Comic History of the United States - Bill Nye

More Difficulties Straightened Out

Van Buren, the eighth President, was unfortunate in taking the helm as the financial cyclone struck the country. This was brought about by scarcity of funds more than anything else. Business-men would not pay their debts, and, though New York was not then so large as at present, one hundred million dollars were lost in sixty days in this way.

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


The government had required the payments for public lands to be made in coin, and so the Treasury had plenty of gold and silver, while business had nothing to work with. Speculation also had made a good many snobs who had sent their gold and silver abroad for foreign luxuries, also some paupers who could not do so. When a man made some money from the sale of rural lots he had his hats made abroad, and his wife had her dresses fitted in Paris at great expense. Confidence was destroyed, and the air was heavy with failures and apprehension of more failures to come.

The Canadians rebelled against England, and many of our people wanted to unite with Canada against the mother-country, but the police would not permit them to do so. General Scott was sent to the frontier to keep our people from aiding the Canadians.

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


There was trouble in the Northeast over the boundary between Maine and New Brunswick, but it was settled by the commissioners, Daniel Webster and Lord Ashburton. Webster was a smart man and a good extemporaneous speaker.

Van Buren failed of a re-election, as the people did not fully endorse his administration. Administrations are not generally endorsed where the people are unable to get over six pounds of sugar for a dollar.

General Harrison, who followed in 1841, died soon after choosing his Cabinet, and his Vice-President, John Tyler, elected as a Whig, proceeded to act as President, but not as a Whig President should. His party passed a bill establishing the United States Bank, but Tyler vetoed it, and the men who elected him wished they had been as dead as Rameses was at the time.

Dorr's justly celebrated rebellion in Rhode Island was an outbreak resulting from restricting the right of suffrage to those who owned property. A new Constitution was adopted, and Dorr chosen as Governor. He was not recognized, and so tried to capture the seat while the regular governor was at tea. He got into jail for life, but was afterwards pardoned out and embraced the Christian religion.

In 1844 the Anti-Rent War in the State of New York broke out among those who were tenants of the old "Patroon Estates." These men, dis guised as Indians, tarred and feathered those who paid rent, and killed the collectors who were sent to them. In 1846 the matter was settled by the military.

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


In 1840 the Mormons had settled at Nauvoo, Illinois. They were led by Joseph Smith, and not only proposed to run a new kind of religion, but introduced polygamy into it. The people who lived near them attacked them, killed Smith, and drove the Mormons to Iowa, opposite Omaha.

In 1844 occurred the building of the magnetic telegraph, invented by Samuel F. B. Morse. The line was from Baltimore to Washington, or vice versa, —authorities failing to agree on this matter. It cost thirty thousand dollars, and the boys who delivered the messages made more out of it then than the stockholders did.

Fulton having invented and perfected the steamboat in 1805 and started the Clermont on the North River at the dizzy rate of five miles per hour, and George Stephenson having in 1814 made the first locomotive to run on a track, the people began to feel that theosophy was about all they needed to place them on a level with the seraphim and other astral bodies.

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


Texas had, under the guidance of Sam Houston, obtained her independence from Mexico, and asked for admission to the Union. Congress at first rejected her, fearing that the Texas people lacked cultivation, being so far away from the thought-ganglia of the East, also fearing a war with Mexico; but she was at last admitted, and now every one is glad of it.

The Whigs were not in favor of the admission of Texas, and made that the issue of the following campaign, Henry Clay leading his party to a hospitable grave in the fall. James K. Polk, a Democrat, was elected. His rallying cry was, "I am a Democrat."

The Mexican War now came on. General Taylor's army met the enemy first at Palo Alto, where he ran across the Mexicans six thousand strong, and, though he had but two thousand men, drove them back, only losing nine men. This was the most economical battle of the war.

The next afternoon he met the enemy at Resaca de la Palma, and whipped him in the time usually required to ejaculate the word "scat!"

Next General Taylor proceeded against Monterey, September 24, and with six thousand men attacked the strongly-fortified city, which held ten thousand troops. The Americans avoided the heavy fire as well as possible by entering the city and securing rooms at the best hotel, leaving word at the office that they did not wish to be disturbed by the enemy. In fact, the soldiers did dig their way through from house to house to avoid the volleys from the windows, and thus fought to within a square of the Grand Plaza, when the city surrendered. The Grand Plaza is generally a sandy vacant lot, where Mexicans sell tamales made of the highly-peppered but tempting cutlets of the Mexican hairless dog.

The battle of Buena Vista took place February 23, 1847, General Santa Anna commanding the Mexicans. He had twenty thousand men, and General Taylor's troops were reduced in numbers. The fight was a hot one, lasting all day, and the Americans were saved by Bragg's artillery. Bragg used the old Colonial method of rolling his guns up to the nose of the enemy and then discharging an iron-foundry into his midst. This disgusted the enemy so that General Santa Anna that evening took the shreds of his army and went away.

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


General Kearney was sent to take New Mexico and California. His work consisted mainly in marching for General Fremont, who had been surveying a new route to Oregon, and had with sixty men been so successful that on the arrival of Kearney, with the aid of Commodores Sloat and Stockton, California was captured, and has given general satisfaction to every one.

In March, 1847, General Scott, with twelve thousand men, bombarded Vera Cruz four days, and at the end of that time the city was surrendered.

At Cerro Gordo, a week later, Scott overtook the enemy under General Santa Anna, and made such a fierce attack that the Mexicans were completely routed. Santa Anna left his leg on the field of battle and rode away on a pet mule named Charlotte Corday. The leg was preserved and taken to the Smithsonian Institute. It is made of second-growth hickory, and has a brass ferrule and a rubber eraser on the end. General Taylor afterwards taunted him with this incident, and, though greatly irritated, Santa Anna said there was no use trying to kick.

Puebla resisted not, and the army marched into the city of Mexico August 7. The road was rendered disagreeable by strong fortifications and thirty thousand men who were not on good terms with Scott. The environments and suburbs one after another were taken, and a parley for peace ensued, during which the Mexicans were busy fortifying some more on the quiet.

September 8 the Americans made their assault, and carried the outworks one by one. Then the castle of Chapultepec was stormed. First the outer works were scaled, which made them much more desirable, and the moat was removed by means of a stomach-pump and blotting-pad, and then the escarpment was up-ended, the Don John tower was knocked silly by a solid shot, and the castle capitulated.

Thus on the 14th of September the old flag floated over the court-house of Mexico, and General Scott ate his tea in the palace of the Montezumas. Peace was declared February 2, 1848, and the United States owned the vast country southward to the Gila (pronounced Heeler) and west to the Pacific Ocean.

The Wilmot Proviso was invented by David Wilmot, a poor, struggling member of Congress, who moved that in any territory acquired by the United States slavery should be prohibited except upon the advice of a physician. The motion was lost.

Gold was discovered in the Sacramento Valley in August, 1848, by a workman who was building a mill-race. A struggle ensued over this ground as to who should own the race. It threatened to terminate in a race war, but was settled amicably.

In eighteen months one hundred thousand people went to the scene. Thousands left their skeletons with the red brother, and other thousands left theirs on the Isthmus of Panama or on the cruel desert. Many married men went who had been looking a long time for some good place to go to. Leaving their wives with ill-concealed relief, they started away through a country filled with death, to reach a country they knew not of. Some died en route, others were hanged, and still others became the heads of new families. Some came back and carried water for their wives to wash clothing for their neighbors.

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


It was a long hard trip then across the plains. One of the author's friends at the age of thirteen years drove a little band of cows from the State of Indiana to Sacramento. He says he would not do it again for anything. He is now a man, and owns a large prune-orchard in California, and people tell him he is getting too stout, and that he ought to exercise more, and that he ought to walk every day several miles; but he shakes his head, and says, "No, I will not walk any to-day, and possibly not to-morrow or the day following. Do not come to me and refer to taking a walk: I have tried that. Possibly you take me for a dromedary; but you are wrong. I am a fat man, and may die suddenly some day while lacing up my shoes, but when I go anywhere I ride."

When he got to Sacramento, where gold was said to be so plentiful, he was glad to wash dishes for his board, and he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into the fields for to feed swine, and he would fain have filled his system with the California peaches which the swine did eat, and he began to be in want, and no man gave unto him, and if he had spent his substance in riotous living, he said, it would have been different.

About thirty years after that he arose and went unto his father, and carried his dinner with him, also a government bond and a new suit of raiment for the old gentleman.

I do not know what we should learn from this.