Comic History of the United States - Bill Nye

Too Much Liberty in Places and not Enough Elsewhere

Thoughts on the Late War—Who is the bigger ass, the man who will not forgive and forget, or the mawkish and moist-eyed sniveller who wants to do that all the time?

When Patrick Henry put his old cast-iron spectacles on the top of his head and whooped for liberty, he did not know that some day we should have more of it than we knew what to do with. He little dreamed that the time would come when we should have more liberty than we could pay for. When Mr. Henry sawed the air and shouted for liberty or death, I do not believe that he knew the time would come when Liberty would stand on Bedloe's Island and yearn for rest and change of scene.

It seems to me that we have too much liberty in this country in some ways. We have more liberty than we have money. We guarantee that every man in America shall fill himself up full of liberty at our expense, and the less of an American he is the more liberty he can have. Should he desire to enjoy himself, all he needs is a slight foreign accent and a willingness to mix up with politics as soon as he can get his baggage off the steamer. The more I study American institutions the more I regret that I was not born a foreigner, so that I could have something to say about the management of our great land. If I could not be a foreigner, I believe I should prefer to be a policeman or an Indian not taxed.

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


I am often led to ask, in the language of the poet, "Is civilization a failure, and is the Caucasian played out?"

Almost every one can have a good deal of fun in America except the American. He seems to be so busy paying his taxes that he has very little time to vote, or to mingle in society's giddy whirl, or to mix up with the nobility. That is the reason why the alien who rides across the United States in the "Limited Mail" and writes a book about us before breakfast wonders why we are always in a hurry. That also is the reason why we have to throw our meals into ourselves with such despatch, and hardly have time to maintain a warm personal friendship with our families.

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


We do not care much for wealth, but we must have freedom, and freedom costs money. We have advertised to furnish a bunch of freedom to every man, woman, and child who comes to our shores, and we are going to deliver the goods whether we have any left for ourselves or not.

What would the great world beyond the seas say to us if some day the blue-eyed Oriental, with his heart full of love for our female seminaries and our old women's homes, should land upon our coasts and crave freedom in car-load lots but find that we were using all the liberty ourselves? But what do we want of liberty, anyhow? What could we do with it if we had it? It takes a man of leisure to enjoy liberty, and we have no leisure whatever. It is a good thing to keep in the house for the use of guests, but we don't need it for ourselves.

Therefore we have a statue of Liberty Enlightening the World, because it shows that we keep Liberty on tap winter and summer. We want the whole broad world to remember that when it gets tired of oppression it can come here to America and oppress us. We are used to it, and we rather like it. If we don't like it, we can get on the steamer and go abroad, where we may visit the effete monarchies and have a high old time.

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


The sight of the Goddess of Liberty standing there in New York harbor night and day, bathing her feet in the rippling sea, is a good thing. It is first-rate. It may also be productive of good in a direction that many have not thought of. As she stands there day after day, bathing her feet in the broad Atlantic, perhaps some moss-grown alien landing on our shore and moving toward the Far West may fix the bright picture in his so-called mind, and, remembering how, on his arrival in New York, he saw Liberty bathing her feet with impunity, he may be led in after-years to try it on himself.

More citizens and less voters will some day be adopted as the motto of the Republic.

One reference to the late war, and I will close. I want to refer especially to the chronic reconciler who when war was declared was not involved in it, but who now improves every opportunity, especially near election-time, to get out a tired olive-branch and make a tableau of himself. He is worse than the man who cannot forgive or forget.

The growth of reconciliation between the North and the South is the slow growth of years, and the work of generations. When any man, North or South, in a public place takes occasion to talk in a mellow and mawkish way of the great love he now has for his old enemy, watch him. He is getting ready to ask a favor. There is a beautiful, poetic idea in the reunion of two contending and shattered elements of a great nation. There is something beautifully pathetic in the picture of the North and the South clasped in each other's arms and shedding a torrent of hot tears down each other's backs as it is done in a play, but do you believe that the aged mothers on either side have learned to love the foe with much violence yet? Do you believe that the crippled veteran, North or South, now passionately loves the adversary who robbed him of his glorious youth, made him a feeble ruin, and mowed down his comrades with swift death? Do you believe that either warrior is so fickle that he has entirely deserted the cause for which he fought? Even the victor cannot ask that.

"Let the gentle finger of time undo, so far as may be, the devastation wrought by the war, and let succeeding generations seek through natural methods to reunite the business and the traffic that were interrupted by the war. Let the South guarantee to the Northern investor security to himself and his investment, and he will not ask for the love which we read of in speeches but do not expect and do not find in the South.

"Two warring parents on the verge of divorce have been saved the disgrace of separation and agreed to maintain their household for the sake of their children. Their love has been questioned by the world, and their relations strained. Is it not bad taste for them to pose in public and make a cheap Romeo and Juliet tableau of themselves?

"Let time and merciful silence obliterate the scars of war, and succeeding generations, fostered by the smiles of national prosperity, soften the bitterness of the past and mellow the memory of a mighty struggle in which each contending host called upon Almighty God to sustain the cause which it honestly believed to be just."

Let us be contented during this generation with the assurance that geographically the Union has been preserved, and that each contending warrior has once more taken up the peaceful struggle for bettering and beautifying the home so bravely fought for.