Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The Scotch-Irish in America
Scotch-Irish Achievement
By Colonel A. K. M'Clure of Philadelphia

Ladies and Gentlemen: You have had very excellent samples of the oratory of the Scotch-Irish, and I am not here to deliver an oration, but I will give you a recess from Scotch-Irish oratory, by devoting a short space of the evening to a confidential conversation about our distinguished race. The trouble with me is to know where to begin. If you are asked, Where have the Scotch-Irish been, and where are they now? the answer is, Where have they not been, and where are they not? If you are asked what they have done, the answer of every intelligent citizen must be, What have they not done? If you ask what distinguished places of trust and power they have filled, the logical answer is, What place is there, in civil, military, or religious authority, that they have not filled? To speak of such a race, is to speak of the history of the past achievements of our land; and, strange as it may seem, this people whose history is written in every annal of achievement in our land, is without a written history. There is not a single connected history of the Scotch-Irish in American literature, and there is not a history of any other people written in truth that does not tell of Scotch-Irish achievement. If you were to spend an evening in a New England library, you would find not only scores, but hundreds of volumes, telling of Puritan deeds; and if you were to study them, the natural inference would be that the only people that have existed and achieved any thing in this land were the Puritans. They have not only written everything that they have done, but they have written more than they have done. The story that they generally omit is their wonderful achievement in the burning of witches. There is a complete history of the Quakers. You find it in connected form in almost every library of any city. There is a complete history of the Huguenots who settled in Carolina, and there is a connected history of every people of our land, save the one people whose deeds have made the history of this country the most lustrous of all. It is true, that those who write their history in deeds have least need of history in the records of our literature, but the time has come in this land when the Scotch-Irish owe it to themselves, and owe it especially to their children, who are now scattered from eastern to western sea, and from northern lake to southern gulf, that those who come after us shall learn not only that their ancestors have been foremost in achievement, but that their deeds have been made notable in history, as they were in the actions of men. Some of our more thoughtful historians or students of history will pretend to tell you when the Scotch-Irish race began. I haven't heard even our Scotch-Irishmen who have studied the question do the subject justice. No such race of men could be created in a generation; no such achievements could be born in a century. No such people as the Scotch-Irish could be completed even in century after century; and while you are told that the Scotch-Irish go back in their achievements to the days of John Knox, John Knox lived a thousand years after the formation of the Scotch-Irish character began. He was like the stream of your western desert, that comes from the mountains and makes the valleys beautiful, and green, and fragrant, and then is lost in the sands of the desert. Men will tell you that it disappears and is lost. It is not. After traversing perhaps hundreds of miles of subterranean passages, forgotten, unseen, it is still doing its work, and it rises again before it reaches the sea, and again makes new fields green, and beautiful, and bountiful. It required more than a thousand years to perfect the Scotch-Irish character. It is of a creation single from all races of mankind, and a creation not of one people nor of one century, nor even five centuries, but a thousand years of mingled effort and sacrifice, ending in the sieges of Derry, were required to present to the world the perfect Scotch-Irish character. If you would learn when the characteristics of the Scotch-Irish race began, go back a thousand years beyond the time of John Knox, and find that there was a crucial test that formed the men who perfected the Scotch-Irish character, after years and years of varying conflict and success, until the most stubborn, the most progressive, the most aggressive race in achievement, was given to the world. Let us go back to the sixth century, and what do we find? We find Ireland the birth-place of the Scotch-Irish. We find Ireland foremost of all the nations of the earth, not only in religious progress, but in literature, and for two centuries thereafter the teacher of the world in all that made men great and achievements memorable. For two centuries the Irish of Ireland, in their own green land, were the teachers of men, not only in religion, but in science, in learning, and ail that made men great. She had her teachers and her scientists, men who filled her pulpits and went to every nation surrounding; and it was there that the Scotch-Irish character had its foundation; it was there that the characteristics became evident which afterward made them felt wherever they have gone. Those Irish were teachers of religion, and yet as stubborn for religious freedom as were the Scotch-Irish. Catholic, they often refused obedience to the Pope. They were men of conviction; they were men of learning. They were the advanced outposts of the progressive civilization of that day, and the cardinal doctrine of their faith, down deep-set in the heart, was absolute religious freedom, and they even combated the Vatican in maintaining their religious rights.

Then came the cloud that swept over the land, and that effaced this bright green spot from existence. Then came the barbarian from the isles of the Baltic. He came with the torch of the vandal and all the fiendishness of a barbarian, desolated the land, destroyed its prosperity, overthrew its ministers, razed its churches to the earth, and from that once bright green isle a land of desolation was made. The Irish of that day were not to be conquered in a generation; nay, not in a century. It was only after two centuries of desperate, bloody conflict, of sacrifice such as men to-day know not, that finally they were almost effaced from the earth. But it was like the stream that comes from the great mountains of the West, that had made the valleys beautiful which it had traversed, and then disappeared in the desert. The work of these men had perished and been overthrown for the time being, but their teachings were eternal, and they are as much impressed upon this audience now as they were twelve hundred years ago in Ireland. Then history tells how the province was finally laid waste, and, how, when it had ceased, by reason of its desolation, to invite any to it, the Scotch-Irish were invited to come to Ulster, and how there was literally founded the great people whose history and whose achievements we celebrate now. They had undergone persecution from King and Pope. Not until Pope Adrian and King Henry, Protestant upon the one side and Catholic upon the other, had united their arms, their schemes, and their statesmanship, was the land laid waste so that the Scots alone could rebuild the destruction which had been wrought. So great was the desolation, that prelates denounced Catholicism one day, and again praised it; the teachers at the holy altar abjured Catholicism to Mary and Protestantism to Henry. The church and state reeked with corruption. When there was universal demoralization, even at the very altar of the holies, then the Scots went to Ireland and settled in the province of Ulster, where the history of the race properly begins. They made the land again to bloom and blossom, and upon every hand was brightness and prosperity. They called a convocation of their clergy, and proclaimed their profession of faith, the same that you would proclaim at your altar to-night; and it seemed, at last, as though the angel of peace had visited the land, and that now there should be freedom to worship at the altar of their choice; that improvement, mental, social, religious, and material, should go hand in hand again, and that Ireland should become a place of plenty and of happiness. But scarcely had they established themselves, and proclaimed their faith, and restored prosperity for the desolation that they had found, when persecution again came, with the power of Church and State. These people were persecuted at their altars, in their homes, in their business, in all things; they were condemned as felons, and compelled to flee from their land. After a century of conflict such as we know not now, maintaining their altars and their homes and their rights, they seemed again to have been scattered to the four quarters of the earth. Again the blight mountain stream of education, religion, progress, and advancement seemed to have been swallowed up by the desert in utter hopelessness. It was then that John Knox came, and came as the long-concealed sweet waters from the fountain of religion and of education, having long been swallowed up by the desert of desolation and persecution, in all their splendor, pure as crystal, pure as heaven. Again the people were taught that the religion and the education of a thousand years before had not been lost; that there was one character of men, and one alone, in which was preserved eternally the truths of progress, of freedom, of religion; and finally, after conflict upon conflict, and sacrifice upon sacrifice, these men presented what I regard as the perfected Scotch-Irish character. At the siege of Londonderry, after twelve hundred years of education and teaching, and utter prostration under persecution of all the power of Church and State to destroy, the perfect Scotch-Irish character was presented to the world; and I thank the siege of Londonderry, because it was that which sent them to the new world. Then they came fleeing from home, from all which they loved, to the new world, as teachers of the inalienable rights of man to worship the living God as he shall choose, and maintain civil freedom as the highest right of God's created beings. They came, and they settled in Pennsylvania, the Carolinas, and Virginia; and it was the Scotch-Irish people of the colonies that made the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Without them, it-could not have been thought of, except as a passing fancy. When the New England Puritan and the Virginia mixture of the cavalier and Scotch-Irishman sat side by side, and presented to the memorable Congress of Philadelphia the immortal document of the Declaration of Independence, they did not voice the views or convictions of Thomas Jefferson or John Adams; they voiced the teachings of the Scotch-Irish people of the land. They did not falter, they did not dissemble, they did not temporize, when a foreign government became oppressive beyond endurance. It was not the Quaker, not the Puritan, nor even the Cavalier nor the Huguenot nor the German ; it was the Scotch-Irish of the land whose voice was first heard in Virginia. In the valley of Virginia was the first declaration of independence; not a formal declaration, but it was there that the smothered feelings of these people were first declared. Next, in North Carolina, at Mecklenburg, came the declaration of independence in form, and from the Scotch-Irish of that region. Next came the declaration of my own state, at Carlisle, Pa. There was the declaration made by the Scotch-Irish, that the colonies must be free from the oppressive hand of Britain. They had taught this, not only in their public speeches, they had taught it at their altars, from their pulpits, in their social circle ; it was taught upon the mother's lap to the Scotch-Irish child; and it was from these, and these alone, that came the outburst of rugged, determined people that made the declaration of 1776 possible. They, and they alone, were its authors, and( when they made a declaration, they meant to maintain it by all the moral and physical power they possessed.. When a deliverance came from the Scotch-Irish when they demanded that they must and shall be free, it was no mere diplomatic declaration ; it was no claim to be tested and disputed and be recalled in season. When the Scotch-Irish of this land declared that the American colonies should be free, it meant that the Scotch-Irish blood was ready to flow upon the battle-field, that the Scotch-Irish arm was ready to wield the battle-ax, and that, come weal or woe, they meant to maintain the declaration with their lives. (Applause.)

I wish the truthful history of the Declaration of Independence had been written. It has not been done, and I am sorry that it will never be written, for the reason that it now can not be done. I wish that some other people, some other race than mine, had been in a position to write the true history of the Declaration of Independence. The Scotch-Irish can not write it, because in the writing they would make themselves immortal. There is no passage in history that tells you that, after the passage of this declaration by the Congress of the colonies at Philadelphia, two of Pennsylvania's representatives were recalled and retired for disobedience to the will of the people, and new men sent to complete the work. Need I tell you that these men were not Scotch-Irish? It was, perhaps, well for young American students, that they have not by history been told how the Continental Congress, even after passing the memorable Declaration of Independence, shivered at the consummation of its work; how men shuddered and hesitated at affixing their names to the document that would make them traitors to their King; and it was not until John Witherspoon, the Scotch-Irish Presbyterian preacher, the lineal descendant of John Knox, rose in his place, with his venerable silvered head and earnest oratory, and declared that his gray head must soon bow to the fate of all, and that he preferred it to go by the ax of the executioner rather than that the cause of independence should not prevail, that the hesitating were made to stand firm, that the quivering heart beat its keenest pulsations for freedom, and made every man come up, one after another, and affix his name to the immortal document. What might have been the history of that day, if John Witherspoon had not lived, and had not stood there, as John Knox stood, centuries before, to present the teachings of religion, science, education, and freedom, from which could be drawn the inspiration, generation after generation, for twelve centuries? Had he not been there, I know not what might have been the record of that day. I only know, and rejoice for freedom and civilization, that John Witherspoon lived, and that, as ever, the Scotch-Irish ruled the great event of the day. How have they written their history amongst us? When the battle came for freedom, I need not tell you where they were. I need not fell you that, of the whole Scotch-Irish race on this continent, there was but a single exceptional community where there was not the most devoted loyalty to the cause of freedom for which the colonies fought; and these might have been patriotic if they had not been Scotch-Irish. They had given their solemn promise, upon parole and pardon, when condemned unjustly, and when it was a choice between freedom and death, and when their King had given them permission to settle in the, new country, that they would maintain their loyalty to the King that pardoned them. This little community in North Carolina was faithful to its oath, and became apparently unfaithful to its liberty. This is the record of the whole disloyalty of the Scotch-Irish race in this country to the struggle for freedom, and this stands out with the stamp of Toryism; but it is made lustrous by the fidelity to the oath given to a King who had granted pardon.

As I told you when I began, I know not where to turn to tell you of Scotch-Irish achievement. I know not where to begin, where to go, or where to stop. Don't imagine, from what I have said, that the Scotch-Irish were all angels. They were very human. Dr. Macintosh, in his address to you, summed up the Irish character pretty well in a single sentence. What were your words, doctor?

Dr. Macintosh:
I said the Scotch-Irish kept the commandments of God, and every thing else they got to lay their hands on. (Laughter.)

Colonel McClure:
I want to get it from the mouth of the reverend doctor, because he knows them quite as well as I do. That was the truth of them. They were a thrifty people. In my own state they had a conflict with the Quakers. The Quakers concluded that Scotch-Irish immigration ought to be stopped, and in one of their petitions sent to the council of my state, they declared that the Scotch-Irish were "a pernicious and pugnacious people." They were in perpetual conflict. The truth is, the Scotch-Irish were ever upon the outskirts of civilization. The Quakers lived where they could live in peace. They were a lovely people, and we have the conviction that they founded Pennsylvania in peace. So they did. The truth is, they did every thing to aid warfare, and left the Scotch-Irish to fight it out. They would go amongst the Indians, and trade with them, and give them ammunition and firearms, because they were peaceful brothers, and the Indians would murder the Scotch-Irish, and the Quakers while dwelling in peace did great good in dealing justly with the Indian and getting him to kill the Scotch-Irish. They were in constant conflict. The Scotch-Irish entered the Cumberland Valley when the Quaker was scarcely outside of Philadelphia. They had gone to Fort Pitt, and settled in Western Pennsylvania, when the Quaker was dreaming of peace along the banks of the Delaware ; and it was one perpetual struggle of noble daring and courage to maintain their homes against the Indians in that state. But the Quaker always protested, always complained, and in every possible way sought to limit Scotch-Irish immigration, or drive it from the state; and they did drive many from the state. Turn to South Carolina, and you will find settlements of Scotch-Irish from Pennsylvania, who took with them the names of Pennsylvania counties Chester, Lancaster, York. Before the Revolutionary War they settled many counties on the borders, simply because they got away from the Quakers, who constantly complained of and criticised them. These Quakers made the truest charge they ever did when they said: "These men absolutely want to control the province themselves." Of course they did. There never was a Scotch-Irish community anywhere that did not want to boss every job around it, and of course these people in Pennsylvania wanted to control the colony. The Quakers wanted nobody but themselves. The Scotch-Irish were the pioneers of civilization, and wherever they went with their trusty rifles and built their log-cabins, there was the school-house, there was the little log church, for religion and education went hand in hand with the Scotch-Irish wherever they went, from the time of the Revolution until now; and what was true of Pennsylvania was true of every part of the land where they settled. They dominated, and that was the cause of complaint against them. They dominated, simply because in the nature of things it could not be otherwise. They were born and educated a thousand years as leaders of men; they were men of conviction; they were men of faith in religion, faith in God, and faith in themselves, and tell me why should not such a people at that day resolve that the land belonged to the saints, and that they were the saints?

Men have inquired whether there is not a decadence in the Scotch-Irish character, and men of thought and students of the race have at times hesitated to answer. Let me say that if there shall be decadence in the Scotch-Irish race, there shall be no conflicts worthy of the Scotch-Irish character to develop their grandeur and their heroism. (Applause.) Turn but back to the last great conflict between the North and the South, and there was not a man upon the battle field that was not made more heroic by Scotch-Irish leaders and Scotch-Irish soldiers. There would have been thousands fewer fallen in that conflict but for the pertinacity of the Scotch-Irish character and its influence throughout the whole American people; and after reading all of Grecian and Roman story, there is nothing in human history, there is nothing in all the conflicts of men, ancient or modern, that evidenced such matchless heroism as was shown by the blue and the gray that stands to-day lustrous over all the heroism of the earth as the heroism of the whole American people. Tell me not that there is decadence in the Scotch-Irish character. There is no decay, but there is no achievement to-day, because there is nothing heroic to achieve. He is foremost in the conflict, when the conflict is for the right. He is but a man as all men are, human, full of all its infirmities, but the grandeur of his character, fixed twelve hundred years ago, is to-day as perfectly true to its teachings as when Ireland, in her grandeur, was the teacher of the world. When these men fail in achievement, it is because there is nothing to achieve. However, they will be felt when the battle field is not to be found. When there are no conflicts in statesmanship, when the great issues have passed, think you that the Scotch Irish teaching is still and unheard and unfelt in civilization? No. When the tempest is still, and all is calm and beautiful around you, the dews of heaven make the flowers jeweled in the morning, and your fields green with the promise of future plenty. Thus with the Scotch-Irish character, in conflict grander than all; when every conflict shall have been won ; when free is the banner of faith, and liberty has triumphed, then, as gentle as the dews of heaven, will be felt the teachings of the Scotch-Irish in behalf of a civilization which has grown for centuries and centuries, until, in the fullness of time, will the Scotch-Irish character stand out grandest and most beneficent in all the achievements of men. (Applause.)

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus