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The Scotch-Irish in America
What the Scotch-Irish have done for Education
By G. MacLoskie, D.Sc., LL.D., Professor of Biology in Princeton College


The close alliance of Scotland and Ireland dates from the time of St. Patrick, who died in a.d. 465. He appears to have been educated in the southern part of Scotland, and he preached the Gospel and established religious houses in Ireland. His monasteries were not the homes of lazy monks, but seats of learning and centers of missionary effort. They resembled the schools of the prophets of the Old Testament, and were repeated in the last century in the log colleges of America. The early Irish monks, many of them married men, were zealous students and copyists of Scripture, and enthusiastic itinerant preachers. An old tradition says that one of them, St. Brendin, discovered the new world, and, after returning to Ireland to report his discovery, he set sail a second time (in the year 545), to preach the Gospel to the natives of the newly discovered land. He was never heard of again, but his name is immortalized by a bay on the west of Ireland, from which he is said to have sailed. Another tradition associates colonists from the north of Ireland with Scandinavians as the first settlers of Iceland, which became a home of learning.

Two men from Ulster, both bearing the name of Columba, became missionaries of learning and religion, one in the Highlands of Scotland, the other in continental Europe. One of them Columba, or Columbkille, from County Donegal, in west Ulster, established the religious house at Iona, an island west of Scotland, and himself and his disciples carried the Gospel over Scotland and into the north of England. Hence arose the Culdees, or worshipers of God, who cherished the Gospel in the homes of Scotland even in the dark ages; and their descendants quickly responded to John Knox when, at a later age, like Columbkille resurrected, he preached Christ to his beloved Scotland. Lindisfarne, in the north of England, was a fruit of the work of the Culdees; and it has been lately found that the Lindisfarne Illuminated Gospel, kept in the British Museum, and long supposed to be a gem of Anglo-Saxon learning, is an Irish work, probably penned by some English student in one of the celebrated Irish schools.

The other Columba came from a school in County Down, on the eastern coast of Ulster, and went as a missionary to Eastern France and Switzerland, where he is better known by the name of Columbanus. His biography has been recently discovered in the civic archives of Schaffhausen, in Switzerland, written in the pure ancient Celtic language, and has given an impetus to the study of that language. One of the cantons of Switzerland commemorates by its name (St. Gallen, Irish county) these old Irish missionaries, members of the genuine Clan-na-Gael. Boniface, the apostle of Germany (a. d. 738), belonged to them; and he and other Scotch-Irish missionaries established religious houses, among them the monastery of Erfurt, where Luther, at a later date, found the Reformation in a Latin Testament. Thus, by easy steps, we go from St. Patrick to Iona and the Culdees and Knox in Scotland, and to Switzerland, with its Zwingle and Geneva, and to Germany and Luther. Germany, which now leads the world in scholarship, was content to receive its first schools from humble Scotch-Irish itinerants.

The quality of the teaching of those times may be estimated from the Confession of St. Patrick, from the love generally shown for the Scriptures, and from the Commentary on Scripture of Sedulius, abbot of Kildare, in Ireland, ninth century. Pure Gospel is found in these writings, without any hint of a pope, and Sedulius praises Paul for his censure of Peter, and gives an evangelical interpretation of the Lord's Supper. A traveling Irish-Scot, named Ferghil (or Virgil) taught that the world is globular, and that the further side is probably inhabited. He was summoned before the pope for such teaching, but escaped the fate of heretics. Johannes Scotus Erigeua (which name may be interpreted as Scotch-Irish John) gave the celebrated repartee to Charles the Bald, who asked him across the table, "John, what is the difference between a Scot and a sot?" and was promptly answered, "Nothing whatever, please your majesty, except the table."

Another tradition awards to St. Comgall's school, at Bangor, in County Down, the alma mater of Columbanus, the additional honor of supplying Alfred the Great with the first batch of professors for Oxford University, in England, as, at a later date, Scotland gave its first professors to Dublin University, in Ireland, and as many of our American colleges have been started by Scotch-Irish ministers.

The twelfth century brought in the age of darkness to Ireland. In 1110, the Irish Synod of Rathbreasil sold their religious independence to an Italian pontiff, and, within the same century, the Italian pontiff bargained away its civil independence to a dissolute English monarch, in return for a promise of payment of Peter's pence. Thus a double servitude, both spiritual and temporal, was imposed on the country, the ecclesiastical and civil potentates sometimes quarreling, sometimes courting each other, but always oppressing the people. In 1315, Edward Bruce, the brother of Scotland's hero, endeavored to free Ireland from the English; but the church excommunicated him, and he lost his life in the struggle. During the dark ages, schools disappeared from Ireland, and the only men who perpetuated its reputation for learning were such as spent their days abroad at the courts of European monarchs. Ireland then became a good country to leave. So low had it sunk, that the Reformation, which stirred other nations, was scarcely felt there. Even the Bible had become forgotten; yet, when the Roman Catholic Archbishop of York presented two fine copies of the Scriptures to the two cathedrals of Dublin, the people welcomed the gifts and eagerly studied the books.

The Reformation in Scotland was the outcome chiefly of university scholarship. Men with the training and spirit of Columbkille such men as Patrick Hamilton, George Wishart, John Knox, and Andrew Melville revived the times of the Culdees, and Scotland, the poorest of the nations, soon took a leading position for scholarship and piety.

Early in the seventeenth century, the north of Ireland was vacated by turbulent chiefs, and Scotchmen were invited to enter and lend a helping hand in its civilization. That was an age of religious persecution, even among Protestants. It was the time at which pious Non-conformists were driven from England, first to Holland, and afterward, in the Mayflower, to America, in quest of liberty to pray to God. At first, the king of England encouraged Scots to migrate to Ireland with a prospect of religious liberty. This "plantation of Ulster" was the counterpart, in some measure, of the emigration of the Pilgrim Fathers; but the Scotch took nearly a century in moving from Scotland by way of Ireland to America, and they had to pass through a hot fire in the transit, and to come out, not as Scots, but as Scotch-Irish, with new experiences and new characteristics.

Though the "plantation of Ulster" by Scotch immigrants was numerically a small affair, only a million of acres being open to colonization, and not half of these falling to the newcomers, yet a complete change of habits and mode of cultivation ensued, and the entire province felt the benefit of the change. The men who came from Scotland were many of them the "floaters," of bad principles and a coarse type, and they intermingled with semi-savage natives. There came over, however, along with them, the religious and educational methods of Scotland. John Knox had established a system of schools, so that every minister had a hand in teaching during some part of his career, and every boy, however poor, had before him the opportunity of gaining education up to his ability. The church and the school went together, as both of the people and for the people. James Melville (nephew of Andrew) informs us that, at one of these schools, in Montrose, Scotland, he was instructed by a Christian minister, who was "a guid, kind, learned man," in the three important subjects of a boy's education, (1) book learning, (2) religion, (3) athletics. He learned Latin and French; also, archery, swimming, fencing, and jumping; and his piety grew with the discipline of the school. In Scotland, this educational system culminated in the great universities, that of Edinburgh being itself a child of the Reformation.

The religious history of Ulster begins with the ministrations of a few immigrant Scottish ministers, some of them men of noble blood, who had to flee from persecution, and who were for a time permitted to occupy the churches in Ulster. In 1636, a great religious awakening took place, which spread among all classes, Roman Catholics as well as Protestants, and transformed the province. There was hope of times of blessing coming to all Ireland, when, as usual, the English government stepped in to interrupt the work by persecuting the ministers and people for non-conformity. What is known in history as the Black Oath was enforced in Ulster, people being fined and imprisoned for failing to swear obedience to the king in all things, and ministers being silenced or banished. Thereafter followed a long series of religious oppressions in Ireland; and these persecutions subsequently followed the Scotch-Irish to America.

The colonization of Ulster from Scotland brought over schools fashioned after the Scottish model, but without the civil encouragement which had been secured by Knox for his people. The Irish schools were private schools, often of an humble character. Those which have persisted even till our memory were conducted by picturesque, poor, but often enthusiastic teachers, who were remunerated by sods of peat, dishes of potatoes, fresh eggs and butter, and occasionally by a fat goose at one of the great festivals. The scholars would go barefoot, with arms out at the elbows, carrying the peat under one arm, and a copy of an old arithmetic or Ovid's Metamorphosis under the other. No Irish colleges welcomed these boys, as the only Irish university, though at first it was started under Scottish teachers, was soon closed against their characteristic faith. The Scotch-Irish lads, after their school training was completed, had to go on foot to the seaside, whence they embarked on a packet for Scotland, and again went afoot in groups to Glasgow or Edinburgh University, whence they were sent back, in the course of a few years, with the university diploma. On returning, they were trained in theology under the supervision of the presbytery. Francis Makemie, the father of American Presbyterianism, gives us an account of his own education in the latter half of the seventeenth century. At a school in County Donegal, he experienced, as he says, " a work of grace and conversion in my heart at fifteen years of age, by and from the pains of a godly schoolmaster, who used no small diligence in gaining tender souls to God's service and fear." His theological training was faithfully superintended by the presbytery, though it was not permitted to hold public meetings, some of its members having been imprisoned and fined for holding a session of presbytery. Soon afterward, Non-conformists were forbidden to teach school. Moreover, the Scottish colonists of Ulster came to experience extortions by landlords, and to be denied the rights of freemen in the country for which they had done so much. In Ireland, as in America, a three-fold struggle for liberty had to be carried on: (1) for liberty to be educated; (2) for religious liberty; (3) for civil liberty.

We will not follow the struggle as it went on in Ulster. Suffice it to say, that the men who saved England by closing the gates of Derry, were robbed of the honor of their services, were afterward declared unfit to hold office in the city which they had defended, or anywhere under the British crown; and laws were passed to destroy their woolen trade, to make their marriages null and their children bastards, and to deprive them of Christian burial; nor were they relieved of their disabilities until the rebellion of the American colonies taught England to deal gently with the oppressed at home. Step by step, Ulster has fought its way to political equality, to protection for its tenant farmers, to religious freedom, and to high educational rank. Belfast, at present, holds the third place in Great Britain as a seaport, being surpassed in the tonnage of its shipping only by London and Liverpool. Ulster is remarkably free from crime, and has few police, as compared with the rest of Ireland, or even England. And men who have gone from Ulster, with the education and principles of the Scotch-Irish, occupy the highest positions as teachers or statesmen in England, India, China, Australia, and America.

The advent of the Scotch-Irish to America dates from the time when oppressions became unbearable at home; especially from the time of James II. It was about 1683 that Francis Makemie arrived, the first Scotch-Irish clergyman whose history is known to us. He was put in jail in New York city for the crime of preaching the gospel in a private house; and he defended the cause of religious liberty with heroic courage and legal ability, being helped by a Scottish lawyer from Philadelphia (who was silenced for his courage), and being ultimately acquitted by a brave New York jury. Thus was begun the great struggle for religious liberty in America.

Some of the immigrants established colonies in New England, as in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. In 1718 a large company arrived in five ships at Boston, introducing four characteristic Scotch-Irish institutions: (1) potatoes, (2) a spinning-wheel, (3) a school to teach even the Bostonians how to spin, (4) a Presbyterian minister ready at once to form them into an organized church. This last was Rev. John Moorehead, for long time the representative of the cause in Boston. Other churches were established, as at Andover, Londonderry, N. H., and in Maine.

The influx of this class into Pennsylvania soon changed the character of the middle colonies. The governor of Pennsylvania, during fifty years (1699 to 1749), was a Scotch-Irish Quaker, James Logan, a native of county Armagh, Ireland, an able judge, a patron of learning, a friend of the Indians, but not fond of his own countrymen when they were not Quakers. He feared that ere long they would turn matters their own way. "It looks as if Ireland were to send all her inhabitants hither," was his complaint in 1725; "if they will continue to come, they will make themselves proprietors of the province;" and he condemned the bad taste of people who were forcing themselves where their presence was not desired. We may estimate the rate of the invasion from the rise of the population of Pennsylvania from 20,000 in 1701, to 250,000 in 1749. Shortly before the revolutionary war, a new outbreak of oppression in Ireland sent a larger stream, chiefly of farmers and manufacturers. Most of these men were Presbyterians, of a sturdy spirit; they sailed in search of liberty, and they were the earliest and most persevering of our people in our struggle for civil liberty. John Stark, who had fought for England against the French, rushed, when the great struggle came, to fight for America against British tyranny, his pious Irish wife, by her letters, encouraging him in what she said was God's cause. Richard Montgomery, who fell at Quebec, was Scotch-Irish, as was the other Montgomery, who presided over the first meeting of the Scotch-Irish in Cumberland Valley, where resolutions were passed for independence, and money was raised, and a regiment of soldiers soon despatched to aid Washington at Boston. This regiment was under the command of Colonel Chambers, a Scotch-Irish elder. Thomas McKean, another of them, was one of the fourteen of the race who signed the Declaration of Independence, and was governor of Pennsylvania during the great struggle. A Scotch-Irishman wrote, another publicly read, a third first printed the Declaration of Independence. Joseph Reed, son of an Irish father, himself a graduate of Princeton college, was the trusted secretary of Washington, though he died young. It was he that replied to king George's officers: "I am not worth bribing, but such as I am, Britain is not rich enough to buy me." Charles Thomson, from Maghera, Ireland, was then secretary of Congress, "the man of truth;" as the proverb ran, "as true as if Charles Thomson's name were to it." Henry Knox, the Scotch-Irish bookseller of Boston, was Washington's efficient chief of ordnance, from Ticonderoga to York-town. The Scotch-Irish of Philadelphia and of Boston, came forward in times of financial embarrassment, to help the popular cause by their contributions. Scotch-Irish pastors were foremost in their patriotism. Rev. John Murray, of Maine, and David Caldwell, of North Carolina, were honored by the British offering rewards for the capture of either of them. Dr. George Duffield, an excellent cross between the Scotch-Irish and the Huguenot, said from the pulpit that he was sorry to see so many able-bodied men at church, when their country needed their services at Valley Forge. In those days it was an offense calling for discipline before the New England and Pennsylvania presbyteries, if a minister did any thing that might excite suspicion of disloyalty to his country's cause.

The military services of the race, at first against the French and Indians, and afterward on behalf of independence against the British, were merely an incident in their history. Their greatest achievements were in peace, with the axe, the plow, and the loom, clearing the forest, subduing the land, and developing mechanical arts and trade. Above all other public institutions, they loved the church and the school. With them religion and education were inseparable; no religion without the training of the intelligence ; no education divorced from piety. The school was always planted near the church, the schoolmaster was often the pastor, or a candidate for the ministry, or one of the pillars of the church. An attempt was made, early in the eighteenth century, to exclude non-conformists from the office of teaching ; nobody was to teach in New York (at least of the English-speaking people), unless provided with a certificate from the bishop of London. But in Pennsylvania and southward, greater liberty was allowed, at least as to common schools. The present condition of the middle states bears testimony to the use made of this liberty. Whilst New England was colonized by the cream of old England's puritanism, and Pennsylvania only a century later by the outcasts of the poor province of Ulster, yet the progress of the Keystone State may compare with the vaunted achievements of the Plymouth colony.

The man to whom, above all others, our country is indebted for his influence on its education, is the Rev. William Tennent, founder of the log college at Neshaminy, in Bucks county, Pennsylvania. He was a native of county Armagh, Ireland, at first an Episcopalian, probably a graduate of Trinity college, Dublin. His wife, Catherine Kennedy, was the worthy daughter of an Irish Presbyterian minister, who had suffered persecution for his faith. They came to America with their young family, in 1716, and ten years later he was ordained and settled as pastor at Neshaminy. There he started a school which aimed to be a college, in order to prepare young men for the Christian ministry. It seems to have been a hybrid between the hedge schools of Ulster and Dublin university, with poor equipment as to finances or buildings, called in derision a " log college," but claiming to impart sound classical, philosophical, and theological education. This institution was established in order to provide a home supply of ministers, and the men who issued from it were the most zealous and successful that have been given to our country. It was opposed by worthy clergymen, who demanded that all candidates for the ministry should produce a degree from one of the older universities, that is, either from Yale or Harvard, in New England, or from Scotland. But the New England colleges were hostile to evangelical religion. Yale had expelled David Brainerd, really, as was believed, because he attended prayer-meeting, and formally complained because after its censure, this best of missionaries was ordained by a presbytery. It was pronounced in its hostility to revivals of religion. Harvard placed itself on record, by a manifesto signed by its president and professors, against George Whitefield, the gravamen of his sin being that he preached without paper. And Governor Belcher, himself a graduate of Harvard, wrote that Arminianism, Arianism, and Socinianism were being propagated in the New England colleges. Thus the hope of securing a supply of godly ministers from New England was futile. Nor was there any better prospect from abroad. Some good men did come over, as Francis Makemie and William Tennent. But in answer to the entreaties of our presbyteries that the British churches should send them out pastors, most of those who came were "crooked sticks." One was sent back after being convicted of plagiarism, and a complaint was made to the synod of Ulster, for imposing on the Americans by sending bad men. Others were narrow and quarrelsome; not a few were intemperate. The best of the immigrants was a man who had fled from a charge before an Irish presbytery of forging his credentials, who was afterward deposed from the ministry on the same charge by the presbytery of Philadelphia, who went to Maine, where he was irregularly restored to the ministry by a congregation, and who filled a long and devoted ministry, under this charge, which he never dared to meet.

In such circumstances it was suicidal to depend on a foreign supply of ministers, and in fact the Presbyterian churches of New England, by continuing in a dependent condition, prepared the way for their extermination. Nor could the Presbyterians hope for a college of their own; on the contrary, they were informed that no college charter would be granted to dissenters; and it was not till the success of the log colleges was assured, that a charter was given, in an irregular way, to the more moderate section of the denomination, for Princeton college.

The attempt to train young men for the ministry in the Log College, and their ordination without the degree of a chartered university, though sometimes condemned by historians, seems to us to have been the Declaration of Independence by the church for the right to train its own ministry. The charge recently made, that Tennent and his friends took a low view of education for ministers, may be met by the facts that they gave the best education they could command, that so soon as Princeton college was established, they rallied to its support and its further development, and that the alumni of the log colleges were deemed good enough in scholarship to be appointed professors or presidents of the high-class colleges which were at length established. The Log College preachers have also been condemned for venturing to preach within the precincts of ministers who opposed revival methods, but their conduct in this respect would be justified with us, on the ground that ministers may not interpose to prevent the preaching of salvation to sinners, even though the sinners are of their own flocks.

Like the monasteries of St. Patrick, Tennent's Log College became a home of learning and a center of missionary movements. Besides William Tennent, senior, and Mrs. Tennent, it was blessed by worthy disciples, including four sons of its founder. One of these, Gilbert Tennent, maybe named along with George Whitefieid and (at a later date) Bishop Asbury, as the three men who were, above all others, used of God for the development of spiritual religion in the New World. Besides these, there were Samuel Finlay, Samuel and John Blair, John Robinson, John Rowland, and Charles Beatty. The last named was an Irish peddler, who offered his wares in elegant Latin at the Log College, was invited in, educated, and became a faithful preacher. He was the ancestor of devoted men, the last of whom, Charles Beatty, of Steubenville, O., died a few years ago, after a long service as missionary, educator, and benefactor of the Western Theological Seminary, and of Washington and Jefferson College.

The example of the Tennents was followed by other Scotch-Irish pastors in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and southward. Thus a number of high-class schools were established, bringing education to the doors of the people, independently of government. The office of teacher was not highly esteemed in England (it was apologized for, on behalf of John Eliot, that he was in early life a teacher), but it was always appreciated among the Scotch-Irish; and the teachers often gave their services without pay, so that the poorest boy might be educated up to his capacity. As examples of these institutions, may be named one at Fagg's Manor (New London, Chester county, Pennsylvania), established in 1790 by Samuel Blair, one of Tennent's pupils; subsequently, under Francis Allison, who was encouraged in his work by the Synod. Allison afterward removed to Philadelphia, where he was preacher and teacher, and at length professor, when the University was started. Nottingham Academy, in Maryland, was established by Dr. Samuel Finlay, in 1744, who was descended from John Finlay, one of the early martyrs burnt at the stake in Scotland, and was himself, like nearly all the other founders of these schools, a native of Ireland. This academy of Nottingham produced some of our greatest men, as Governor Martin, of North Carolina, Dr. Benjamin Rush, Colonel Bayard, and preachers Waddell, McWhorter, etc. Pequea School, in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, was established by Robert Smith, one of Tennent's disciples, himself Irish, and blessed with an Irish wife (who was sister of Robert Blair). His son, Samuel Stanhope Smith, was another great educationist, president of Hampden Sydney, and afterward of Princeton College ; remarkable for his services in developing the higher studies in college. His brother, John Blair Smith, was successively president of Hampden Sydney and of Schenectady College. A school was established at Newville, in the Cumberland valley, Pennsylvania, by John Blair, brother of Robert; another at West Canococheague, by John King. Rev. David Caldwell, in North Carolina, had at once an academy, college, and theological seminary, and was also a red-hot patriot. John McMillan went out to the wilds of West Pennsylvania, where he established a church and a log college. Thaddeus Dod followed his example at Red Stone, in South-western Pennsylvania, and John Smith started another school. These western institutions afterward developed into Washington and Jefferson College.

The humble academies gave a completion to our education before we were blessed with colleges, and they prepared the way for chartered institutions, so soon as these could be obtained. Immediately on the establishment of Princeton College, the Tennents gave up their school at Neshaminy, and bestowed all their great influence toward the advancement of the new institution. We find that, in 1748, the roll of trustees of Princeton College included, with others, Gilbert Tennent, William Tennent (the younger, his father having died), Richard Treat, Samuel Blair, all these being pupils of the Log College and earnest preachers; and we find Whitefield, Lady Huntington, and others collecting money for Princeton as a seat of learning and piety. In 1756, the year in which Wesley's friends were banished from Oxford for holding prayer-meetings, Whitefield was invited to preach in Princeton, and he informs us of a revival in which many of the students were converted. Other colleges were soon founded after the same pattern. In this way was evolved our American type of college, as seen especially in our middle and western states, homes of scholarship and religion, independent of state control, yet producing patriotic citizens as well as ardent students and Christian heroes, bringing education near to the people, and raising the poor to a par with the rich in respect of scholarship. We cordially respect the achievements of the great New England colleges, but we plead that, under special disabilities, the Scotch-Irish of the middle states have fought their way to the same results, with the important addition that, with equal zeal for learning, a warmer religious tone has been manifested in its pursuit. Our colleges have received the significant encomium of James Bryce in his "American Commonwealth." He remarks that, in America, we desire to have our business men furnished with college education, and adds that this is a result of the dispersion of colleges, of their accessibility, and the cheapness of education; that nearly all the eminent men of the last forty years, including several Presidents of the United States, have taught school in some part of their earlier years; and that our American universities are at this moment making the swiftest . progress and have the brightest promise for the future. This praise comes from a Scotch-Irishman, the first Presbyterian, we believe, who was admitted to the honors of Oxford without selling his conscience, who afterward became a professor in that university, and is now coming to the front as one of England's greatest statesmen.

Such colleges are now rapidly extending over our own land. Even to the golden gate of California, they have been established by Scotch-Irish founders. They are often objects of benevolence with the pious, and themselves nurseries of piety. They are overflowing into other lands: Roberts College, at Constantinople, is giving trouble to Russian as well as Turkish despotism; Beyrout College is becoming
the light of Western Asia; and in Pekin, Canton, and Tokio, similar lights appear. The Imperial University of Pekin is now under control of Dr. Martin, one of our American missionaries, with the aid of an international faculty of educators, so that the whole educational system of the empire is being changed. Sir Robert Hart, controller of the customs system of China, is Scotch-Irish, son of a mill-worker in Belfast, and educated under Dr. McCosh; and John McLeavy Brown, his coadjutor, is the same. We hope, ere long, to see another of these colleges in Brazil.

We can not venture into the personnel of Scotch-Irish educators and inventors of recent times, as in theology the Alexanders and Hodges; in science, Fulton of the steam-engine, McCormick of the threshing machine, Joseph Henry of the telegraph and electro-magnet. In biology, the chief place in Cambridge, England, and in Johns Hopkins, of America; in political science, the chief place in Princeton College, and in the University of Pennsylvania are held by the race, as are a host of positions of varying importance over the whole country, such as the superintendents of public schools and many of our most successful workers in the higher schools. The present generation of the race remember their traditions as devotees of learning; lovers of the country that shelters them, and true to their God; and they find in these traditions a stimulus to their enthusiasm. There is a continuity in the record of their history, as there is a community between the kinsmen who are now serving as educators over all the continent. And hereby are we taught not to seek for ourselves phenomenal accumulations of wealth, which can not raise us to a higher plane, but to cultivate the attainments which have already proved a blessing to our race, and which have made them a wholesome factor in human society.


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