Comic History of the United States - Bill Nye

Settlement of the Middle States

The present State of New Jersey was a part of New Netherland, and the Dutch had a trading-post at Bergen as early as 1618. After New Netherland passed into the hands of the Dutch, the Duke of York gave the land lying between the Hudson and the Delaware to Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret for Christmas.

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


The first permanent English settlement made in the State was at Elizabethtown, named so in honor of Sir George's first wife.

Berkeley sold his part to some English Quakers. This part was called West Jersey. He claimed that it was too far from town. It was very hard for a lord to clear up land, and Berkeley missed his evenings at the Savage Club, and his nose yearned for a good whiff of real old Rotten Row fog.

So many disputes arose regarding the title to Jersey that the whole thing finally reverted to the crown in 1702. When there was any trouble over titles in those days it was always settled by letting it revert to the crown. It has been some years now, however, since that has happened in this country.

Thirty-six years later New Jersey was set apart as a separate royal province, and became a railroad terminus and bathing-place.

Delaware was settled by the Swedes at Wilmington first, and called New Sweden. I am surprised that the Norsemen, who it is claimed made the first and least expensive summer at Newport, R. I., should not have clung to it.

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


They could have made a good investment, and in a few years would have been strong enough to wipe out the Brooklyn police.

The Swedes, too, had a good foothold in New York, Jersey, and Delaware, also a start in Pennsylvania. But the two nations seemed to yearn for home, and as soon as boats began to run regularly to Stockholm and Christiania, they returned. In later years they discovered Minneapolis and Stillwater.

William Penn now loomed up on the horizon. He was an English Quaker who had been expelled from Oxford and jugged in Cork also for his religious belief. He was the son of Admiral Sir William Penn, and had a good record. He believed that elocutionary prayer was unnecessary, and that the acoustics of heaven were such that the vilest sinner with no voice-culture could be heard in the remotest portion of the gallery.

The only thing that has been said against Penn with any sort of semblance of truth was that he had some influence with James II. The Duke of York also stood in with Penn, and used to go about in England bailing William out whenever he was jailed on account of his religious belief.

Penn was quite a writer (see Appendix). He was the author of "No Cross, No Crown," "Innocency with her Open Face," and "The Great Cause of Liberty of Conscience."

From his father he had inherited a claim against the government for sixteen thousand pounds, probably arrears of pension. He finally received the State of Pennsylvania as payment of the claim. The western boundary took in the Cliff House and Seal Rocks of San Francisco.

Penn came to America in 1682 and bought his land over again from the Indians. It is not strange that he got the best terms he could out of the Indians, but still it is claimed that they were satisfied, therefore he did not cheat them.

The Indian, as will be noticed by reading these pages thoughtfully, was never a Napoleon of finance. He is that way down to the present day. If you watch him carefully and notice his ways, you can dicker with him to better advantage than you can with Russell Sage.

Take the Indian just before breakfast after two or three nights of debauchery, and offer him a jug of absinthe with a horned toad in it for his pony and saddle, and you will get them. Even in his more sober and thoughtful moments you can swap a suit of red medicated flannels with him for a farm.

Penn gathered about him many different kinds of people, with various sorts and shades of belief. Some were Free-Will and some were Hard-Shell, some were High-Church and reminded one of a Masonic Lodge working at 32 deg., while others were Low-Church and omitted crossing themselves frequently while putting down a new carpet in the chancel.

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


But he was too well known at court, and suspected of knowledge of and participation in some of the questionable acts of King James, so that after the latter's dethronement, and an intimation that Penn had communicated with the exiled monarch, Penn was deprived of his title to Pennsylvania, for which he had twice paid.

Penn was a constant sufferer at the hands of his associates, who sought to injure him in every way. He rounded out a life of suffering by marrying the second time in 1695.

In 1708 he was on the verge of bankruptcy, owing to the villany and mismanagement of his agent, and was thrown into Fleet Street Prison, a jail in which he had never before been confined. His health gave way afterwards, and this remarkable man died July 30, 1718.

Philadelphia was founded in 1683 and work begun on a beautiful building known as the City Hall. Work has steadily progressed on this building from time to time since then, and at this writing it is so near completion as to give promise of being one of the most perfect architectural jobs ever done by the hand of man.

In two years Philadelphia had sprung from a wilderness, where the rank thistle nodded in the wind, to a town of over two thousand people, exclusive of Indians not taxed. In three years it had gained more than New York had in fifty years. This was due to the fact that the people who came to Philadelphia had nothing to fear but the Indians, while settlers in New York had not only the Indians to defend themselves against, but the police also.

Penn and his followers established the great law that no one who believed in Almighty God should be molested in his religious belief. Even the Indians liked Penn, and when the nights were cold they would come and crawl into his bed and sleep with him all night and not kill him at all. The Great Chief of the Tribes, even, did not feel above this, and the two used frequently to lie and talk for hours, Penn doing the talking and the chief doing the lying.

It is said that, with all the Indian massacres and long wars between the red men and the white, no drop of Quaker blood was ever shed. I quote this from an historian who is much older than I, and with whom I do not wish to have any controversy.

After Penn's death his heirs ran the Colony up to 1779, when they disposed of it for five hundred thousand dollars or thereabouts, and the State became the proprietor.

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


The seventeenth century must have been a very disagreeable period for people who professed religion, for America from Newfoundland to Florida was dotted with little settlements almost entirely made up of people who had escaped from England to secure religious freedom at the risk of their lives.

In 1634 the first settlement was made by young Lord Baltimore, whose people, the Catholics, were fleeing from England to obtain freedom to worship God as they believed to be right. Thus the Catholics were added to the list of religious refugees,—viz., the Huguenots, the Puritans, the Walloons, the Quakers, the Presbyterians, the Whigs, and the Menthol Healers.

Terra Mariae, or Maryland, was granted to Lord Baltimore, as the successor of his father, who had begun before his death the movement for settling his people in America. The charter gave to all freemen a voice in making the laws. Among the first laws passed was one giving to every human being upon payment of poll-tax the right to worship freely according to the dictates of his own conscience. America thus became the refuge for those who had any peculiarity of religious belief, until to-day no doubt more varieties of religion may be found here than almost anywhere else in the world.

In 1635 the Virginia Colony and Lord Baltimore had some words over the boundaries between the Jamestown and Maryland Colonies. Clayborne was the Jamestown man who made the most trouble. He had started a couple of town sites on the Maryland tract, plotted them, and sold lots to Yorkshire tenderfeet, and so when Lord Baltimore claimed the lands Clayborne attacked him, and there was a running skirmish for several years, till at last the Rebellion collapsed in 1645 and Clayborne fled.

The Protestants now held the best hand, and outvoted the Catholics, so up to 1691 there was a never-dying fight between the two, which must have been entertaining to the unregenerate outsider who was taxed to pay for a double set of legislators. This fight between the Catholics and Protestants shows that intolerance is not confined to a monarchy.

In 1715 the fourth Lord Baltimore recovered the government by the aid of the police, and religious toleration was restored. Maryland remained under this system of government until the Revolution, which will be referred to later on in the most thrilling set of original pictures and word-paintings that the reader has ever met with.

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Questions for Examination

Q. Who was William Penn?

A. He founded Pennsylvania.

Q. Was he a great fighter?

A. No. He was a peaceable man, and did not believe in killing men or fighting.

Q. Would he have fought for a purse of forty thousand dollars?

A. No. He could do better buying coal lands of the Indians.

Q. What is religious freedom?

A. It is the art of giving intolerance a little more room.

Q. Who was Lord Baltimore?

A. See foregoing chapter.

Q. What do you understand by rebellion?

A. It is an unsuccessful attempt by armed subjects to overcome the parent government.

Q. Is it right or wrong?

A. I do not know, but will go and inquire.