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The Scotch-Irish in America
Chapter 1


The Scotch-Irish in America: Especially in South Western Pennsylvania.
Their settlements Institutions, traits and influences.

For two hundred years and more, the Scotch-Irish race has been a very potential and beneficent factor in the development of the American Republic. All things considered, it seems probable that the people of this race have cut deeper into the history of the United States than have the people of any other race though they have not been by any means the most numerous or boastful. This is not an extravagant statement. It can be verified by irrefragable proofs. Until recent years the Scotch-Irish have been mostly silent about their achievements. They have been content to do the work given them to do and let others take the glory. Less than twenty years ago, at Columbia, Tenn., the Scotch-Irish Society of America was organized, with the late Robert Bonner of New York, as President, the late Dr. John Hall of the same city, as Vice-President; and others as officers, together with a long list of members, many of them distinguished in various walks of life. The writer of this book was one of its original members, and for several years one of its executive committee, and hence had good opportunities of coming into contact with thousands of the people of the race. Branch societies were organized in many of the states from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and great interest was awakened among the people of this blood all over the country. The Society has published eight volumes of carefully prepared papers, historical and biographical, setting forth some of the achievements of this race in this land. These volumes set up claims which on first thought may be deemed extravagant, presumptuous, and even absurd, but which are incontestably established by ample proofs. At one of the meetings of the Congress of the Society, a prominent gentleman, himself one of the race, remarked, "Well, if the Scotch-Irish have done all these things with which they are credited, I wonder what in the world all the rest of mankind have been doing meanwhile." These papers however, are not bombast; very far from it. Many of them were written by men of large reputation as historical students. They are simply a recital of the indubitable facts of our history, and of the part men and women of this blood had in them. The sober fact is, that judged by the criterion of valuable and enduring work done along every line of useful life, no other race has had equal influence on the course of American history during the last two-hundred years; not even excepting the descendants of the Pilgrims. Let any one scrutinize the list of names distinguished in our annals; names of men eminent in public life from Presidents down; men distinguished in the Church, in the Army, in the Navy, at the Bar, on the Bench, in Medicine and Surgery, in education, trade, commerce, invention, discovery in any and all the arts which add to the freedom, enlightenment and wealth of the world, and to the convenience and comfort of mankind; names which have won lustre in every honorable calling, let him scrutinize the list and see for himself how large a proportion of these names represent men who have this blood in their veins. The proportion of men of this race who, in Great Britain and America have reached great distinction, is certainly very remarkable. Somehow the North of Ireland has been the breeding-place of great men and great influences in the old world and the new. Many of the greatest soldiers and naval heroes of England, Prime Ministers, Lords-Chancellor, Archbishops, and others eminent in the history of that land for several hundred years, have been of this race. Those sections of the world where these people have settled in large numbers and where their influence has been strongly felt, have, without exception, shown a distinctly marked type of industrial, commercial, social, political, intellectual, and most of all, religious life: and such communities have invariably been centres of enterprise, thrift, prosperity, and magazines of beneficent force to the entire surrounding country. We may challenge the world to show us a single example of a community where these people predominated, and yet where ignorance, poverty, crime, superstition, or any form of human debasement prevailed. Without exception, the nesting places of the Scotch-Irish have been breeding-places of free and forceful men and of the far-reaching and uplifting influences. These people have been much more given to making history than they have been to writing it, and hence their achievements have not been heralded abroad as they deserve to be.

Now, who were, and who are the Scotch-Irish? The common notion is that they are a mongrel breed, partly Scotch and partly Irish; that is, the progeny of a cross between the ancient Scot and the ancient Celt or Kelt. This is an entire mistake. Whatever blood may be in the veins of the genuine Scotch-Irishman, one thing is certain, and that is that there is not mingled with it one drop of the blood of the old Irish or Kelt. From time immemorial these two races have been hostile, and much of the time bitterly so. True enough, if you run down the Highland Scot and the old Irish to their deepest root, you will come to a common taproot in the ancient Celt or Kelt, one of the main stems of the great Aryan race which, ages ago, migrated into Europe from Asia. The Erse, the Gael, the Cymri, and the Manx were all originally of this stock, and their descendants survive today in the old Irish, the Highland Scotch, the Welsh, and the people of the Isle of Man. The Lowland Scotch, however, were of a quite different stock. They were of Teutonic or Anglo-Saxon origin, and were separated from their neighbors on either side by race, language, religion, and personal traits. In the very early ages they came into the lowlands of Scotland, and there their descendants live today. They were for a long time a rude, semi-barbarous, and fierce people. They were much given to frequent predatory forays into the north of England for the purpose of plundering the sheep-folds and cattle-yards of their neighbors south of the Tweed. Once in a public address in San Francisco, I caused some comment by confessing that my forefathers used to make raids into England every autumn, and filch from the people there all the supplies they needed for the coming winter, and then unless they looked sharp, the Highlanders would pounce down upon them and rob them of what they had taken from the English. Their conversion to Christianity, and especially their re-conversion in the time of Knox, wrought a radical and revolutionary transformation of these people. It left them with their native vigor and masculine force unimpaired, while it tamed their ferocity; and put into them a strong sentiment of justice and brotherhood. Now the Scotch-Irishman is a lowland Scotchman who moved over into the north of Ireland and there lived for a generation or more, or lives there still. Meanwhile, the change of residence brought certain decided changes in him, in his type and temperament. During the latter half of the seventeenth century and the first quarter of the eighteenth, the lowland Scotch in large numbers crossed over into Ireland, and there settled, chiefly in the Province of Ulster. This migration was due to several causes; some of them industrial, some political, and most of them religious. The lowland Scotch almost to a man embraced the doctrines of the Reformation. They were the stalwart and steadfast principles of John Knox, and as a consequence soon began to be sorely harried by the persecutions then rife in Scotland. Large numbers of people who believed the gospel of our Lord, and who hated tyranny whether of priest or prince, passed over into Ulster where, at that time, there was promise of larger liberty of conscience and worship. They were Calvinists and Presbyterians almost to a man, and to the marrow; the spiritual children of Knox and his successors; people who hated tyrants with invincible hatred, whether they wore the cowl or the crown; people whose fathers had suffered for their faith, and who themselves had been cruelly persecuted in that behalf. It is not strange at all that they carried with them much of the bitter and resentful spirit which persecution always breeds in its victims. Did they hate Rome and all that pertained to it? Why should they not? Had not Rome robbed, tortured and burnt their forefathers? And had not the Church of England, but half reformed, done the like to them? Of course, they carried bitterness in their hearts and sternness in their visage towards those who were bent on strangling them for their faith. We must not blame them overmuch for this. If they were intolerant, it was because they learned the lesson from those who had done their utmost to burn them. How can we expect one to tolerate the man who is trying to assassinate him? It is too much to ask of one who is in a death grapple with a burglar that he shall treat him gently; that he shall wear the smirk of a dancing-master. The man who is in mortal struggle for his liberty or his life, must be resolute and stern, or meanly die like a coward or a slave. Our fathers were neither cowards nor slaves; they did not meanly die, whatever else they did.

People who suffer persecution for the true faith of Christ are always the most valuable element in the population of any country. Whenever such people have been driven from their own land to seek asylum elsewhere, they have invariably proved an invaluable blessing to the lands that gave them welcome. In all history there is no exception to this rule. Theseelect of the High God, that they were under His protection, that the meek should inherit the earth, that the world and the fulness thereof belonged to their Divine King, and hence to them, and they fearlessly proceeded to put that conviction into execution. They believed that every acre of land on which they set their foot belonged to the saints; that they were the saints, and hence it belonged to them. The premise may not have warranted the conclusion, but they deeply believed that it did, and so they acted. In truth, these people have generally held this faith, and have not been slow in showing it by their works. Hence they had no scruple about rooting out the old Irish from Ulster. They probably felt towards these Irish somewhat as the Hebrew felt towards the Philistines when he entered Canaan. The land belonged to him; it was given him by the Lord; the Philistine was an interloper, and must be ejected forthwith. However unwarranted and misguided, that seems to have been the feeling of these people, and so they proceeded to take the province for themselves. They must have room, whoever should have to give way, and so it was not long until Ulster was dominated by these people.

Meanwhile, other Protestants, especially Presbyterians, from England, and Huguenots persecuted out of France, came in large numbers to the same province, and were gladly welcomed to fellowship. The Scotch-Irishman never turns a cold shoulder to one who agrees with him. He is very hospitable to people of like faith and people who settled in Ulster believed in their very souls that they were the spirit. With these English and French Presbyterians they freely intermingled and intermarried, but with the old Irish, their relations were those of the Hebrew and the Canaanite; it was war to the knife, and the knife to the hilt. Their feuds were constant, fierce and deadly. Their blood never intermingled except on the battlefield. Hence it turns out that the genuine Scotch-Irishman is at bottom a lowland Scot, with an admixture of the bluff and sturdy qualities of the English Puritan, and a dash of the genius, grace and humor of the French Huguenot. This makes a remarkable combination of qualities, and we find them blended and balanced in the typical Scotch-Irishman. There is in him the steadfastness, not to say, stubbornness, of the Scot; the rugged strength and aggressive force of the Saxon, with an infusion of the vivacity, ready genius and sanguine temperament of the Frenchman. It is not claimed of course, that every individual of the race exhibits this combination, but it characterizes the type; it is an idiosyncrasy of the race as such.

The people had a passionate love of liberty. They were fiercely intolerant alike of spiritual and political despotism. A very powerful emotionalism ran through their nature, but usually it was held in stern restraint. The fires of passion were deep and hot, but they were rarely suffered to break out into destructive conflagration. The truth revealed by the Lord, as they saw it, they believed with all the strength of their powerful nature. They clung to their Calvinism with a grip which death itself could not relax. Industrious, frugal, sagacious, fearless, long-enduring, they were admirably fitted for the work they were sent into the world to do.

The results of their thrift and forcefulness soon began to appear in Ulster. That Province is naturally the least fertile in Ireland, but under their management it soon became by far the most prosperous. As fast as they got possession, they drained out the bogs, cleared up and improved the land, and so changed the aspect of the country that the traveller could at once see the difference as he crossed the line into Ulster. It is so until this day. They soon made their power felt in the great struggle then going on for civil and religious liberty. In the decisive revolution of 1668, culminating in the ever-memorable siege of Londonderry, and the notable battle of the Boyne, which saved the liberties and the religion of the English-speaking race, unquestionably in that tremendous crisis, the Scotch-Irish people of Ulster were the forlorn hope of the Protestant cause. The heroism shown by them, especially in the unparalleled siege of Derry, has never been surpassed in the annals of mankind. Let any one read Lord Macaulay's story of that great event if he would appreciate the inflexible resolution and invincible stamina of this race. As already said, the number of men from that small province who have reached great places of power and usefulness in every honorable line of life in England, has been extraordinary. For two hundred years or more, Ulster has been a power-house where forces have been generated which have been strongly felt throughout the modern world.


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