Comic History of the United States - Bill Nye

Drawbacks of Being a Colonist

It was at this period in the history of our country that the colonists found themselves not only banished from all civilization, but compelled to fight an armed foe whose trade was war and whose music was the dying wail of a tortured enemy. Unhampered by the exhausting efforts of industry, the Indian, trained by centuries of war upon adjoining tribes, felt himself foot-loose and free to shoot the unprotected forefather from behind the very stump fence his victim had worked so hard to erect.

King Philip, a demonetized sovereign, organized his red troops, and, carrying no haversacks, knapsacks, or artillery, fell upon the colonists and killed them, only to reappear at some remote point while the dead and wounded who fell at the first point were being buried or cared for by rude physicians.

What an era in the history of a country! Gentlewomen whose homes had been in the peaceful hamlets of England lived and died in the face of a cruel foe, yet prepared the cloth and clothing for their families, fed them, and taught them to look to God in all times of trouble, to be prayerful in their daily lives, yet vigilant and ready to deal death to the general enemy. They were the mothers whose sons and grandsons laid the huge foundations of a great nation and cemented them with their blood.

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


At this time there was a line of battle three hundred miles in length. On one side the white man went armed to the field or the prayer-meeting, shooting an Indian on sight as he would a panther; on the other, a foe whose wife did the chores and hoed the scattering crops while he made war and extermination his joy by night and his prayer and life-long purpose by day.

Finally, however, the victory came sluggishly to the brave and deserving. One thousand Indians were killed at one pop, and their wigwams were burned. All their furniture and curios were burned in their wigwams, and some of their valuable dogs were holocausted. King Philip was shot by a follower as he was looking under the throne for something, and peace was for the time declared.

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


About 1684 the Colony of Massachusetts, which had dared to open up a trade with the West Indies, using its own vessels for that purpose, was hauled over the coals by the mother-country for violation of the Navigation Act, and an officer sent over to enforce the latter. The colonists defied him, and when he was speaking to them publicly in a tone of reprimand, he got an ovation in the way of eggs and codfish, both of which had been set aside for that purpose when the country was new, and therefore had an air of antiquity which cannot be successfully imitated.

As a result, the Colony was made a royal appendage, and Sir Edmund Andros, a political hack under James II., was made Governor of New England. He reigned under great difficulties for three years, and then suddenly found himself in jail. The jail was so arranged that he could not get out, and so the Puritans now quietly resumed their old form of government.

This continued also for three years, when Sir William Phipps became Governor under the crown, with one hundred and twenty pounds per annum and house-rent.

From this on to the Revolution, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nova Scotia became a royal province. Nova Scotia is that way yet, and has to go to Boston for her groceries.

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


The year 1692 is noted mostly for the Salem excitement regarding witchcraft. The children of Rev. Mr. Parris were attacked with some peculiar disease which would not yield to the soothing blisters and bleedings administered by the physicians of the old school, and so, not knowing exactly what to do about it, the doctors concluded that they were bewitched. Then it was, of course, the duty of the courts and selectmen to hunt up the witches. This was naturally difficult.

Fifty-five persons were tortured and twenty were hanged for being witches; which proves that the people of Salem were fully abreast of the Indians in intelligence, and that their gospel privileges had not given their charity and Christian love such a boom as they should have done.

One can hardly be found now, even in Salem, who believes in witchcraft; though the Cape Cod people, it is said, still spit on their bait. The belief in witchcraft in those days was not confined by any means to the colonists. Sir Matthew Hale of England, one of the most enlightened judges of the mother-country, condemned a number of people for the offence, and is now engaged in doing road-work on the streets of the New Jerusalem as a punishment for these acts done while on the woolsack.

Blackstone himself, one of the dullest authors ever read by the writer of these lines, yet a skilled jurist, with a marvellous memory regarding Justinian, said that, to deny witchcraft was to deny revelation.

"Be you a witch?" asked one of the judges of Massachusetts, according to the records now on file in the State-House at Boston.

"No, your honor," was the reply.

"Officer," said the court, taking a pinch of snuff, "take her out on the tennis-grounds and pull out her toe-nails with a pair of hot pincers, and then see what she says."

It was quite common to examine lady witches in the regular court and then adjourn to the tennis-court. A great many were ducked by order of the court and hanged up by the thumbs, in obedience to the customs of these people who came to America because they were persecuted.

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


Human nature is the same even to this day. The writer grew up with an Irishman who believed that when a man got wealthy enough to keep a carriage and coachman he ought to be assassinated and all his goods given to the poor. He now hires a coachman himself, having succeeded in New York city as a policeman; but the man who comes to assassinate him will find it almost impossible to obtain an audience with him.

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


If you wish to educate a man to be a successful oppressor, with a genius for introducing new horrors and novelties in pain, oppress him early in life and don't give him any reason for doing so. The idea that "God is love" was not popular in those days. The early settlers were so stern even with their own children that if the Indian had not given the forefather something to attract his attention, the boy crop would have been very light.

Even now the philosopher is led to ask, regarding the boasted freedom of America, why some measures are not taken to put large fly-screens over it.