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The Scotch-Irish in America
Address of Hon. Benton McMillin


Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, and Fellow Citizens: I am happy to have the privilege of meeting and greeting you on this auspicious occasion. It is said to be well for a speaker who comes before an audience for the first time to, by some means, get into their good graces at an early moment. I am going to do that by announcing that I am too selfish toward myself and too generous to you to detain you long from the good feast that awaits you from the lips of one more eloquent than I could possibly be.

It is well for us to be here to-day, not simply because Scotch-Irish blood flows in our veins, for that of itself is a minor consideration. But why, my friends, are we here? It is to commemorate the deeds of a glorious ancestry, not because they were our ancestors, but because, by that commemoration, we may possibly instill into the young men, upon whom the responsibilities of government and the responsibilities of defending religious liberty are soon to rest, ideas which will nerve them to come up to those responsibilities with more of patriotic fervor and more of religious zeal than was possessed before the meeting of this assembly. (Applause.)

It was not my pleasure to be with you at the opening of this congress, as had been arranged, for the reason that I was from home in New York when the invitation reached me about the time of the opening of this assembly, and did not get back home so as to be here at the inauguration of the exercises. This I say in justification of myself. I am glad to come into your midst. I have heard much of this glorious land in which you live, and its unstinted hospitality; I had heard of the magnificent and fiery spirit of its sons; I had heard of the beauty and feeling of its daughters; but I can truly say, in the language of one of old, that the half had not been told. (Applause.)

I take another pleasure in coming here. It is the home of one of the purest patriots, one of the greatest friends I ever bad, a man who Tennessee regrets and the nation regrets is stricken with affliction to-day, and for whom the prayers of all patriotic people ascend on this goodly morn; need I say that I speak of your own distinguished fellow citizen, General Whitthorne? (Applause.)

My friends, it has been said, in language more eloquent than I can command, that the history of the Scotch-Irish race is the history of the combat against physical force and the combat against oppression of the church by the state. I rejoice in the little blood that flows in my veins from that stock. I rejoice in the memories that cluster around the illustrious heroes that this country has had, and I am glad that it is impossible for the historian to omit from the pages of glorious deeds the actions of these thrice-glorious men. Suppose that they could be obliterated, what would you have? The conquest of Mexico by your own immortal Polk would be unknown, the defense of New Orleans by Tennessee's glorious sons would be unrecorded, the great intellectuality of Calhoun would be unknown to American youth as an inspiration to exertions, and that fierce and fiery appeal of a Henry to his countrymen to rush to arms would never have resounded down the ages to awaken every man with the love to be free. It may be truly said of the Scotch-Irish race what was said by Byron, the great poet, when he spoke of Corinth and said:

"Many a vanquished year and age And tempest's breath and battle's rage Have swept o'er Corinth, yet she stands, A fortress, formed to freedom's hand."

So it is with the Scotch-Irish race. They stand to-day as they have stood through the ages and the centuries, defending freedom, proclaiming the freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and freedom of the citizen. Those three freedoms we come up to-day as Scotch-Irishmen to again proclaim the faith of their sons as it was the faith of our fathers. (Applause.)

A peculiarity of the Scotch-Irishman is that he is not the kind of a believer in freedom of religion which is described so graphically, and I fear so truly, by Artemus Ward, when in his book he praises his ancestry as follows: "The Wards is a noble family. I believe they are descended from the Puritans, that band of religious patriots who fled from the land of persecution to the land of freedom, where they could not only enjoy their own religion, but prevent every other man from enjoying his." That is the difference between the Scotch-Irish love of freedom and the love of freedom which he says characterized the Puritan. My friends, when I look around at the great country that is our common blessing to-day, I feel that on its account it is not-amiss for us to meet here and commemorate the noble deeds by all races and in all ages. We have sixty odd million people in these United States. We have more Jews than Jerusalem, more Irish than Dublin, more Scotch than Edinburgh, more Germans than Berlin, and still have more than 50,000,000 of native born, American citizens, noble sons of noble sires from every clime and every country. Thus far we have got along reasonably well, but the time will come when the vast public domain, acquired by our ancestors, will not be here unoccupied as an inviting field in times of calamity and distress that may occur in the east and the south. My prediction is that it will then require all the patriotism of the patriot, and all the wisdom of the sage to correctly steer this government between all the breakers that will rise of anarchism on one side and socialism and the disposition to control by other than patriotic means on the other. It is characteristic of the Scotch-Irish race that in its ranks, so far as I know, there has never been found a single anarchist or socialist. On the contrary, there has never been found a single Scotch-Irishman that was not able to defy power and potentate, be he king or anybody else, who stood in the pathway of progress and of right. When I look around in this beautiful country, I rejoice that there is a considerable amount of Scotch-Irish blood in the southern states of the Union ; and in what I shall say, it is not my purpose to deal with any part of my country except as a patriot talking of a part of the whole country, every foot of which is loved, and every foot of which every man of the South stands ready to defend. (Applause.) I don't recur to the past save for the lessons of wisdom and instruction and patriotism that it may give us. Twenty odd years ago there was not in all this land, from Kentucky to the gulf, hardly a single thoroughly fenced farm ; our homes were desolated, our farms yielding nothing, our country depopulated. The same spirit that had characterized our Scotch-Irish ancestry, characterized the people of the South, and they have caused this country to bloom as the rose, until to-day it is hardly possible for a stranger to detect that the blighting hand of war ever fell upon it. I also speak the truth of history when I say that at the close of the late war there was eleven millions of people in the South, seven millions of whom could not have bought their kettle, and yet the coal that lights the streets of London is mined in Kentucky, and the iron that makes the screw to fasten down the coffin lids of the dead Englishman comes from Tennessee and Alabama, and is manufactured in Connecticut. Who is there that could have done more than this, more than Aladdin with his lamp? You men of the South deserve much; you were never discouraged in defeat. But a most potent factor in the rehabilitation of the South was its glorious women. When impartial history shall have been written, it may be truly recorded that she who saw disaster with a smile, who encountered defeat and poverty without any thing of encouragement; she who uprooted the thorn and planted the rose; she, the woman of the South, deserves the praise for what has been done; and she deserves the praise for keeping our young men in firmness and uprightness which alone should characterize a man made in the image of his almighty God. (Applause.) My friends, we have a glorious country, and the reason I rejoice that there is Scotch-Irish in my veins, is not simply because it is Scotch-Irish, but because it gives a little more grit and a little more resolution to see the right and to have the courage to do it, and be a better American citizen; for, after all, my greatest ambition is to be one of the best of American citizens. But I promised you in the beginning that I was not going to detain you. Complying with that promise, and thanking you for your kind attention, I give place to one who can more fittingly entertain you. (Applause.)


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