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The Scotch-Irish in America
Proceedings of the Third Congress at Louisville
Scotch-Irish influence upon the Formation of the Government of the United States.
By Rev. J. H. Bryson, D.D., of Huntsville, Ala.


The science of government is a study full of interest from every stand-point of investigation. The nature and genius of a government cannot be correctly understood without a clear apprehension of the several elements which enter into the formation of the governmental structure. There are always antecedents of a marked and pronounced character, which lead up to every great historical epoch, and these great events of human history must be carefully studied in the light of these antecedents if they are to be properly understood.

The formation of the government of the United States is the grandest and most distinguished achievement of human history. It has no parallel in any age or century. It is the outgrowth of principles, which had to work their way through long periods of suffering and conflict. The logical and regulative structure of the principles of our government into an instrument, which we call our Constitution, was the result of but a few months' labor; the principles themselves, however, had been struggling through martyrdom and blood for many generations. To understand the government of the United States, the genius and character of the people who settled the several colonies must be carefully studied. Its most distinguishing feature is that it is a government framed by the people for the people. It is their own conception of the best form of government to secure personal right and liberty.

In the present discourse we propose to review the influence which the Scotch-Irish people exerted in various ways in the formation of our government. The inhabitants of the colonies up to 1776 were almost entirely an English-speaking people, coming from England, Scotland, and Ireland. The French Huguenot was not a large element in the settlement of the country, but it was a most important one. There was also a noble body of settlers from Holland. These different classes of people all have an honorable part, worthy of themselves, in forming the government of our country.

When the government of the United States came into existence, as the voice of the people speaking through thirteen sovereign States, the world stood amazed at the daring and brilliant conception. Tyranny and oppression received a fatal blow in that glorious day, and human liberty found a permanent home in the hearts of three millions of American citizens. Many were the prophecies of its speedy downfall, but with the first century of its history it has taken the first place among the nations of the world. The principles of this government are no longer a matter of experiment, but, as a distinguished writer has said: "they are believed to disclose and display the type of institutions toward which, as by a law of fate, the rest of civilized mankind are forced to move, some with swifter, others with slower, but all with unhesitating feet." [Brice's "American Commonwealth," Volume I., page 1.]

The causes which led to the formation of the American Government were foreign to the people of the colonies. They did not willingly break allegiance with the mother country. It was the oppressive measures of the British Crown which forced them to declare their independence and construct a new government, if they would be freemen. But the birthday of constitutional liberty had come. A mysterious providence had prepared a people, through long years of suffering and trial, for the glorious heritage, and had held in reserve a magnificent continent for their abiding-place. The era of 1776 was not within the range of human conception or forecast, but there was above and behind it all a divine Mind, bringing forward the day with all its stupendous revelations.

In considering the history of any people, it is a serious defect to leave out of view their religious conceptions, as expressed in their formulas of faith. Religion of necessity is the most powerful factor in the direction of human life. Mr. Carlyle has well said: "A man's religion is the chief fact with regard to him." [Carlyle's "Heroes," page 1.] In a Christian land, with an Spell Bible, this is pre-eminently true. With the American colonies religious liberty was a question of not less vital importance than that of civil liberty. Their religious faith had a most powerful influence in forming their character, and they intend to be untrammeled in its exercise. From New Hampshire to Georgia they were Calvin-fets of the most pronounced type. Calvinism was their religious creed, and out of it sprung their political principles. This had been the creed of their ancestors from the days of the Reformation. It had stood the test of fire and sword for more than two hundred years. The principles of that wonderful system had permeated their whole being.

It gave them intellectual strength and vigor. It intensified to the highest degree their individuality. It developed that integrity and force of character, which no blandishments or persecutions could break down. He who puts a light estimate upon Calvinism knows little of its principles, and he knows little of the struggles which brave Calvin-ists have made in many lands for freedom. Motley speaks correctly when he says: " Holland, England, and America owe their liberties to Calvinists." Ranke, the great German historian, as well as D'Aubigne, says: "Calvin was the true founder of the American Government." Hume, Macaulay, Buckle, Froude, and Leckey all affirm that it was the stern, unflinching courage of the Calvinistic Puritan that won the priceless heritage of English liberty. Scotland can never estimate what she owes John Knox, the fearless embodiment of Calvinism in Church and State. Mr. Bancroft makes the statement conspicuous that it was the Calvinistic faith of the American colonies, which prompted them to resist the oppressions of the British Crown, and maintain the desperate struggle with unfaltering courage until the glorious victory was achieved.

The distinguishing feature of Calvinism as a theology is its representative character, holding that sin and guilt are the result of representation in Adam, and that redemption is the result of representation in Christ. The logical outworking of such a theology is a representative government, both in Church and State. Calvinism is the chief corner-stone of the American Republic.

It was the religious faith of the colonies that made them what they were, and no adequate conception of their resistance to oppression or their struggle for freedom can be had if this fact is left out of view. The settlers of the American colonies were worthy sons of noble sires. Their ancestors in the plantations of Ulster, in Scotland, in England, in Holland, and in France had learned from their Calvinistic faith that resistance to tyranny was service to God. Calvinism is sometimes looked upon as a stern and severe religious faith, still it is the faith which has produced the grandest men and women the world has ever known. This is the faith which breasted for centuries the most terrible conflicts, trials, and sufferings, to secure for us the glorious heritage of constitutional liberty. Of these heroes Mr. Froude has well said: "They were splintered and torn, but they ever bore an inflexible front to illusion and mendacity, and preferred rather to be ground to powder like flint, than to bend before violence, or melt before enervating temptation." [St. Andrew's "Address on Calvinism."]

In the memorable revolution of 1776, when the American colonies combined to form a government of their own, the Scotch-Irish people, who formed a large part of the settlers of the central and southern colonies, bore a conspicuous part. In speaking of the Scotch-Irish people as transplanted from Ulster, in Ireland, to America, we have found it impossible to separate the Scotch and the Scotch-Irish. They are really one people. During the persecutions in Ireland, thousands of this people were forced to return to Scotland, and at a later date many of them emigrated to America. Often parts of the same families in Scotland and Ireland would join each other in the colonies. This is true of the Livingstons, the Hamiltons, the Wilsons, the Witherspoons, the Randolphs, the Grahams, and others. There is still another mixture in the veins of the Scotch-Irish people. Many of them are known to be of Huguenot ancestry. The Caldwells, the Dunlaps, the Brysons, the Duffields, the Pickenses, the Sumpters, and others came from France to Scotland, thence to Ireland, and thence to America.

In estimating the influence of the Scotch-Irish in the formation of the government of the United States two questions may be asked: What was their religious creed? and what were their political ideas? Their religious faith was Calvinism; in Church government they were Presbyterians; in State government they were republicans. These three ideas make Scotch-Irishmen what they are. Always and everywhere they are the fearless and unflinching advocates of liberty, the determined and unfaltering foe of oppression. They are by nature bold, courageous, and aggressive people.

At the time of the American Revolution, the Scotch-Irish people must have formed near one-third of the entire population of the colonies. The tide of emigration became strong in the early part of the eighteenth century. As early as 1725, a large body of this people had settled in almost every colony. From this time onward, for a period of more than forty years, the steady flow of this people to the American colonies was something amazing. For many years there were never less than 12,000 landed annually at the different ports of the country; and for the two years after the Antrim evictions it is estimated the numbers ran up to 30,000 or more. They settled generally in the central and southern colonies. Some 20,000 or more, however, settled along the coast from Boston to the mouth of the Kennebec. This distribution of the Scotch-Irish over the whole country made it possible for them to exert a most powerful influence when the occasion should arise. So soon as they were settled down in their new homes they organized themselves into Churches and Presbyteries (for they were Presbyterians), and in 1717 a General Synod was formed. By 1770, this delegated Synod was the most powerful religious organization in the country. Indeed, it was the only organization which embraced all the colonies. The ministry were an able body of men, graduates of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dublin, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. Many of the elders were graduates of these institutions. This General Synod, with delegates coming from almost every colony, met every year under a written Constitution which they had adopted. This compact organization of able men, coming together annually as delegates from the territory of the several colonics, for a period of more than fifty years, was certainly a most powerful agency in preparing the way for a Congress of all the colonies when the occasion should arise. This General Synod of the Presbyterian Church, which was the only representative body of the whole country, was very obnoxious to the British Crown, and the Governors of the larger colonies were instructed to remonstrate against its assembling. But these Presbyterians knew their rights and had the courage to maintain them. In May, 1775, this General Synod of the Presbyterian Church met in Philadelphia, side by side with the Colonial Congress. It was a critical period. The Congress seemed to hesitate what to do. The Presbyterian Synod, made up of Scotch-Irish, bravely and courageously met the issue. The famous "Pastoral Letter" ["Presbyterians and the Revolution," page 121.] was issued by that body to their Churches scattered throughout the colonies, to adhere to the resolutions of the Congress, and to make earnest prayer to God for guidance in all measures looking to the defense of the country. This powerful letter was scattered broadcast among the people, and a copy was sent to the Legislature of every colony. The people were everywhere aroused to the profound significance of the crisis which was upon them. This Philadelphia Synod and their circular letter are referred to by Adolphus in his work on the "Reign of George the Third," as the chief cause which led the colonies to determine on resistance. The Scotch-Irish people, by their Annual Synod assembling for fifty or sixty years, manifestly prepared the way for the union of the colonies in a Colonial Congress, so that they might jointly inaugurate measures to protect their common interests. In that distinguished body which assembled in 1774, men of Scotch-Irish blood held an honorable place. There were the Livingstons, of New York; John Sullivan, of New Hampshire; Dickenson and McKean, of Pennsylvania; Patrick Henry, of Virginia; and the Rutledges, of South Carolina; and others—men whose ability and culture would adorn any position.

This union of the colonies enabled them to realize their power and strength. They petitioned the Crown and Parliament for a redress of their wrongs. But their petitions were unheeded. The conflict was inevitable. On the 4th of July, 1776, the memorable Declaration of Independence was made, and the bold announcement went forth to the world that the American colonies intended to be a free and independent people. The grandest hour of human history had come. The heaven-born principles of constitutional liberty had found a home in the breasts of three millions of people; and a continent—the very paradise of the earth—was to be the permanent resting-place. The history of that immortal day is ever full of thrilling interest to the sons of liberty. The Continental Congress fully realized the tremendous issues involved in that declaration. Behind them were the throbbing hearts of a united people awaiting with intense anxiety for the deed to be clone. It was an hour that was to mark the grandest epoch in human history. What a scene was there! On the table in the presence of that able body of statesmen lay the charter of human freedom, its clear-cut utterances flinging defiance in the face of oppression, and proclaiming to the world that America was henceforth the asylum of freemen. It was an hour when strong men trembled. But the anxious silence was broken when the venerable Dr. Witherspoon, in whose veins flowed the best blood of our race, arose and uttered the thrilling words: "To hesitate at this moment is to consent to our own slavery. That noble instrument upon your table; which insures immortality to its author, should be subscribed this very morning by every pen in this house. He that will not respond to its accents and strain every nerve to carry into effect its provisions is unworthy the name of freeman. Whatever I may have of property or reputation is staked on the issue of this contest; and although these gray hairs must soon descend into the sepulcher, I would infinitely rather that they descend hither by the hand of the executioner than desert at this crisis the sacred cause of my country." ["Presbyterians and the Revolution," page 168.]

These burning words from one of the most distinguished leaders of the Congress carried the matter to a triumphant conclusion: the Declaration of Independence was signed, and the foundation of the American Government was laid.

This action of Congress was hailed with universal rejoicings by the people, although they knew full well it would involve them in a terrible and bloody conflict with the British Crown.

As to the influence which foreshadowed this memorable event, it cannot be said that it was wholly brought about by any single cause; but the historical writers who speak of this period are free to say that a large proportion of the great leaders who influenced the colonies to take this decisive step were men of Scotch-Irish blood. "Patrick Henry, of Virginia," said Mr. Jefferson, "was far ahead of us all; he led the way, and the people from the sea-board to the mountains were aroused to action by his burning words." David Caldwell, Ephraim Brevard, Alexander Craighead, and James Hall, with their worthy associates, had the people of North Carolina educated far in advance of the Colonial Congress, as the famous Mecklenburg declaration illustrated. The two Rutledges, the eloquent Tennant, and others kindled the patriotic fires in South Carolina. Duffield, Wilson, Smith, and Thomas Craighead, with their noble associates, prepared the people of Pennsylvania for the coming conflict. The action of the citizens of Westmoreland and Cumberland Counties, with that of Hanna's Town, in May, 1776, told what fearless patriotism the burning words of these courageous leaders had enkindled. The people of New Jersey, under the teaching of Dr. Witherspoon, were ready and impatiently waiting for the hour. Read and McKean were the brave leaders in Delaware. Smith, Rodgers, and Livingston, with their famous "Whig Club," controlled the sentiment of New York. Thornton and Sullivan were leaders of the people of New Hampshire, and already had their forces fighting in the field. These all were Scotch-Irishmen, leading and forming public opinion everywhere. The Governors of the central and southern colonies were not far wrong when they informed the home government that the Presbyterian (or Scotch-Irish) clergy were to blame for bringing about the Revolution, and that it was their fiery zeal which instigated the people to resistance. That the Scotch-Irish clergy exerted a most powerful influence upon the people, by their constant and faithful instruction in the principles of religious and civil liberty, is unquestionably true. How could it be otherwise? On the walls of their homes hung the "National Covenants" of Scotland, which many of their ancestors had signed with their blood. These famous and historic covenants form the rugged and storm-beaten background, on which came out the glorious Declaration of American Independence. The brave, thrilling words of that immortal instrument tell what important lessons the author had learned from his maternal ancestry. Ephraim Brevard and Thomas Jefferson wrote alike. They drank at the same fountain; they had the same instructor. It can be said, with-out fear of challenge, that Scotch-Irish blood flows through every principle written in the declaration which forms the foundation of American liberty.

It is a common statement of history that the clergy of the colonies were in advance of any other class in urging resistance to the oppressive legislation of the mother country. The Scotch-Irish clergy, being dissenters, were untrammeled, and bravely did they speak out in defense of their country's right. The published sermons of that day show how ably the ministry labored to form a public opinion that would stand up against every form of tyranny and despotism.

At that period no single agency in the country had such tremendous power as the pulpit. The ministry were universally a highly educated class. They were Calvinists in their creed, and they had learned their principles of liberty from the word of God. They put the issue upon the highest ground. They taught the people that resistance to tyrants was a duty to God. Their courageous words led the people irresistibly onward. "Arm for freedom's cause, appeal to the God of battles, and go forward," was their thrilling appeal sweeping through all the land. Gloriously was their work accomplished when "Independence Bell" rang out the dawn of freedom's day.

The public declaration of the colonies that they had severed their allegiance to the British Crown, all understood must bring on a fierce and bitter war; indeed, Washington, with his armies, was already in the field, and the battle had begun. Rapidly the colonists transformed themselves into sovereign States; and, taking the reins of government into their own hands, elected their own Legislatures and Governors. That seven of the first Governors of the thirteen States should be men of Scotch-Irish blood is an honored tribute to that noble race. This proud distinction indicates the high estimate in which this people were held at the very beginning of the American Revolution. In the long protracted war waged by England to recover her revolted colonies the Scotch-Irish people bore a prominent and honorable part. A large number of the most distinguished officers of the army of every rank were of this people. Gens. Knox, Wayne, Montgomery, Sullivan, Mercer, Starke, Morgan, Davidson, and many others were conspicuous for their heroic deeds and efficient services on many battlefields.

In the earlier days of the Revolution occurred the famous battle of Saratoga, in which the entire British army was captured. This decisive victory, defeating the well-conceived strategic movement to cut the colonies in twain, has been justly regarded as the great turning-point in American affairs, and, as a leading English historian says, changing the whole current of future history. [Ceasy's "Fifteen Decisive Battles?," page 376.] It was this important event which secured the alliance of France, the recognition of Spain and Holland, besides bringing to the surface a favorable sentiment in England. Two brave Scotch-Irish officers, Col. Morgan and Col. Starke, contributed largely if not chiefly to this result. Knowing the importance of checking the invasion from Canada under Burgoyne, Gen. Washington organized a regiment of picked riflemen, placed it in command of Col. Morgan, and dispatched it to the support of Gen. Gates. On the morning of the 7th of October, 1777, the two armies met for a decisive struggle. Col. Morgan commanded the left wing of the American forces, being confronted by Gen. Frazer with the flower of the British army. After fighting had continued fiercely for several hours, Frazer fell by the deadly aim of Morgan's riflemen; and, seeing their commander borne from the field, the whole British line gave way, and the great battle of the war was won. Col. Starke, who had already defeated a strong force at Bennington, seized the fords of the Hudson, thereby compelling the surrender of the entire British army. The whole country was electrified by the victory, and the daring bravery of Morgan and Starke were universally applauded.

During the prosecution of the war the settlements in Western Pennsylvania and Virginia and the new settlements in Kentucky were continually threatened and imperiled by Indian raids, sent out by English officers from the line of forts between the lakes and the Mississippi River. Col. Rogers Clarke, a brave, daring Scotch-Irishman, conceived the idea of organizing a secret force to capture these dangerous outposts. He unfolded his bold conception to Gov. Henry, of Virginia, and obtained a commission to collect a body of trusty riflemen, and such supplies as might be needed. He selected men of his own race, hardy, courageous, and true. They went forth upon their daring mission determined to succeed or perish in the attempt. The expedition was a brilliant success: Gov. Hamilton, with his line of forts, was surprised and captured. The broad sweep of country from the Ohio to the lakes was conquered, and it was the magnificent contribution of a few brave Scotch-Irishmen to the government of the United States.

When the British generals, after a number of manœuvers and various engagements, failed to dislodge General Washington from his strong position in the hill region of New Jersey, they turned their attention to the southern part of the country. Lord Cornwallis was in command, and marching northward from Charleston, he met and degets or underestimates the moral forces that uphold or bear on a great struggle lacks the chief qualities of an historian." [Headley's "Chaplains and Clergy of the Revolution," pages 13, 14.] In speaking of the American clergy on the present occasion and the part they bore in the great struggle of the Revolution, we are restricted of course to those who belong to the Scotch-Irish race. The ministers who were of this blood were almost without exception Presbyterians, and without exception, too, they were stanch supporters' of the cause of American liberty. Having urged resistance to the unjust legislation of the British Crown, they were not wanting in the hour when the conflict came. Being men of liberal culture and thoroughly conversant with the issues involved in the struggle, it is not surprising that their influence was great among the people. No class of men did so much to fire the popular heart with a determined spirit of resistance.

Craighead, McWhirter, Hall, Tennant, and others, all ministers, were sent into different sections of the country to arouse and stir the people to action in the great crisis. Many of them raised companies and regiments and courageously led them in battle. Many were chaplains in the army ; and when reverses and depressions came, it was their stirring appeals which kept the patriotic fires burning, and awakened fresh courage for a renewed struggle. They served in almost every capacity. They were in Legislatures, in State conventions, in councils of safety, in all positions which required wisdom, vigor, and decision. Washington knew the value of these distinguished men as counselors. Wither-spoon, Rodgers, McWhirter, Caldwell, and Duffield were often in conference with him in the darkest days of the Revolution. He knew he had their sympathies, and he had respect for their judgment. He sometimes risked important movements on their information about places, persons, and surroundings, and they never failed him.

Rev. Dr. Witherspoon, of Princeton, was one of the most conspicuous characters of this period. He served in the Continental Congress for a number of years, and it was conceded that he had no superior in that distinguished body. He was a member of every important committee, and his influence was recognized as a most potent factor in guiding the government safely through that stormy period.

Tennant, of Charleston, was the close associate of the Rutledges, the Pinkneys, Drayton, and Gadsden; they knew his strength and sought his counsel. He was a member of the State convention, and it was his powerful influence with the people which aroused them from their lethargy, when brave men feared all was lost.

Turning to New Jersey, we find the Rev, James Caldwell the popular idol of the State. As chaplain of the First Brigade, he kept the enthusiasm of the troops to the highest pitch. When reverses came, his resolute spirit rose with the hour. He flung despondency to the winds, giving encouragement to all by his cheering words. When the supplies of the army were running short, and all efforts to secure them were unavailing, he was induced to accept the position of Assistant Commissary General. Such was his indomitable energy and his personal favor with all classes that he soon had the army amply supplied. To him the general officers looked continuously for reliable information about the enemy. He seemed ubiquitous, and nothing could escape his keen, penetrating scrutiny. Washington esteemed his service invaluable. The invading force could keep nothing concealed from his incessant watchfulness. His own vigorous enthusiasm he imparted to the people everywhere. He seemed by intuition to know the plans of the enemy, and so often did he thwart their plans and purposes in their inception, that a large price was offered for his capture. On one occasion he ventured to his home, aiming to get his family out of the way of the frequent raids of the enemy. Apprised of his coming, the Hessian troopers made an effort to capture him; but failing in their designs, they murdered his wife in the presence of her children, firing the manse over them, and only the prompt efforts of neighbors saved the little children and the dead body of the mother from the flames. It was a fearful blow to the husband and father. His sufferings seemed, however, if possible, to give him greater influence with the army and the people. The best families of the State asked the privilege of caring for his motherless children. Lafayette adopted one of his sons, and gave him the love and opportunities of his princely home. His trials increased, rather than relaxed, his energies in the varied offices in which he served. When the battle came, he was always with the soldiers in the thickest of the fight. On one occasion, in a hot engagement at the village of Springfield, he discovered the fire of one of the companies slackened for want of wadding; he quickly rushed into a Presbyterian church near by, gathered an armful of Watts's hymn books, distributed them along the line, and said: "Now put Watts into them, boys." With a laugh and a cheer they rammed the charges home, and gave the British Watts with a will.

The upper part of New Jersey being a strong strategic position, Gen. Washington kept a strong force there continuously; and the important service of Mr. Caldwell, until the day he fell by the hand of an assassin, it would be impossible to overstate. "He was a man of unwearied activity, and wonderful powers. Feelings of the most glowing piety and the most fervent patriotism occupied his bosom at the same time, without interfering with each other. He was one day preaching to the battalion; the next, providing ways and means for their support; and the next, marching with them in battle. If defeated, assisting in the most efficient way to conduct their retreat; if victorious, offering their united thanksgiving to God, and the next day carrying the, consolations of the gospel to some afflicted or dying parishioner." [Headley's "Chaplains and Clergy of the Revolution," pages 230, 231.]

Would that time would permit the mention of other clergymen— Evans, Rogers, Allen, Kerr, Cummins, David Caldwell, Patillo, Alexander Craighead—all belonging to this patriotic race, who wrought with great power and efficiency in the struggle for American independence!

When a careful review is made of the powerful and influential causes which led to the successful achievement of our national rights and liberties, we are persuaded no single influence will stand out with greater prominence than that of the American clergy.

We have spoken of statesmen, of warriors, of clergymen, of battlefields and victories that give honor and renown to the Scotch-Irish name. All, however, has not been said. There is another chapter of our history which can never be forgotten, and over it may be placed the bold head-lines: The Power behind the Throne, thai is greater than the Throne itself.

What shall be said of the women of the Scotch-Irish blood? Glorious women are they. They suffered; they endured; they toiled; they struggled; they encouraged; they prayed; they comforted. They were wounded; they were sabered; they were murdered; they died like heroes; they were faithful to their country; they were faithful to their sires, their husbands, and their sons. They have made Scotch-Irishmen the best blood in the world.

In this presentation of the important and distinguished part taken by the Scotch-Irish in bringing the struggle for American Independence to a successful issue, we would express the highest admiration for the illustrious part borne by others in securing this common heritage.

In the first great crisis of the Revolution, when the sacred cause of our liberties seemed to tremble in the balance, men of Scotch-Irish blood threw themselves into the breach, and struck a blow that made Saratoga immortal. At a later period, when the enemy had overrun the Southland and were proudly boasting that the end was near, the brave sons of Ulster gave a lesson in the science of war at King's Mountain, at the Cowpens, and at Guilford Court-house, which taught the British Crown that not a foot of American soil had been conquered, after all the seven years' warfare. And when the "Articles of Peace" were signed, the Western boundaries of the United States were lifted from the top of the Alleghanies to the banks of the Mississippi, and because a handful of daring Scotch-Irishmen had said with their rifles: "It must be so."

And still another word must be written, which reflects imperishable honor upon the noble character of this people. In the dark days of Valley Forge, when Washington was sorely tried, and his spirit heavily burdened, when men in the Congress and in the army, who should have held up his hands, were combining to accomplish his removal, thanks to the God of the brave, no Scotch-Irishman ever laid the weight of a feather upon the troubled heart of their country's chieftain. Everywhere, in the Congress, in the army, in the gloomiest days of the Revolution, this patriotic people stood by their great commander, until he returned his commission into the hands of those who gave it, with its sacred trust gloriously accomplished. And in after days, when times of peace had come, and Virginia was prompted to give to Gen. Washington a testimonial of her appreciation of his distinguished services, he received it; but, turning to the Scotch-Irishmen of the Valley of Virginia, who had stood by him in his darkest hours, he presented the entire donation to them for their "Liberty Hall," that their sons might be educated in the principles of their noble sires.

When the great Revolution of 1776 was brought to a successful termination, and the British Government recognized the independence of the United States, the American people found themselves confronted with a profound problem full of difficulties and dangers. A better organized and more efficient government must be constructed, while the eyes of the nations are looking upon the bold venture with intense concern. The outside pressure of a common enemy being removed, the thirteen colonies felt for the first time the full meaning of their individual independence and sovereignty. The experience of a few years very clearly demonstrated that the "Articles of Confederation" were not sufficient as a bond of government between the States. The army had been disbanded, Congress was powerless to execute its regulations, and sectional jealousies were rife. It was a critical period, and strong men trembled as they looked into the future. But behind the cloud the hand of an all-wise Providence was steadily guiding the destinies of the American people.

On the 14th of May, 1787, a Convention of all the States was assembled at Philadelphia to construct a better and more satisfactory government, which should effectually secure to the people their rights and liberties and create a stronger bond of union. It was a sublime spectacle, the like of which had never filled any page of human history. The Convention was a body of great and disinterested men, who fully realized the difficult and responsible task before them. Mr. Curtis, in his able work on the Constitution, says: "There were men in that assembly whom for genius of statesmanship and for profound speculation in all that relates to the science of government the world has never seen overmatched." [" Curtis on the Constitution," Volume I., page 387.]

Washington was unanimously made the President of the Convention, a position scarcely less important than that of commander of the American armies. In accepting the position he addressed a few words to the delegates with great candor and solemnity, urging integrity in the work before them, and closed with the impressive utterance: "The event is in the hands of God." The deliberations of the Convention were continued consecutively until the 17th of September, a period of about four months, when that immortal instrument, the Constitution of the United States, was concluded, adopted, and sent to the several States for their ratification. The members were awe-struck at the result of their counsels: the Constitution was a nobler work than any one of them had believed it possible to devise.

After a century's history we see the wonderful wisdom with which they builded. Mr. Gladstone, the great English statesman, speaking of the American Constitution, says that it is "the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man." Mr. Alexander Stephens, one of the profoundest writers on the American government, speaking of the framers of the Constitution, refers to them as "the ablest body of jurors, legislators, and statesmen that has ever assembled on the continent of America." The Constitution formed at this period is often spoken of as a compromise measure. This is true only in a certain sense. All were agreed that the new general government must have granted such powers as will give it efficiency and support; all else must be reserved to the States. The distribution and linking together in the best regulated form these several powers were matters of compromise. In working out this difficult problem of the constitutional government for the American people, men of Scotch-Irish blood bore a distinguished part, for they were well and ably represented in that body of intellectual giants. Alexander Hamilton, James Wilson, and John Rutledge were of this people, and they were three of the most conspicuous leaders in the Convention, their extraordinary abilities all lying in different directions. After an elaborate discussion of the principal matters which were in some way to be embodied in the Constitution, Mr. Rutledge was appointed chairman of a committee of five to make the first draft of this wonderful instrument. [Elliot's "Debates," pages 216, 217.] Mr. Bancroft, speaking of this important committee, the majority of which were of Scotch-Irish ancestry, takes occasion to say of Mr. Rutledge: "That he was the foremost statesman of his time south of Virginia. He was the pride of his State, and always looked to whenever the aspect of affairs was the gravest. In the darkest hours he was intrepid, hopeful, inventive of resources, and resolute, so that timidity and wavering disappeared before him." [Bancroft's "History of the United States," Volume VI., page 274.] Patrick Henry pronounced him the most eloquent man in the Congress of 1774. The logical structure and frame-work of the Constitution is in a large degree the work of Mr. Rutledge, giving immortal honor to his name and race. When shortly afterward the Constitution was before the State Convention of Pennsylvania for adoption, Mr. Wilson, being a member of the body, made the most powerful and comprehensive analysis of its principles and powers that has ever yet been heard. [Elliot's "Debates," Volume II., pages 418-529.] It was Mr. Hamilton's brilliant abilities that won over New York to the adoption of the Constitution. The indorsement of Rutledge carried the matter before the Convention of South Carolina.

Mr. Madison, who took such an active part in the construction of the Constitution, and was so closely allied with Mr. Hamilton in securing its adoption by the country, has been sometimes denominated a Scotch-Irishman by faith. He was most thoroughly imbued with the ideas and opinions of this people. To quote Mr. Bancroft again, he speaks repeatedly of Mr. Madison as being a thorough disciple of Dr. Witherspoon, of Princeton, by whom he was educated. He is an illustration of the fact that the teacher sometimes re-appears with conspicuous power in his pupil. Mr. Madison is not the only student who came away from Princeton having his whole being permeated by the instructions received from the master spirit presiding there. The profound principles of civil and religious liberty could almost be felt in the atmosphere of Princeton.

In April, 1789, the government of the United States was organized, and Washington for the third time was called to take the headship of the affairs of his country; and when Chancellor Livingston administered the oath of office and cried, "Long live George Washington, President of the United States'." the earth shook with loud huzzas, and there flashed through the heavens the words of the Hebrew prophet, that "a nation shall be born at once." In that auspicious hour the principles of constitutional liberty lifted up their gorgeous structure to the gaze of an astounded world, and freedom, putting aside her battle-rent garments, was peacefully wedded to the hearts of three millions of American freemen. It was a glorious day, full of thrilling interest, and radiant with anticipations for the future; and yet there lurked in many hearts a tinge of anxiety lest all might not go well as the new " Ship of State" loosed from her moorings.

But he whose hand was upon the helm chose wisely his counselors. Mr. Jefferson was chosen Secretary of State; Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury; Henry Knox, Secretary of War; Randolph, of Virginia, Attorney-general. Rutledge, Wilson, Blair, and Iredell were appointed Associate Justices for the Supreme Court. Distinguished sons were they all of that noble race who by their courageous lives for their country and their God have made Scotland and Ireland famous forever.

On the assembling of the first Congress in April, 1789, under the new Constitution, it was found that a large number of the States had proposed a series of amendments, and the first of these was to the effect that "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion." The separation of the Church and State is universally regarded as one of the most remarkable features of the government of the United States. This great triumph in favor of religious liberty was not secured without a fierce struggle. Some maintained that the Christian religion should have the protection and support of the State. Others held to the conviction that the Protestant religion in some of its forms should be established by law. So soon as the separate colonies began organizing independent State governments it was evident that this question would have to be met. In October, 1776, the Scotch-Irish people of Virginia brought this question in a clear, distinct issue before the Legislature of Virginia in an able memorial to that body from the Presbytery of Hanover. The paper had been prepared with care, and went straight to the mark. It produced a profound impression. It was the first meeting of the Legislature as an independent State, and many foresaw that religious establishment was doomed.

In April, 1777; May, 1784; October, 1784; and August, 1785, this Presbytery of Hanover presented additional memorials of great ability on the same subject. Mr. Jefferson, in 1779, presented to the Legislature his famous bill establishing religious freedom. It was a bold enunciation of a grand principle, important to Church and State alike. In what way the author reached his wonderful conclusions he has not intimated. He had before him, however, the able memorials of the Hanover Presbytery, which discussed the whole question in the most exhaustive manner. On the 10th of January, 1786, the bill became a law, and the victory for religious freedom was won. Mr. Madison advocated the bill in a speech of great ability; and when it was passed, he said: "In Virginia was extinguished forever the ambitious hope of making laws for the human mind."

"The principle on which religious liberty was settled in Virginia prevailed at once in Maryland. In every other State oppressive statutes concerning religion fell into disuse, and were gradually repealed. This statute of Virginia, translated into French and Italian, was widely circulated through Europe." [Bancroft's "History of the United States," Volume VI., page 158.]

The demand of the first Congress for an amendment prohibiting any establishment of religion was a result brought about by the protracted and fierce struggle in the Virginia Legislature.

To the Scotch-Irish people is due the distinguished honor of ingrafting the profound principle into the government of the United States: A free Church within a free State. As far back as 1729 they demanded that all expressions in the Constitution of their Church referring to the exercise of powers by the civil magistrate in ecclesiastical affairs should be stricken out. And when the colonies threw off their allegiance to the British Crown, they raised the question at once that religion should not be established by the State in any form, leaving every one free to worship the divine Being in any manner or way they might choose. It was a glorious achievement, and it seems impossible to realize the magnitude of the blessings which it conveys.

In estimating the influence of the Scotch-Irish race in the formation of the government of the United States, there can be but one conclusion arrived at by a careful study of the history of that period, and that is that it was paramount to any other.

At the beginning of the American Revolution the blood of this race had a far wider distribution in this country than is generally supposed. Intermarriage gave a rapid intermingling with other classes of people; and when events began to foreshadow the formation of a new government by the colonies, well-nigh half the population had this blood flowing through their veins. As a class, this people were very largely Presbyterians in their religious opinions; and thereby they became embodied into a compact and powerful Church organization, giving tremendous force and intensity to their influence. On the great questions of the day they were virtually an organized unit, converged into a burning focus; and it is not surprising that their influence was felt everywhere, giving form and character to public opinion on all these issues. Their ecclesiastical government extended into most if not all of the colonies; and their assemblies, coming together year by year, taught the lesson and exhibited the advantages of a strong, organized unity. Far across the waters the British Crown and Parliament saw what must be the inevitable outworking of these Presbyterian Synods. It was very manifest that this powerful ecclesiastical organization was rapidly educating the public mind to see the great benefits to be derived from a compact political body in resisting all encroachments upon their civil liberties. The Scotch-Irish people thoroughly understood the advantages of their Presbyterian system, and the disjointed elements of the revolutionary period felt and recognized its unifying power. There can be no question as to the fact that the American commonwealth is the outgrowth of that Presbyterian polity which was so thoroughly interwoven into the lives and convictions of the people who constructed it. If there was any one thing more obnoxious than another to the Stuarts and the Georges, who sat upon the British throne, it was Presbyterianism. To them it was the embodiment of all that was dangerous to the high prerogatives of kings: it was a fierce lion in the way when royal authority disregarded the rights and liberties of the people.

No people have ever enjoyed to a greater extent the blessings of constitutional liberty than have the people of this country; but it must not be forgotten that this blessed heritage cannot become a permanent possession if the principles which underlie the American Government are allowed to slip from the mind. It is still true that " eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." The success of the government of the United State3 has immeasurably overleaped the boundaries anticipated by those who laid its foundations with a trusting but trembling hand. The principles, which were ready for the using, came to their hands battle-scarred with the conflicts of centuries, but never yet had they been built up into a great constitutional government, guaranteeing to millions of freemen their rights and liberties under law. This grand and immortal work was accomplished by our fathers, and blessed be their memories to the latest generation!

It is a surprising fact that no elaborate and exhaustive work has yet been written upon the American Government, although it is the great wonder of the nations. The work of Mr. Curtis, Mr. Frothingham, and Prof. Johnston, while useful and attractive, are mainly historical. The learned work of Judge Story has the nature of a legal interpretation of the Constitution as the fundamental law of the land. By far the ablest and most comprehensive treatise on the Constitution and Government of the United States is written by Mr. Calhoun. No man gave more profound thought to the principles and genius of the government of this country, and it is greatly to be regretted that he did not live to revise and prepare his work for publication himself. DeTocqueville, the eminent French statesman and political philosopher, in his "Democracy in America," has produced a very able work on American Government and institutions. He has shown a very keen and philosophic perception of the varied characteristics of the government and its workings with the people. He saw, as by intuition, the deep rootings of some of its fundamental principles, as is seen in the following utterances: "The most profound and capacious minds of Borne and Greece were never able to reach the idea, at once to general and so simple, of the common likeness of men, and of the common birthright of each to freedom." He also said: "The advent of Jesus Christ upon earth was required to teach that all the members of the human race are by nature equal and alike." [DeTocqueville's "Democracy in America," Volume II., page 15.]

The American Government is generally believed to be a legitimate outgrowth of the English Government in its general features, only such changes being made as were required to give it a republican form. That the Constitution and the Government of the United States owe much to "Magna Charta" and the "Bill of Rights," is certainly true; but the profound principles of this wonderful structure are much older than this. They have the strength and vigor of centuries, and find their first announcement from Mount Sinai, where the great Hebrew commonwealth was framed and given to the Hebrew people as a direct revelation from God himself. That was the only civil government which the divine Being has ever formed for the human family. He gave the Ten Commandments as a written Constitution, and gave besides a code of specific laws to govern the daily life. It was a perfect government; needed no amendments; nothing was to be repealed; nothing was to be added. The people immediately organized under it, and all went well. The Hebrews had a population of about two millions; the American people had about the same. The Hebrews were divided into twelve tribes, each with a definite territory and a specific government; the Americans were divided into thirteen tribes or colonies, each with a definite territory and a specific government. The twelve tribes formed a federal government, known as the Hebrew commonwealth; the thirteen colonies formed a federal government, known as the American commonwealth. These are the only two governments in human history which came into existence at once, and under a written Constitution. They are the two best governments the race has ever enjoyed. Moses was the first head of the one, Washington was the first head of the other, and the divine Being the recognized Head and Author of both. It would seem that there is here something more than similarity. The principles which enter into the structure of the one enter into the structure of the other: they are both republics.

This wonderful Hebrew commonwealth was located by the divine Being at the confluence of three continents, and was set upon a hill to be the light of the world for all time. The nations which came in contact with the Hebrews borrowed from them in many things. Gale, in his celebrated work, " The Court of the Gentiles," [Wines's "Laws of the Ancient Hebrews," pages 336, 337.] shows conclusively how liberally the Greeks borrowed from Moses, both as to laws and philosophy. Solon and Plato were evidently conversant with the writings of Moses.

The Twelve Tables of the Romans were confessedly borrowed from the Grecian legislation, and so linked with the Mosaic laws. Both ancient and modern writers of Roman history state that the individuals commissioned by the Senate and Tribune to form the Twelve Tables were directed to examine the laws of Athens and the Grecian cities. Such a procedure was but natural, that the written laws of older nations should be examined in framing a new code of laws for the Roman Government. Sismondi, in his "History of the Fall of the Roman Empire," [Spring's "Obligation of the World to the Bible," pages 76, 77.] mentions the fact that "when Alfred the Great ordered a republication of the Saxon laws he had inserted several laws taken from the Judaical ritual into the statutes." The same author states that "one of the first acts of the clergy under Pepin and Charlemagne of France! was to introduce into the legislation of the Franks several of the Mosaic laws found in the books of the Pentateuch." The learned Michaelis, Professor of Law in the University of Gottinger, remarks that "a man who considers laws philosophically, who would survey them with the eye of a Montesquieu, would never overlook the laws of Moses," The able historian, Millman, in his "History of the Jews," speaking of Moses, and the wide acquaintance with his writings among other nations, affirms, that "the Hebrew law-giver has exercised a more extensive and permanent influence over the destinies of mankind than any other individual in the annals of the world." That the succeeding ages, as well as those that were contemporaneous, were deeply indebted to Mosaic institutions, is unquestionably true. Moses himself foresaw this, and labored to impress the thought upon his countrymen as a powerful motive for the careful observance of their institutions. "Keep therefore" said he, "and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear of all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people." [Deuteronomy, chapter iv. 6.] The distinguished writers of every country, who have written elaborately of the fundamental laws of society, which secure individual rights and protect the personal interest of all parties, refer almost without exception to the Hebrew government and its institutions as the original source of all such laws. Beyond all question, the Hebrew commonwealth is the background, out of which has been brought the greatest and most perfect human structure the world has ever seen—the American commonwealth.

The American people obtained their ideas of liberty and right directly from the word of God; they knew there was no mistake in the teaching, and this made them courageous and determined in the struggle for their liberties.

The framers of the American Government often in their writings speak of the natural right, which belongs to all men, and were possibly unconscious of the source of the great idea. Gratian, the distinguished Puritan writer, in defending natural right, said: "He termeth it that which the books of the law and the gospel do contain." The people who founded the government of the United States were thoroughly conversant with the word of God, and they thoroughly understood its infallible teachings as to the rights of men. The Bible is the original and true foundation of our American government. People in other lands have made this important discovery. Montesquieu has said: "Christianity is a stranger to despotic power." [Spring's "Obligation of the World to the Bible," page 91 ] DeTocqueville, another brilliant and instructive writer, says of the religion of the gospel: " It is the companion of liberty in all its battles and all its conflicts; the cradle of its infancy, and the divine source of its claims." [Spring's "Obligation of the World to the Bible," page 91.]

The people of Scotch-Irish blood, who wielded such a powerful influence in the formation of the government of the United States, were a people whose lives and being were permeated with the teachings of the word of God. From that divine source they gathered the profound principles of civil and religious liberty, which they were determined to assert and maintain at any and every cost. The blessings and privileges which are enjoyed under the administration of the constitutional government of our country teach in a most conspicuous way the value of the principles which enter into its structure. But when it is seen that these principles of human right and liberty are grounded in the word of God, that they are in reality a direct revelation from the divine Mind, they take on a value and measure of excellence which can only be measured by the purposes of the great God himself.

With what watchfulness and care should the citadel of American liberties be guarded! Here in this heaven-favored land shines the light, the glorious light of constitutional liberty, which is to lighten the world.

Never, never, to the latest day, can America forget the precious blood of Ulster's sons.. In the conflict for freedom they were conspicuous for unfaltering fidelity and indomitable courage. In that critical hour, when a constitutional government was to be formed, the genius and spirit of this wonderful people led the way; and when the amazing structure was complete, Providence wrote the words upon the pages of human history that Scotch-Irishmen had come to America for such a time as this.


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