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

Proceedings of the Fourth Congress at Atlanta, GA., April 28 to May 1, 1892
The Scotch-Irish of Iowa
By Mr. Henry Wallace, of Des Moines, Iowa

Mr. President, Ladies, and Gentlemen: "When, in response to letters from your honorable Secretary, I gave the " Scotch-Irish of Iowa " as a subject on which I would venture to address you, I had but little conception of the extent of the work I had undertaken. The Scotch-Irish of Iowa, like their brethren the world over, have been too busy making history to take time to write it, and hence have but little conception of the extent to which they have molded and fashioned the policy of the newer states of the "West. A few hours' work, among the even scanty materials furnished by our State Library, satisfied me that if I would write the history of the Scotch-Irish achievement of Iowa I would be compelled to write to a very great extent the history of the state. For example, I discovered, to my very great surprise, that all three of our territorial Governors, who, so to speak, sat by the cradle of the infant state and molded and shaped its initial policies, were Scotch-Irishmen. These worthies were: Robert Lucas, appointed in 1838; John Chambers, appointed in 1841; and James Clark, appointed in 1845. A glance at the rolls of the early Legislative Assemblies and Constitutional Conventions reveals in great abundance such names as Ross, Hall, Chambers, McCreary, McKean, Wallace, and a dozen others that point either to an Ulster or Scotch ancestry. "When we come to look up the history of the state, after its admission into the Union, wo find names of the same origin running through its entire history to the present hour, and borne by members of its Legislatures, by state officers of every grade, by members of the Supreme Court, eminent lawyers, bankers, clergymen, and farmers, showing that, except in localities settled almost exclusively by foreigners of later migrations, the Scotch-Irish blood had permeated all parts of the state.
When we come to study the history of this state in detail, we find that one of the first, and certainly one of the very greatest, of the Iowa Governors was that typical Scotch-Irishman, Hon. James W. Grimes, a man who never yielded his convictions to popular clamor, whether of the masses or of the politicians of his own party, and who had rather be right than Senator. The man who filled the chair of state at that time that tried men's souls—from 1860 to 1864—was Samuel J. Kirkwood, a Scotch-Irishman, whom Iowa has always delighted to honor, having chosen him three times Governor, and afterward United States Senator, a high position he resigned to take a position in the Cabinet of the nation. He still lives, almost fourscore years of age, to enjoy the honors of a grateful people, and the last General Assembly made an especial appropriation to employ an Iowa artist to paint a suitable portrait of him to adorn the walls of its capitol.

The Senator is descended from a brother of Capt. Robert Kirkwood, commander of a company of Delaware soldiers in the revolutionary war. The family has since scattered through Maryland, North Carolina, and Georgia, as well as Iowa. The present Governor of Iowa, Horace Boies, inherits, on his mother's side, the same Scotch-Irish blood.

Not to mention the large number of Scotch-Irishmen who have from time to time represented Iowa in Congress, it may be well to notice briefly the large space that Scotch-Irish blood has held in the representation of the state in the national Senate. From 1847 to 1855 Iowa was represented in this body by Hon. Augustus C. Dodge. New England will doubtless claim him, but when we come to trace his ancestry we find his blood but one-fourth Puritan and the rest pure Scotch-Irish. His Father, Hon. Henry Dodge, the first Governor of "Wisconsin, afterward United States Senator, was a son of Nancy Ann Hunter, whose father, Joseph Hunter, came from Ulster. After the death of Gov. Dodge, she married Asahel Linn, by whom she became the mother of Senator Linn, of Missouri, and hence has the distinction of being the only woman who has had two sons and one grandson serving at the same time in the United States Senate. Senator Henry Dodge married Christina McDonald, and from this union sprang the Senator from Iowa.

From 1859 to 1869 Iowa was represented in the Senate by James W. Grimes, of whose career we have already spoken, and from 1873 to the present time it has been represented by Hon. William B. Allison, Scotch-Irish on both sides of the house, his grandfather being part of that great migration from Ulster that set in at the close of the Revolution, and his maternal ancestry being part of an earlier migration. In addition to these distinguished men the Scotch-Irish blood has been represented in the Senate from Iowa by Gov. Kirkwood and by Hon. James W. McDill, now a member of the Interstate Commerce Commission. It has, besides, given to the nation such distinguished Federal jurists as Judges Dillon and McCrary.

If anything further is needed to show the potent influence of Scotch-Irish blood in Iowa affairs, it is only necessary to state that the present Governor, the Secretary of State, the Auditor of State, the Treasurer of State, the Attorney-general, one of the Railroad Commissioners (last year two), and one or more judges of the Supreme Court have all more or less Scotch-Irish blood in their veins, and are all proud to own it. In fact, it is an open question whether there are not as many people of Scotch-Irish blood in Iowa to-day as there are Scotch-Irishmen in Ulster itself.

Nor is it surprising that the Scotch-Irishman should have settled in this goodly land. He has always been noted as an admirer of rich soil. In Ulster he is found in the rich valleys. The very names of the mountain sides indicate the presence of another race. Settling on the fertile lands of Western Pennsylvania, his descendants have passed on to the fat valleys of Ohio, and spread out over the rich prairies of Indiana and Illinois; while another stream has descended through the valleys of Virginia to the richer lands of Kentucky and Tennessee, and followed the limestone and the blue grass down through Alabama and Georgia, or turned north to develop the fertile lands of the West. In Iowa we can distinctly trace the convergence of these two lines of migration. What wonder? The migration coming from the past found a state lying like Mesopotamia of old, between two great rivers, in which there is not a barren section. The Kentuckian found, to his surprise, that his native blue grass flourished in even greater luxuriance on the prairies of Iowa than in his own land of fast horses, fine cattle, brave men, and beautiful women, and that the blue grass girl was as distinctively an Iowa creation and as charming west of the Mississippi as south of the Ohio. Even the fast horse made a faster record when grown in the state that has a "schoolhouse on every hill top." Is it any wonder, then, that Iowa, with so large an element of people that never beg, is known far and wide as a state that asks no aid, that never "passes the hat" nor creates a state debt nor repudiates an obligation.

The Scotch-Irishman of Iowa, as indeed everywhere else, is not only a farmer, lawyer, preacher, statesman, merchant, or what not; he is always a patriot, and a man in whom the idea of the school-house, a church, an academy, and a college is incarnate. He is a sort of educational yeast. In Iowa he no sooner had his family and live stock housed on the new homestead than he took measures to levy a tax on his own land, and that of the nonresident speculator as well, for the purpose of building a schoolhouse, which would serve for a temporary church, for the infant community. He did this, no doubt, on the theory that the best use to which the nonresident could put his money was to invest it in a schoolhouse and pay for the teacher. As the country grew older he was ready for an academy, and was never satisfied until, somewhere within reach, there was a college in which he could prepare a promising son for the ministry. Meanwhile he proceeded to rule well his own house. Sometimes she did it; in either case, it was usually well done. When the primary of the party is called he is usually active, and will be found taking a full hand in county and state conventions; in fact, he is often charged with wanting to rule everything within his reach. In this he does not differ from strong men of other races. It is men of ideas and the nerve to enforce them that rule everywhere. All the world bows to the clear thinker and the persistent doer. If he is right, or honestly thinks he is right, why should he yield to what he thinks is wrong? Why should he not do his utmost to bring others to his way of thinking? That he often abuses his power, and has his own way simply because it is his way, is no doubt true; otherwise, he would be more than human. Wise leaders, men who can "discern the signs of the times and know what Israel ought to do," are not so plenty that we can afford to make no allowance for the selfishness that taints the services of the best men.

It is sometimes said in Iowa that the Scotch-Irishman is clannish. If by clannishness is meant, as it sometimes is, that he has pride in himself, his family, his oatmeal porridge, and his Shorter Catechism, his race, its traditions and ideas, and a disinclination to mingle freely, or to allow his children to mingle freely with races and families which have what he considers, lower ideas, especially in morals, habits, and customs, the charge may be admitted to be true. If it be meant that he refuses to mingle with races and families that have similar ideas, simply because they are not of his race, it is not generally true.

I have often found the Scotch-Irishman on the Western prairies regarded as a proud, austere, unsocial man, simply because he would not join or allow his children to join in what he regarded as Sabbath profanation, or in sports and amusements which he believed to be demoralizing to the young. The clannishness that keeps a man out of the dirt, that shields his children from alliances that end in lowering the standard of family character, is the kind of clannishness that comes very near to being a shining virtue. Many a Scotch-Irish wife, whose husband had been lured into a bad neighborhood for the sake of a bargain in land, has taken up the plaint of Rebekah of old: "If Jacob take a wife of the children of Heth, such of these which are of the daughters of the land, what good shall my life do me?" The Scotch-Irishman has usually a profound respect for the preface to the second commandment, "Visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me," partly because it is part of the law of his God, and partly because it is the expression of a great truth in nature as well as in grace, and abundantly verified by his daily observation. While he would not consider it very sound theology to say that grace is a matter of inheritance, he knows that wickedness is, and that it takes a good deal less grace to make a decent Christian out of a man with a Christian and orthodox pedigree behind him. His clannishness is mainly a horror of bad blood in his grandchildren. "Who can blame him?

While claiming so much for our race in making Iowa the state it is admitted on all hands to be, I would not detract an iota from the meed of praise due to other races, especially to the Puritan, to the Huguenot, and to the Scotchman. With these races the Scotch-Irish more naturally blend. Like our own, they are races of deep convictions, whose thoughts take strong hold on both worlds. In fact, one cannot rise from the study of Iowa history in the lives of men who have represented and shaped its highest thought, without the deep conviction that for any man or any race to have lasting power among men, it must be a race of deep convictions, and a man who has some beliefs for which he would, if need be, die.

The strong points of races that have these powers to impress themselves on state and nations do not come by accident. Racial characteristics do not spring up, like Jonah's gourd, in a night nor perish in a night. Typical forms of character, when fixed, are the results of causes operating from generation to generation. The higher the organization, the longer it takes to fix the type and the more permanent does it become. In few races is the type more distinct than in the Scotch and Scotch-Irish races, and in few of them more fixed. Whether you find it in Scotland, Ulster, in Pennsylvania, in Ohio, Kentucky, Georgia, or Iowa, the essentials are the same, the variations being mere modifications clearly traceable to local environment. The types of the lower of our domestic animals are the result merely of food and climate, and can, in a few generations, be molded at pleasure. As we ascend higher in the scale and attempt to develop that combination of courage, endurance, intelligence, with physical capacities that produces speed in the horse, we must, if we succeed, avail ourselves of an inheritance that goes back ultimately to the coursers of the desert. When we come to the study of human types, where mind and morals, as well as physical conformation, are all elements, we find the roots of character back many generations and a fixed type the result of the operation of causes comparatively uniform in their operation, from generation to generation. The Scotch-Irish and Scotch races, one race with a slight modification (the result of the environment of the plantation), are the results of certain conceptions of duty to God and duty to man that make them almost a distinct type of the human race. The God of the Shorter Catechism, and the independence of the clan, together with the stern necessity of intelligent, well-directed labor to secure the means of existence, have given the race that conception of law, of obligation to a supreme ruler, all-wise and all-merciful, of the supreme majesty of righteousness and of justice to man as man, that have over characterized the Scotch-Irish. Wherever you find the race there you find the Sabbath, and a plain and simple worship that deals with the highest themes, and an industry and thrift that needs no fawning to secure its rewards. These are the racial characteristics that will abide with us as long as we teach our children the Catechism; so long as we preserve the Scotch-Irish Sabbath, and retain our conviction that the great supreme power that is behind and over all is the rewarder of the righteous and the foe of every form of oppression. So long as this moral environment is maintained the Scotch-Irishman will be found battling for civil and religious liberty, as he has done in all his past history. He will ever be striving, whether North or South, in America or Europe, to realize an ideal state and an ideal home. He may be masterful and dominating, ill to force, unjust sometimes, but only when the truth and the just cause has not been pleaded at the bar of his conscience. He is now just beginning to recognize the value of his achievements on this continent, and to recognize wherein lies the secret of his power, and these annual reunions of the scattered branches of our common kindred, cannot but result in binding together more closely the widely separated parts of our common country, over which floats the flag which symbolizes and represents the grandest achievements of the human race. It is only in free America, modeled in its political institutions, on the principles of the Scotch Presbytery, that the Scotch-Irish character can reach its highest development.

Return to Proceedings 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