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Scots and Scots Descendant in America
Part I - Scots in the Settlement and Development of The United States
Scots in Literature


THE first American authors read generally in Europe were James Fenimore Cooper and Washington Irving, both of Scottish descent; following them are a distinguished list of writers extending to the present day. American journalism, from the earliest time, and the printing art are also indebted greatly to Scottish industry and business ability.

Alexander Garden (1757-1829), a son of Dr. Alexander Garden, mentioned elsewhere, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, and educated in the University of Glasgow. in 1780, he returned to South Carolina, and joined the Revolutionary army. For his services, his father’s confiscated property was returned to him after the war. He published Anecdotes of the Revolutionary War, with Sketches of Character of Persons the Most Distinguished in the Southern States, for Civil and Military Services, a work containing much original and valuable information (1822; 2 ser., 1828; and new edition in 3 volumes in 1865).

Hugh Henry Brackenridge (1748-1816), was born in Campbelton, Argyllshire and settled in Pittsburgh about 1782. He became a judge of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in 1799, and was also prominent in the political history of the State. For several years he conducted an academy in Maryland, and in 1776 became editor of the United States Magazine. He was the author of a satirical novel, now extremely rare, entitled, Modern Chivalry: Containing the Adventures of Captain John Farrago, and Teague O’Ryan, His Servant, published in four volumes in Pittsburgh (1792-1793, 1797). The New York Public Library possesses an interleaved copy of the first two volumes, with additions and corrections for a new edition in the author's hand. Another work from his pen was Incidents of the Insurrection in the Western Parts of Pennsylvania, in the Year 1794 (Philadelphia, 1795). An excellent portrait of Brackenridge is given in Beath’s Historical Catalogue of the St. Andrew’s Society of Philadelphia, V. 1. His son, Henry M. Brackenridge (1786-1871), was distinguished both as an author and as a judge.

Mrs. Anne MacVicar Grant (1755-1838), a native of Glasgow, was the first American woman author of note. She published, in 1808, Memoirs of an American Lady, which was widely read, and her poems were much admired by Sir Walter Scott, Southey, and other writers.

Washington Irving’s (1783-1859) father was William Irving, a native of the Orkneys and of good family, who had taken to the sea: his mother was Sarah Sanders, of Falmouth, England. Irving's many books found equal favour on both sides of the Atlantic, and he wrote as feelingly of life in Britain as in his inimitable sketches of his native America. His first book was published in Great Britain through the influence of Sir Walter Scott. Irving is chiefly remembered by his Rip Van Winkle and Legend of Sleepy Hollow and other short sketches that have become classics, and by his humorous Knickerbocker's History of New York. He also wrote lives of Goldsmith, Columbus, Mahommed and Washington. In style and descriptive power, his work is unequalled and his genial humour and human qualities give him undying popularity.

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), was of Scottish descent. His great-grandfather, John Poe, came from Ireland to Pennsylvania about 1745. John’s son, David Poe, fought in the Revolution and War of 1812. Edgar Allan Poe’s father in 1805 married Elizabeth Arnold. Both were actors, and their son, an orphan at an early age, was adopted by John Allan, a wealthy tobacco manufacturer of Richmond, Virginia, who had him educated in England and at the University of Virginia.

Herman Melville, born in New York in 1819, was of New England Scottish ancestry. His grandfather, Major Thomas Melvill (1751-1832), was a member of the "Boston Tea-Party"; his father, Allan Melville, was a merchant, widely travelled and of fine literary tastes.

Captain Mayne Reid (1818-1883) was the son of a Presbyterian clergyman and came from Ireland to America in 1838. He spent many years hunting, exploring and travelling in the Southwest, and devoted his life to writing tales of adventure.

William Lyle, born in Edinburgh in 1822, learned the potters’ trade; afterward came to America and became the manager of a manufacturing business in Rochester, N. Y. He was author of The Grave of the Three Hundred; Diotima; The Martyr Queen and Other Poems; and many occasional poems in dialect.

David Gray (1836-1888) was born in Edinburgh. He came to America in 1848, and was long identified with the Buffalo Courier and from 1867 to 1882 was its chief editor. He was the author of many graceful poems.

John Burtt (1789-1866), a native of Riccarton, Ayrshire, came to America in 1817 and studied theology at Princeton. He was pastor of churches in Salem, N. J., and Cincinnati, Ohio, and in the latter city editor of The Standard. He was a gifted preacher and poet. His "0'er the Mist-Shrouded Cliffs," is often ascribed to Burns.

Hew Ainslie, born in Bargeny Mains, Ayrshire, came to this country in 1822 and died in Louisville, Ky., in 1878. He was the author of the tender little poem, The Ingleside.

William Wilson, of Crieff, who died at Poughkeepsie, the father of Gen. James Grant Wilson, was a writer deserving of mention.

Many of the better known modern authors, such as Dr. S. Weir Mitchell (already noted), trace their ancestry to Scottish forebears. Among these may be mentioned the gifted Maurice Thomson, the late Joel Chandler Harris, creator of Uncle Remus, Francis Marion Crawford, John Hay, and a host of others.

Donald Grant Mitchell, "Ike Marvel" (1822-1909), landscape gardener and author, was born of the Connecticut Scottish settlements. His My Farm of Edge wood; Reveries of a Bachelor; and Dream Life have been the delight of three generations.

Francis Marion Crawford (1845-1909), author of many novels, delightful stories of Italian life, was a son of Thomas Crawford, the sculptor.

John Hay (1838-1905), the famous statesman and man of letters, was descended from one John Hay, who fought with the famous Scots Brigade in the Low Countries and whose son emigrated to America. Two grandsons fought with distinction in the Revolutionary War. John Hay was secretary to President Lincoln and with Nicolay wrote the authoritative Life of Lincoln. He was a member of the staff of the New York Tribune, 1870 to 1875, and was the author of some books and several popular poems. He was Ambassador to Great Britain, 1897 to 1898, and ranks as one of the greatest American Secretaries of State (1898-1905). He carried out successful negotiations in connection with the Panama Canal, the Samoan dispute, and the Alaska boundary questions growing out of the rush of gold-seekers to the Klondike region, and during the Boer War.

In the "art preservative" Scots have played an important part. David and George Bruce, both born in Scotland, were the inventors of the typecasting machine and the introducers of stereotyping into the United States. John Baine, a native of St. Andrews, established the first type-foundry in Scotland, in Glasgow, in 1742. He removed to London, 1749; to Edinburgh, 1768; and finally, in. 1787, to Philadelphia. He died about 1790. In 1796, Archibald Binney (1763-1838), a native of Porto-Bello, near Edinburgh, Scotland, and James Ronaldson (1768-1841), also born near Edinburgh, formed the famous partnership of Binney & Ronaldson, typefounders, in Philadelphia, which until 1810 had no competition either at home or from abroad in the United States. Binney was probably employed by John Baine; at any rate he acquired all the machinery established by Baine and made many improvements in the art. Both Binney and Ronaldson retired with comfortable fortunes.

Thomas Mackellar, of Philadelphia (1812-1899), in the foundry department; and Scott, Gordon, Campbell and John Thomson, in the designing and improvement of printing presses have contributed an important share to the high position that America holds in the printing world to-day.

John Campbell (1653-1728) issued the Boston News-Letter, April 24, 1704, the first newspaper published in the United States.

Robert Aitken (1734-1802), another Scot., born in Dalkeith., published the Pennsylvania Magazine, in 1775 to 1776, and also printed the first American Bible (1782). Following a report of the Rev. William White, D.D., and Rev. George Duffield, D.D., two of its chaplains, September, 1782, who as witnesses of the demand for this invaluable book, rejoiced in the present prospect of a supply, hoping that it would prove as advantageous as it was honourable to the gentleman who had exerted himself to furnish it, at the evident risk of his private fortune, Congress voted its approval in the following resolution:

"Whereas, Resolved, That the United St.ates in Congress assembled, highly approves the pious and laudable undertaking of Mr. Aitken, as subservient to the interest of religion, as well as an instance of the progress of the arts in this country; and, being satisfied from the above report of his care and accuraev in the execution of the work, they recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States, and hereby authorize him to publish this recommendation in the manner he shall think proper." The Synod of Pennsylvania in 1783 also recommended the purchase of this impression and no other. Aitken's magazine was the first published in Pennsylvania with illustrations, most of which were engraved by himself. The war interfered with its appearance; the last number issued in July, 1776, being noteworthy as containing the first publication of the Declaration of Independence. Aitken is also entitled to he called an engraver, a number of set pieces and maps, among them The Bottle of Bunker Hill, being by him.

Major Andrew Brown (1744-1797), born in the North of Ireland, of Scotch parents, came to America as a British soldier in 1773; but on the outbreak of the war resigned his commission and fought with great bravery in the American army. At the close of the war he opened a classical academy in Philadelphia. In 1788, he took charge of the Federal Gazette, which he changed to the Philadelphia Gazette in 1793. His was the first newspaper to employ a reporter for the debates in Congress. His son, Andrew Brown, Jr., was also a noted journalist and made many improvements in the news gathering service.

William Young (1775-1829), born in Irvine, Ayrshire, another Philadelphia printer and publisher, bought out White & Macpherson’s Directories (about 1790), the first in Philadelphia. He also published several early editions of the Bible. Later, he retired to Rockland, Pa., where he engaged in the manufacture of paper.

William Maxwell, of Scottish descent, published at Cincinnati, the first newspaper in the Northwest Territory. The first religious paper in the United States was published at Chillicothe, Ohio, by a Scotch Presbyterian.

In. recent times, among editors of the first rank, we find as representatives of the Scottish race: James Gordon Bennett—a thorough Scott, who published the first issue of the Herald in a Wall Street cellar, Horace Greeley, George William Childs, Henry W. Grady, Murat Halstead, Samuel Medary, Joseph Medill, James W. Scott, Alexander K. McClure, John A. Cockerill, Whitelaw Reid, Washington and John R. MacLean, Joseph B. McCullagh, Richard Smith, John Russell Young, "Marse Henry" Watterson, "Richelieu" Robinson, Beriah Wilkins, Robert W. Patterson.

To these must he added the late St. Clair MeKelway, of the Brooklyn Eagle; Hon. Andrew MacLean, of the Brooklyn Citizen, a native of Renton, Dumbartonshire; John Swinton, the friend and associate of Charles A. Dana, on the New York Sun, who was nineteen when he sailed from Scotland; George Dawson, horn in Falkirk, in 1813, long associated with the Rochester Democrat and with Hon. Thurlow Weed on the Albany Evening Journal; Arthur Brisbane, the gifted editor of the New York Evening Journal, of Scottish descent; Peter Ross, author of Scotland and the Scots; and John Foord, a native of Dundee and associate editor of the New York Journal of Commerce-—a great student and admirer of Burns and much in demand for his lectures and addresses on the poet and his works before St. Andrew’s Societies and other gatherings.

Librarians and publishers might also be included in this connection. Of librarians, mention may be made of John Forbes (1771-1824), librarian of the New York Society Library, who was born in Scotland. During his life he was prominent in the literary life of New York City. His son, Philip Jones Forbes, was also librarian of the same institution from 1828 to 1855, and his son John succeeded him in the same office.

Peter Carter, publisher, was born at Eariston in 1825, and in 1832 was brought to the United States by his parents. In 1840, he entered a bookstore as a boy assistant, and eight years later he became a partner with his brother in the book-publishing business, under the name of Robert Carter & Brothers, New York City. At the same time he found opportunity for much benevolent educational and sociological work. He published a number of works from his own pen, including Crumbs from the Land o’ Cakes (1851), Scotia’s Bards (1853), and a number of children’s books.


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