from the ground like bunch-grass and swarmed up the little hill like a pest of grasshoppers, mowing down the soldiers with the very newest and best weapons of warfare, and leaving nothing at last but the robbed and mutilated bodies lying naked in the desolate land of the Dakotah.

The Fenimore Cooper Indian is no doubt a brave and highly intellectual person, educated abroad, refined and cultivated by foreign travel, graceful in the grub dance or scalp walk-around, yet tender-hearted as a girl, walking by night fifty-seven miles in a single evening to warn his white friends of danger. The Indian introduced into literature was a bronze Apollo who bathed almost constantly and only killed white people who were unpleasant and coarse. He dressed in new and fresh buckskins, with trimming of same, and his sable hair hung glossy and beautiful down the coppery billows of muscles on his back.

The real Indian has the dead and unkempt hair of a busted buggy-cushion filled with hen feathers. He lies, he steals, he assassinates, he mutilates, he tortures. He needs Persian powder long before he needs the theology which abler men cannot agree upon. We can, in fact, only retain him as we do the buffalo, so long as he complies with the statutes. But the red brother is on his way to join the cave-bear, the three-toed horse, and the ichthyosaurus in the great fossil realm of the historic past. Move on, maroon brother, move on!

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


Rutherford B. Hayes and William A. Wheeler were nominated in the summer of 1876, and so close was the fight against Samuel J. Tilden and Thomas A. Hendricks that friends of the latter to this day refer to the selection of Hayes and Wheeler by a joint Electoral Commission to whom the contested election was referred, as a fraud and larceny on the part of the Republican party. It is not the part of an historian, who is absolutely destitute of political principles, to pass judgment. Facts have crept into this history, it is true, but no one could regret it more than the author; yet there has been no bias or political prejudice shown, other than that reflected from the historical sources whence information was necessarily obtained.

Hayes was chosen, and gave the country an unruffled, unbiased administration, devoid of frills, and absolutely free from the appearance of hostility to any one. He was one of the most conciliatory Presidents ever elected by Republican votes or counted in by a joint Electoral Commission.

He withdrew all troops from the South, and in several Southern States things wore a Democratic air at once.

In 1873 Congress demonetized silver, and quite a number of business-men were demonetized at the same time; so in 1878 silver was made a legal tender for all debts. As a result, in 1879 gold for the first time in seventeen years sold at par.

Troubles arose in 1878 over the right to fish in the northeast waters, and the treaty at Washington resulted in an award to Great Britain of five million five hundred thousand dollars, with the understanding that wasteful fishing should cease, and that as soon as either party got enough for a mess he should go home, no matter how well the fish seemed to be biting.

The right to regulate Chinese immigration was given by treaty at Pekin, and ever since the Chinaman has entered our enclosures in some mysterious way, made enough in a few years to live like a potentate in China, and returned, leaving behind a pleasant memory and a chiffonnier here and there throughout the country filled with scorched shirt-bosoms, acid-eaten collars, and white vests with burglar-proof, ingrowing pockets in them.

The next nominations for President and Vice-President were James A. Garfield, of Ohio, and Chester A. Arthur, of New York, on the Republican ticket, and Winfield S. Hancock, of Pennsylvania, and William H. English, of Indiana, on the Democratic ticket. James B. Weaver was connected with this campaign also. Who will tell us what he had to do with it? Can no one tell us what James B. Weaver had to do with the campaign of 1881? Very well; I will tell you what he had to do with the campaign of 1881.

He was the Presidential candidate on the Greenback ticket, but it was kept so quiet that I am not surprised to know that you did not hear about it.

After the inauguration of Garfield the investigation and annulling of star-route contracts fraudulently obtained were carried out, whereby two million dollars' worth of these corrupt agreements were rendered null and void.

On the morning of July 2, President Garfield was shot by a poor, miserable, unbalanced, and abnormal growth whose name will not be discovered even in the appendix of this work. He was tried, convicted, and sent squealing into eternity.

The President lingered patiently for two months and a half, when he died.

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


After the accession of President Arthur, there occurred floods on the lower Mississippi, whereby one hundred thousand people lost their homes. The administration was not in any way to blame for this.

In 1883 the Brooklyn Bridge across East River was completed and ready for jumping purposes. It was regarded as a great engineering success at the time, but it is now admitted that it is not high enough. A person jumping from it is not always killed.

The same year the Civil Service Bill became a law. It provides that competitive examinations shall be made of certain applicants for office, whereby mail-carriers must prove that they know how to teach school, and guards in United States penitentiaries are required to describe how to navigate a ship.

Possibly recent improvements have been made by which the curriculum is more fitted to the crime, but in the early operations of the law the janitor of a jail had to know what length shadow would be cast by a pole 18 feet 6-1/4 inches high on the third day of July at 11 o'clock 30 min. and 20 sec. standing on a knoll 35 feet 8-1/8 inches high, provided 8 men in 9 days can erect such a pole working 8 hours per day.

In 1883 letter postage was reduced from three cents to two cents per half-ounce, and in 1885 to two cents per ounce.

In 1884 Alaska was organized as a Territory, and after digging the snow out of Sitka, so that the governor should not take cold in his system, it was made the seat of government.

Chinese immigration in 1882 was forbidden for ten years, and in 1884 a treaty with Mexico was made, a copy of which is on file in the State Department, but not allowed to be loaned to the author for use in this work.

Grover Cleveland and Thomas A. Hendricks were nominated and elected at the end of President Arthur's term, running against James G. Blaine and John A. Logan, the Republican candidates, also Benjamin F. Butler and A. M. West, of Mississippi, on the People's ticket, and John P. St. John and William Daniel on the Prohibition ticket. St. John went home and kept bees, so that he could have honey to eat on his Kansas locusts, and Daniel swore he would never enter the performing cage of immoral political wild beasts again while reason remained on her throne.

In 1886 a Presidential succession law was passed, whereby on the death of the President and the Vice-President the order of succession shall be the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of War, the Attorney-General, the Postmaster-General, and the Secretaries of the Navy and of the Interior. This gives the Secretary of Agriculture an extremely remote and rarefied chance at the Presidency. Still, he should be just as faithful to his trust as he would be if he were nearer the throne.

May 4, 1886, occurred a terrible outbreak of Chicago Anarchists, whereby seven policemen sent to preserve order were killed by the bursting of an Anarchist's bomb. The Anarchists were tried and executed, with the exception of Ling, who ate a dynamite capsule and passed into rest having had his features, and especially his nose, blown in a swift and earnest manner. Death resulted, and whiskers and beer-blossoms are still found embedded in the stone walls of his cell. Those who attended the funeral say that Ling from a scenic point of view was not a success.

Governor Altgeld, of Illinois, an amateur American, in the summer of 1893 pardoned two of the Anarchists who had escaped death by imprisonment.

August 31, 1886, in Charleston, occurred several terrible earthquake shocks, which seriously damaged the city and shocked and impaired the nerves and health of hundreds of people.

The noted heroism and pluck of the people of Charleston were never shown to greater advantage than on this occasion.

Mr. Cleveland was again nominated, but was defeated by General Benjamin Harrison. Hon. James G. Blaine, of Maine, was made Secretary of State, and Wm. Windom, a veteran financier, Secretary of the Treasury. Secretary Windom's tragic death just as he had finished a most brilliant address to the great capitalists of New York after their annual dinner and discussion at Delmonico's is, and will ever remain, while life lasts, a most dramatic picture in the author's memory.

Personally, the administration of President Harrison will be long remembered for the number of deaths among the families of the Executive and those of his Cabinet and friends.

Nebraska, the thirty-seventh State, was admitted March 1, 1867. The name signifies "Water Valley." Colorado, the Centennial State, was the thirty-eighth. She was admitted July 1, 1876. Six other States have been since admitted when the political sign was right. Still, they have not always stuck by the party admitting them to the Union. This is the kind of ingratitude which sometimes leads to the reformation of politicians supposed to have been dead in sin.

President Harrison's administration was a thoroughly upright and honest one, so far as it was possible for it to be after his party had drifted into the musty catacombs of security in office and the ship of state had become covered with large and expensive barnacles.

As we go to press, his successor, Grover Cleveland, in the first year of his second administration, is paying a high price for fleeting fame, with the serious question of what to do with the relative coinage of gold and silver, and the Democrats in Congress, for the first time in the history of the world, are referring each other with hot breath and flashing eye to the platform they adopted at the National Convention.

Heretofore among the politicians a platform, like that on the railway cars, "is made for the purpose of helping the party to get aboard, but not to ride on."

The Columbian Exposition and World's Fair at Chicago in the summer of 1893 eclipsed all former Exhibitions, costing more and showing greater artistic taste, especially in its buildings, than anything preceding it. Some gentle warfare resulted from a struggle over the question of opening the "White City" on Sunday, and a great deal of bitterness was shown by those who opposed the opening and who had for years favored the Sunday closing of Niagara. A doubtful victory was obtained by the Sunday openers, for so many of the exhibitors closed their departments that visitors did not attend on Sunday in paying quantities.

Against a thousand odds and over a thousand obstacles, especially the apprehension of Asiatic cholera and the actual sudden appearance of a gigantic money panic, Chicago, heroic and victorious, carried out her mighty plans and gave to the world an exhibition that won golden opinions from her friends and stilled in dumb wonder the jealousy of her enemies.

In the mean time, the author begs leave to thank his readers for the rapt attention shown in perusing these earnest pages, and to apologize for the tears of sympathy thoughtlessly wrung from eyes unused to weep, by the graphic word-painting and fine education shown by the author.

It was not the intention of the writer to touch the fountain of tears and create wash-outs everywhere, but sometimes tears do one good.

In closing, would it be out of place to say that the stringency of the money market is most noticeable and most painful, and for that reason would it be too much trouble for the owner of this book to refuse to loan it, thereby encouraging its sale and contributing to the comfort of a deserving young man?