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Stories from the Scotsman
US presidents of Scottish descent


Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
THE third president of the United States and a founding father, Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. His Scottish ancestry came from his mother, Jane Randolph, and as a child, Jefferson was strongly influenced by the teachings of his tutor, a Mr Douglass who was a Scottish clergyman. This influence appears to have continued into adulthood. The Declaration of Independence of 1776 bore striking similarities to the Arbroath Declaration, written in 1320, with an underlying foundation of clear Scottish principles.

Andrew Jackson (1767-1845)
JACKSON rose from humble beginnings to become the seventh president. The child of poor Scottish-Irish immigrants, he was orphaned by the American Revolution in the Carolinas. During his tenure, Jackson saw himself as the voice of the common man, a direct representative of the electorate. Unlike previous presidents, he did not defer to Congress in policy-making but used his power of the veto and party leadership to assume command.

James Knox Polk (1795-1849)
THE 11th president, James K Polk had a particularly strong Scottish heritage. Born on the North Carolina frontier, he was the eldest of ten children . His mother, a religious woman of great intelligence, was a descendant of John Knox. Both parents were descended from Scottish-Irish ancestors who had emigrated to America in the late 17th century. Polk always stood by his ideals and principles. He reflected the prevalent American belief that the US had a predestined right to control all the territory between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and during his term in office, the US expanded through California and New Mexico.

William McKinley (1843-1901)
McKINLEY was the seventh child of William and Nancy Allison McKinley, both of Scottish-Irish descent. Records trace the direct line descent of President McKinley from MacDuff, Thane of Fife. Throughout his life, he displayed strong family values and a sense of moral duty. Both his daughters died young, and McKinley’s wife became ill with depression and epilepsy and needed constant care. Her husband was known for his unwavering devotion to her. During his presidency the US became a world power. He died after being shot by Leon Czolgosz , an anarchist, after a speech in Buffalo, New York.

Woodrow (Thomas) Wilson (1856-1924)
AMERICA’s 28th president, Wilson was born to well-educated folk of mainly Scots descent. His grandparents on both sides emigrated to Ohio in the 19th century. Wilson’s father, Joseph Ruggles Wilson, was a Presbyterian minister and taught his son a belief in providence, predestination and the importance of daily prayer. The influence of his Scottish heritage was reflected in many of his policies including his election program, the New Freedom, which stressed individualism and liberty for all.

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