Comic History of the United States - Bill Nye

The Plymouth Colony

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

In the fall of 1620 the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth during a disagreeable storm, and, noting the excellent opportunity for future misery, began to erect a number of rude cabins. This party consisted of one hundred and two people of a resolute character who wished to worship God in a more extemporaneous manner than had been the custom in the Church of England.

They found that the Indians of Cape Cod were not ritualistic, and that they were willing to dispose of inside lots at Plymouth on reasonable terms, retaining, however, the right to use the lands for massacre purposes from time to time.

The Pilgrims were honest, and gave the Indians something for their land in almost every instance, but they put a price upon it which has made the Indian ever since a comparatively poor man.

Half of this devoted band died before spring, and yet the idea of returning to England did not occur to them. "No," they exclaimed, "we will not go back to London until we can go first-class, if we have to stay here two hundred years."

During the winter they discovered why the lands had been sold to them so low. The Indians of one tribe had died there of a pestilence the year before, and so when the Pilgrims began to talk trade they did not haggle over prices.

In the early spring, however, they were surprised to hear the word "Welcome" proceeding from the door-mat of Samoset, an Indian whose chief was named Massasoit. A treaty was then made for fifty years, Massasoit taking "the same."

Canonicus once sent to Governor Bradford a bundle of arrows tied up in a rattlesnake's skin. The Governor put them away in the pantry with his other curios, and sent Canonicus a few bright new bullets and a little dose of powder. That closed the correspondence. In those days there were no newspapers, and most of the fighting was done without a guarantee or side bets.

Money-matters; however, were rather panicky at the time, and the people were kept busy digging clams to sustain life in order to raise Indian corn enough to give them sufficient strength to pull clams enough the following winter to get them through till the next corn crop should give them strength to dig for clams again. Thus a trip to London and the Isle of Wight looked farther and farther away.

After four years they numbered only one hundred and eighty-four, counting immigration and all. The colony only needed, however, more people and Eastern capital.

It would be well to pause here and remember the annoyances connected with life as a forefather. Possibly the reader has considered the matter already. Imagine how nervous one may be waiting in the hall and watching with a keen glance for the approach of the physician who is to announce that one is a forefather. The amateur forefather of 1620 must have felt proud yet anxious about the clam-yield also, as each new mouth opened on the prospect.

Speaking of clams, it is said by some of the forefathers that the Cape Cod menu did not go beyond codfish croquettes until the beginning of the seventeenth century, when pie was added by act of legislature.

Clams are not so restless if eaten without the brisket, which is said to lie hard on the stomach.[2]

Salem and Charlestown were started by Governor Endicott, and Boston was founded in 1630. To these various towns the Puritans flocked, and even now one may be seen in ghostly garments on Thanksgiving Eve flitting here and there turning off the gas in the parlor while the family are at tea, in order to cut down expenses.

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

Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay Colonies were united in 1692.

Roger Williams, a bright young divine, was the first to interfere with the belief that magistrates had the right to punish Sabbath-breakers, blasphemers, etc. He also was the first to utter the idea that a man's own conscience must be his own guide and not that of another.

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



Among the Puritans there were several who had enlarged consciences, and who desired to take in extra work for others who had no consciences and were busy in the fields. They were always ready to give sixteen ounces to the pound, and were honest, but they got very little rest on Sunday, because they had to watch the Sabbath-breaker all the time.

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


The method of punishment for some offences is given here.

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


Does the man look cheerful? No. No one looks cheerful. Even the little boys look sad. It is said that the Puritans knocked what fun there was out of the Indian. Did any one ever see an Indian smile since the landing of the Pilgrims?

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


Roger Williams was too liberal to be kindly received by the clergy, and so he was driven out of the settlement. Finding that the Indians were less rigid and kept open on Sundays, he took refuge among them (1636), and before spring had gained eighteen pounds and converted Canonicus, one of the hardest cases in New England and the first man to sit up till after ten o'clock at night. Canonicus gave Roger the tract of land on which Providence now stands.

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


Mrs. Anne Hutchinson gave the Pilgrims trouble also. Having claimed some special revelations and attempted to make a few remarks regarding them, she was banished.

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


Banishment, which meant a homeless life in a wild land, with no one but the Indians to associate with, in those days, was especially annoying to a good Christian woman, and yet it had its good points. It offered a little religious freedom, which could not be had among those who wanted it so much that they braved the billow and the wild beast, the savage, the drouth, the flood, and the potato-bug, to obtain it before anybody else got a chance at it. Freedom is a good thing.

Twenty years later the Quakers shocked every one by thinking a few religious thoughts on their own hooks. The colonists executed four of them, and before that tortured them at a great rate.

During dull times and on rainy days it was a question among the Puritans whether they would banish an old lady, bore holes with a red-hot iron through a Quaker's tongue, or pitch horse-shoes.

In 1643 the "United Colonies of New England" was the name of a league formed by the people for protection against the Indians.

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

King Philip's war followed.

Massasoit was during his lifetime a friend to the poor whites of Plymouth, as Powhatan had been of those at Jamestown, but these two great chiefs were succeeded by a low set of Indians, who showed as little refinement as one could well imagine.

Some of the sufferings of the Pilgrims at the time are depicted on the preceding pages by the artist, also a few they escaped.

Looking over the lives of our forefathers who came from England, I am not surprised that, with all the English people who have recently come to this country, I have never seen a forefather.