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The Scotch-Irish in America
John Knox in Independence Hall
By Rev. John S. MacIntosh, D.D.


As we pace the story-laden Piazzetta of San Marco, we think with stirred souls of the ducal makers of Venice; as we sit toward sunset beneath the heavy shadows of the historic Campanile, we behold move past in stately progress the majestic makers of Florence; as we rest by the banks of the turbid Thames, we stand amid the crowding captains and statesmen, who have been the makers of our own ancestral Britain; and as we turn aside from the glare of broad sunlight and the din of the thronged streets into the cool shade and the sacred silence of our own dear hall of liberty, our common nation's hallowed home of freedom, we face the crown and glory of all these mighty men, the makers of our own republic.

But who made these makers of our land, we can not but ask, as we front our great dead once more? Whence came these souls of purest flame, whose glowing spirit fires blazed the new and broad pathway to rest and freedom, to happy homes and ever-enlarging power for the weary and the downtrodden from a score of the old world's packed and groaning serf-pens? Who were the sires of the fathers of our republic? Who breathed into them their quickening spirits; who flashed into their capacious hearts the impulsive inspirations; who unbarred for them the way to new life, new rights and duties? Question of deepest interest! Few studies so tempting as the studies of origins! What so enchanting as the search after the upper fountains of great world streams, the Niles and the Congos? Who, then, the sires of our fathers; whence their origin; what the fountains of these life streams that flowed together into the glorious tide of a new land of freemen?

Like most potent incantation works swiftly the question. And forms hoary and honored to us rise like Samuel's at Endor from graves of quiet dignity; and as these august ancients gird us round, forward with glad, bold, almost defiant cry of recognition and right filial pride start the Puritans, to show and claim as their all-honored sires, Milton, and Hampden, and Sydney, and Pym, and, greatest among the great, England's uncrowned Protector; and forward bound with Gallic eagerness the Huguenots to lay their reverent hands on Conde and Coligny, and Calvin and our own Lafayette; and forward stride with firm foot the Hollanders, pointing out majestically, and linking their descent with William the Silent and the sage De Witt, the dashing Egmont, and the fearless Van Horn; and forward come the Germans, and trace their blood to the Hohenzollerns and Saxon electors, and Luther, lordliest of them all. But amid these many gladsome and proud voices of childhood, and amid these bold, true claims upon the bluest blooded ancestry any land can show, one group has hitherto been strangely silent. Have these silent ones, then, no sacred obligations to grand ancestral dead? Have they had no divine preparations for their achievements through God-given and God-taught sires? Call they no Heaven-built man father? Are they the American Melchisedeks, kings verily by all mightiest proofs and world-wide confession, but kings without royal parentage? Nay, verily! But while Puritans have made this land, and as many more as they could reach, ring time and again with Mayflower and Mayflower's men and women and their glorious ancestry, while Dutch and Germans and French, and the sons of St. George, have long lifted trumpet tones of self-gratulation because of their great fathers, this silent, patient group, not the smallest in the land, not the weakest, as every battle field and place of state and church and busy life may prove, not the least laurelled, as shows the country's roll of honor, not the least trusty nor backward in danger's hours, nor giving fewest chieftains to the makers of this compacted empire of freemen this silent band of proud self-repressive-ness has hitherto said but little as to their own intellectual, political, patriotic patriarch, the high-towering soul of impulse, the new creative force, who under God has been the fountain and origin of their most marked qualities, their national and everswelling glory. Have, then, we Scotch and Scotch-Irish, for we have been the silent band, unorganized and unbound till this happy hour, have we no prophet? Can we call no seer as sire from honored grave, to say of him with reverent affection, "He is the soul of fire the Lord sent to stir the flames of new daring within our fathers' souls?" Strange if we, of all, had not! Looking round the portrait-lined walls of our hall of freedom, gazing on and studying with pious steadfastness, those strong, masterful, distinct faces from Witherspoon's and Henry's, round and round, faces that throw out into so rugged and characteristic boldness of relief, the Scotch and Scotch-Irish makers of this republic, we must feel it passing strange indeed, if no one grand, lone chieftain can be planted at the head of our clan, and with a fearless, intelligent pride, pointed out as noblest among the very noble the peculiar and royal leader of a peculiar and royal race.

Peculiar and royal race; yes, that indeed is our race ! I shrink not from magnifying my house and blood with a deep thanksgiving to that Almighty God who himself made us to differ, and sent His great messenger to fit us for our earth-task ; task as peculiar and royal as is the race itself; I shame me not because of the Lowland thistle and the Ulster gorse, of the Covenanters' banner, or the Ulsterman's pike. If we be not the very peculiar people, we Scotch-Irish are a most peculiar people, who have ever left our own broad, distinct mark wherever we have come, and have it in us still to do the same, even our critics being judges. To-day we stand out sharply distinguished in a score of points from English, French, Dutch, German, and Swede. We have our distinctive marks; and like ourselves, they are strong and stubborn ; years change them not, seas wash them not out, varying homes alter them not, clash and contact with new forms of life, and fresh forces of society blur them not. Every one knows the almost laughably dogged persistency of the family likeness in us Scotch-Irish a' the warld ower. Go where you may, know it once, then you know it, ay, feel it forever. The typal face, the typal modes of thought, the typal habits of work, tough faiths, unyielding grit, granitic hardness, close-mouthed self-repression, clear, firm speech when the truth is to be told, God-fearing honesty, loyalty to friendship defiant of death, conscience and knee-bending only to God these are our marks; and they meet and greet you on the hills of Tennessee and Georgia you may trace them down the valleys of Virginia and Pennsylvania, cross the prairies of the west and the savannahs of the south, you may plow the seas to refind them in the western bays of Sligo, and beneath the beetling rocks of Donegal; thence you may follow them to the maiden walls of Derry, and among the winding banks of the silvery Bann; onward you may trace them to the rolling hills of Down, and the busy shores of Antrim; and sailing over the narrow lough you will face them in our forefathers' cottier-homes and grey keeps of Galloway and Dumfries, of the Ayrshire hill, and the Grampian slopes.

These racial marks are birth-marks, and birth-marks are indelible. And well for us and the world is it that they are indelible. They are great soul-features, these marks. They are principles. The principles are the same every-where; and these principles are of four classes, religious, moral, intellectual, and political.

Of the religious, the denominational, the confessional, I will not speak, for this is neither time nor place. While I am churchman of my church through and through, and to the last drop of my heart's blood; while I would nail the blue banner of Presbyterianism to the very tip of the mast, and nail it there, and fight to death to keep it there, while I do not cease nor hesitate to claim for my church the truest apostolicity, the fullest catholicity, and the sweetest charity, all in its own place and time; but the place and the time for this ecclesiastical distinctiveness is not here, is not now.

On this common platform of a race's rally I hail as brother my Episcopal brother, Dr. Beckett, and my Methodist brother, Dr. Kelly, as eloquent on the platform as he was dashing and daring in the charge. I hail as brother all in whose veins runs the good old blood of loyalty and liberty, whether he be of Scotch church, or Anglican, or Latin. I hail all with gladness who come from town or hamlet, hill or glen, that lies any-where between Cork's green coves or far Loch Awe.

On broader lines than sect or party, than clique or section, we want to start and run this great brotherhood. We grasp hands all round; we stretch across a continent; we welcome all our kith and kin. Let there be no strife, for we be brethren.

And such I take it, from my conference with them, arc the thoughts and desires of all the busy and able officers of this Congress. Such I know to be the aims and the wishes, heartfelt wishes, of him who is in very truth the father of our Congress, who first thought of it, who has wrought for it with that quiet, resolute energy so characteristic of our race, who has joyed in its triumphant and rising success, but who, with a self-sacrificing modesty, as noble as it is rare, has not suffered himself to be seen or heard in public, yet has been felt everywhere, and always for "sweetness and light," my dear friend, the Hon. Thomas T. Wright, of Florida; dear to me as the boy from Ballymoney, little moorland town of Ireland's Antrim, so closely linked to me and mine, but dearer far for his unwearying kindness and manly virtues.

The sectarian and the confessional topics I shall avoid, and of the moral I shall say naught except as involved in the intellectual and the political. With ourselves, as citizens and patriots and politicians, or rather statesmen, I would here exclusively deal, and then with the great personal historic impulse and force that lie behind us in our peculiar and royal citizenship and patriotism As citizens, we are pre-eminently thinkers and politicians, that is, thoughtful patriots, who have an enlightened and conscientious policy for the guidance of land. In holding by and working out their intelligent patriotism, our fathers and brethren have ever demanded, have toiled for, paid, fought, suffered, and died for two all-precious boons, the school and the people's limitations of governmental control. Educated freemen we want to be, and educated freemen who shall say with sovereign authority, and will and strength backing up and enforcing our utterance, " thus far shall the ruler come, but no farther."

To us an enlightened public opinion is essential; a public opinion, not the haughty mandate of a despot, nor yet the bigot cry of any self-conceited separatist; and that enlightened public opinion immediately influential and operative; and, when duly formulated and expressed, final and mandatory. Hence, wherever our race is, and has been found, there, sooner or later, these three things are met: rational, right-built politics, regulated liberties, and representative government; or as a quaint, alliterative friend put it once, the pedagogue and the press, the pulpit, platform and parliament. Whosoever would sway us must give the reason, the whole reason, and nothing but the reason, and that the sufficient and the right. Our race is every-where hard-headed and firm-handed; we are a people of logic and law, of truth and reason, of rights and duties; we call for freedom chartered by highest and impartial law, and upheld by the conscientious convictions of the independent commonwealth; we work for the willing cohesion of self-respecting and brotherly freemen ; we exact the bold and honest execution of the common law; we pride ourselves upon our sacred love of the old customs, "the use and the wont," so long as these are reasonable, just and useful ; we admit changes slowly, but ours is a fearless acceptance of the new, if right, needed and practical. We have feelings, the "perfervidum ingenium Scotorum," but it is "passion's steed curbed by reason's master hand." Not traditions, but truth sways us ; but only truth that can be tested through and through, truth put logically, argumentatively, judicially. Not the haughty dictates of despotic arrogancy constrain us, but law; law being the voice and assertion of righteousness, righteousness being articulate, active, aggressive. Hence we seek truth that goes back to final truth; hence we labor for laws going back to supreme righteousness. Therefore, have we ever thought and sought that the moral should bulk both in the intellectual and the political. We wish the supreme code both in our schools and in our senates.

This union of all-ruling truth and right you may easily find in all our characteristic philosophy and religion, in our church and our conduct, in our politics and our patriotism. The tone we love best and bow before most readily is, "I speak as unto wise men judge ye what I say."

Hence, the world has in the Scotch-Irishman a man as distinct from the Puritan as the Puritan is from all other men; and the Puritans of England and the Presbyterians of the Lowlands and of Ulster, were the two pillars of our national temple. As we enter the hallowed court of our country's sanctuary, and gaze upon and contrast this "Jachin" and this "Boaz," the pillar-man "established of Jehovah," and this other pillar-man " strengthened from on high," we see that while the Puritan believes in personality, the Scotch-Irish believes in partnership; while the Puritan believes in separation, the Scotch-Irish in representation; while the Puritan believes in individuality, the Scotch-Irish in equality; while the Puritan believes in independency, the Scotch-Irish in liberty; while the Puritan believes in experiment, the Scotch-Irish in experience; while the Puritan believes in the town meeting, the Scotch-Irish in the state house; while the Puritan believes in the congregation, the Scotch-Irish in the assembly.

And so up they rise, burly men of brawn and of brain, who say in the market, "A man's a man for a' that;" who say in the forum, "Give a reason for the hope that is in you;" who say in the commonwealth, "We be brethren, let there be no strife;" who say in the church, "Call no man master, for One is your Master;" and on the battlefield, "No surrender," and "Keep your powder dry and trust in God;" great, strong, kindly, true-hearted men if at times a trifle grim and hard; men of reality, on whom their fellows lean; men believing in broad humanity, solid reason, free conscience, God-taught faith, and godly works showing forth faith; men fearing God, but no other.

That is how I think of them; that is how I have seen them in a score of strangely diverse lands; that is how they have met me as man and minister; that is how they have greeted and wrought with and helped me, by the old ingle, on the perilous glacier, in fire, and on flood, at the hospital bed and on the play-ground, when they have marched out to battle, and when they have laid themselves down to die, may the God that made them thus, their fathers' God and their God, bless, preserve, and keep them every-where!

So traditions and history show them from 1889 to 1776, from 1776 to 1688 to 1547.

But at that eastertide of 1547, you face a break, a vast, deep gap; up to that date and up to that garrison chapel at old St. Andrew's, where John Rough summoned out the God-sent maker of the newer and world-stamping Scotland, you never miss the one characteristic face, the one faith, the one force; but before that day there was no such Scotland, no such Lowland band of intelligent patriots, no call for common schools, and the broad equality of daring freemen, no concerted readiness to do and die for a free creed and a free country; while from that hour onward, these are never wanting, and they only strengthen, as the Scotch and Scotch-Irish multiplying from that creative moment spread themselves across the glad earth that welcomes them.

That hour and that gap are epochal. Such hours and gaps meet you ever and anon, as you steadily push your way down the historic pathway. On this side it is the polytheists of Ur of the Chaldees, on that the monotheists of the tents of Mamre; on this side it is the slaves of the Egyptian brick-kilns, on that side it is the jubilant freemen of the Red Sea; on this side it is the broken-hearted serfs of Spain, on that side it is the sturdy burghers of the Dutch Republic.

So 'twas in Scotland. There had been the "making" of men, but the men had not been made.

Suddenly the men are, and never henceforth disappear. No doubt there were antecedents; no doubt there was a long patience of divine toil; no doubt He who sees the end from the beginning had made His beginning far off in the dim distances of the race-movings and race-minglings. No doubt for over even twelve centuries, the older Scot, with his poesy and piety from Erin's isle, the roving Pict with northern daring, and the free-souled Teuton, had poured into the Strathclyde, there in turn to conquer and be conquered by the splendid British race of Arthur and his knightly band; and thus furnish the peculiarly rich and varied blood of our ancestors. But preparation is not product. Possibilities and promises are not active and victorious powers.

Here is my point of agreement with my friend Colonel McClure, and also my point of divergence from him. During twelve hundred and sixty years, the path is wending slowly to the Scotch, whom we know, and the Scotch-Irish, but the new man is not on the path.

You have the raw material, but not the finished work. It is the difference between the crystalline mass and the crystal itself. There in the great bowl you have the crystalline mass; shoot your electric bolt through it, you have another and a new thing, the true crystal, with its strange property and exact angles.

Up to that eastertide, 1547, your crystalline mass is gathering; then came the master-chemist, his hand shot the charge, and the crystal is.

I see Michael Angelo in the quarries of Carrara; his great far-seeing eye falls on a great block of fresh-hewn marble; the master pauses, then starts, and bids them send him that huge block. Now in his work-place I see the prince-sculptor walk up and down, his whole soul heaving with his thoughts and plans, beside him the raw material of the rough block, with its possibilities.

Now he works; the flaming spirit burns in his eager hands, and the creative soul passes through skilled, plastic fingers, into the dead, dull thing, from change to change it is carried by the artist's strength, till at last before the wondering world it lives the Moses with the Law!

So do I see, before 1547, lying between the Grampians and the Dee, all across the historic Strathclyde, rarest raw materials, but after 1547 I see leaders of the world with the law of God in hand and heart.

The same, yet not the same. Name and fortune all changed. You stand at the Straits of Dover and look across. On each side there is the same geologic formation, the same old, rich chalk; but in between has burst the mighty tide of the sea, and on the one stands France, on the other Britain, with histories, and fortunes, and futures all so different.

And thus the race is in itself the same before 1547 as after, but there is a great gulf, and in between rolls one vast vitalizing tide of life. That separating, yes, transforming tide, was a man with such race-changing, and race-stamping force, as scarce another has owned and wielded.

The epochal gap is such at eastertide, 1547.

And in that epochal gap stands one great prophetic form, our ancestral seer. Before that Samuel of the later hour, you meet not our "school;" before him you see not our characteristic features of faith and freedom; after him you always do. And this lone, massive, formative man, sent by the Nations' King just as our motherland grew hot to whitest heat, and fit for the "crown-mark," is John Knox, at once our Moses and our Joshua, father of the school, father of chartered freedom, father of Scotland, of Ulster; yes, of us all! Here is the one man who, God-taught and God-fitted, taught our common family how to balance and harmonize the freeman's individual rights with dutiful and just submission, the supreme power of the people, with the support and recognition of constitutional rulers.

From exile and from bondage he came back to his native land in the darkest of her dark days, to find Scotland the enslaved province of a foreign and greedy state; to find no true people, no sturdy commons, no brave burghers; to find no constitution, no folk-made laws; to find no common schools, no free creed or free church; and he left behind him a steady, courageous. God-fearing nation in a freed land; a sturdy, truth-seeking, school-building, conscientious peasantry; a conquering, colonizing people, who guard righteous liberties and love their Bible, that divine Magna Charta of real freedom; who sing "Scots wha hae," or raise "plaintive martyrs" or "wild Dundee" amid the snow of Sutherlandshire and Canada, the Alleghanies or the Rockies; who build states beside the rolling Ohio or the floods of the gulf, and feel their strong hearts leap with gladness, here in the frosty blasts of Minnesota, or there in the soft airs of Louisiana, here on the hills and downs of Virginia, or there in the vast wheat-fields of our West, as some familiar voice lifts up the old race words:

"Breathes there a man with soul so dead
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land."

Before Knox wrought and enstamped himself, our race had abilities; after him we have achievements; before him capacities, now careers; before him powers, now performances; before him stragglings, now success.

In long years of somewhat close historic reading and of sharp, interested studies of national departures and racial trends, I have found many a marked and self-impressing leader who, for some time, has made a nation wax and molded it at will; but then new fires came and a new stamp. But I have not found one such other case in profane history where a single leader has so deeply, pervasively, and permanently enstamped himself on a people who, of all folks, stand foremost among the self-asserting races.

Knox, under God, made the Scotch and the Scotch-Irish. All the race recall him; and the larger they are in characteristic build and features, the more obtrusive they are in racial majesties, by just so much the more do they reveal their great forefather's face.

His own quaint but invaluable history, McCrie's Life, Moncrieff's Studies, Cunningham's Lectures, and Froude's all graphic pages prove that Knox, first man of English speech, formulated, threw in covenant or charter form the balancing principles of individual independence and the authority of a constitutional government. His was indeed the earliest hand that penned any thing I can call a declaration of independence. He boldly taught broad and stirring Scotland these lessons, and put the generative words into clear writ, "The authority of kings and princes was originally derived from the people; that the former are not superior to the latter, collectively considered; that if rulers become tyrannical, or employ their power for the destruction of their subjects, they may be lawfully controlled, and, proving incorrigible, may be deposed by the community as the superior power; and that tyrants may be judicially proceeded against even to a capital punishment." Mark well these propositions; they are far-reaching; they are fruitful. They will appear and reappear; they are met constantly in Knox's preaching; they are written with large letters in his famous "Counterblast;" they are restated in his memorable answer to Queen Mary; they are set forth afresh in his declaration to Elizabeth; they underlie all the Covenants; they are heard among the Lords of the Congregation; they were pealed across Scotland by the Covenanters; they were frequent maxims of Paden and Cameron, and Walsh, by Carrick's side, and the Valley of the Six Mile Water; they were battle words for the Ulster Volunteers; they survive to this very hour among the Presbyterians of Connor; they were fires in the heart of Patrick Henry; they were the familiar thoughts of John Witherspoon; they lie behind the war of independence; their spirit greets the world in our declaration; and, therefore, walks forth as master spirit their immortal author in the dear old hall of my native city. Johannes Knox, semper virens, semper vivans!

Observe well, the influence of this prophetic patriot was felt most at St. Andrews, through the long Strathclyde, in the districts of Ayr, Dumfries, and Galloway, the Lothians and Renfrew. There exactly clustered the homes which thrilled to the herald voice of Patrick Hamilton; there were the homes which drank in the strong wine of Knox; there were the homes of tenacious memories and earnest fire side talk; there were the homes which sent forth once and again the calm, shrewd, iron-nerved patriots who spurned as devil's lie the doctrine of "passive resistance;" and there mark it well, were the homes that sent their best and bravest to fill and change Ulster; thence came in turn the Scotch-Irish of the "Eaglewing;" thence came the settlers of Pennsylvania, Virginia, the Carolinas, Tennessee and Kentucky; and the sons of these men blush not as they stand beside the children of the "Mayflower," or the children of the Bartholomew martyrs. I know whereof I affirm. My peculiar education and somewhat singular work planted me, American born, in the very heart of these old ancestral scenes; and from parishioners who held with deathless grip the very words of Peden, Welsh, and Cameron, from hoary headed witnesses in the Route of Antrim and on the hills of Down, have I often heard of the lads who went out to bleed at Valley Forge to die as victors on King's Mountain, and stand in the silent triumph of Yorktown. We have more to thank Knox for than is commonly told to-day.

Here we reach our Welshes and Witherspoons, our Tennents and Taylors, our Calhouns and Clarks, our Cunninghams and Caldwells, our Pollocks, Polks, and Pattersons, our Scotts and Grays and Kennedys, our Reynolds and Robinsons, our McCooks, McHenrys, McPhersons and McDowells.

But the man behind is Knox. Would you see his monument? Look around. Yes! To this, our own land, more than any other, I am convinced, must we look for the fullest outcome and the yet all unspent force of this more than royal leader, this masterful and molding soul. Hither came the men most thoroughly saturated with the teaching of Knox, because of their very special training and experience in Ulster, on which most fertile theme time will not suffer me even to touch; here they met those singular, historic provocations that imperiously summoned forth into fiercest but still strongly ruled action the mightiest and most characteristic powers of their souls; here they had acute call and most magnificent reason to stride into justest battle for the very principles that were of all ancestral gifts the very dearest and most sacred; here they were given of the wise God and the most foolish George the field and opportunity to let stream forth floods of energy in the seeking of a new home of freedom; here they triumphed; here they won no second place in state and church, on bloody field and hall of legislation, on the billow and in commerce; here they hold their own, and grow and multiply, and give themselves fullest scope and sweep to the good of the common country, and their own honor and the glory of the God whom alone they fear. Carlyle has said: "Scotch literature and thought, Scotch industry; James Watts, David Hume, Walter Scott, Robert Burns. I find Knox and the Reformation at the heart's core of every one of those persons and phenomena; I find that without Knox and the Reformation, they would not have been. Or what of Scotland?" Yea! verily! no Knox, no Watts, no Burns, no Scotland, as we know and love and thank God for! And must we not say no men of the Covenant; no men of Antrim and Down, of Derry and Enniskillen; no men of the Cumberland valleys; no men of the Virginian hills; no men of the Ohio stretch, of the Georgian glades and the Tennessee Ridge; no rally at Scoone; no thunders in St. Giles; no testimony from Philadelphian Synod; no Mecklenburg declaration; no memorial from Hanover Presbytery; no Tennent stirring the Carolinas; no Craighead sowing the seeds of the coming revolution; no Witherspoon pleading for the signing of our great charter; and no such declaration and no such constitution as are ours, the great Tilghman himself being witness in these clear words, never by us to be let die: "The framers of the Constitution of the United States were greatly indebted to the standards of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland in modeling that admirable document."

Never, then, to us of the Scotch and Scotch-Irish lineage race of resolute and orderly citizens, never let the name of Knox be other than battle-blast and household boast, nor his memory ought save inspiration yes, consecration!


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