|Source:||The Scotch-Irish in America|
|Author:||Samuel Swett Green|
Letters which followed the appearance of brief reports of the contents of the foregoing paper in Boston newspapers.
The Boston Traveller, May 1, 1895.
SCOTCH-IRISH IN AMERICA.
Thomas Hamilton Murray criticises Samuel Swett Green’s Essay upon this subject.
To the Editor:
Lawrence, April 26.—I have just read a synopsis of the essay by Samuel Swett Green, A.M., on the Scotch-Irish, so called, in America.
The essay was delivered on April 24, at a meeting in Boston of the American Antiquarian Society.
While I have the greatest respect, personally, for Mr. Green, I am obliged to impugn his reliability as an historian when he treats of the “Scotch-Irish” shibboleth. I must also take issue with him both as regards his premises and conclusions in the essay just mentioned. I do this because both are fatally defective and based on radically false assumptions. Mr. Green, beyond all question, intended to be accurate and honest in his paper before the Antiquarian Society. His sources of information, however, were misleading and unfortunate.
If I may take his paper as a criterion, he is not very well posted on Irish history—ancient, mediæval or modern. Neither, taking the same paper as a basis, does he appear to be well informed on the component elements of the Irish people. Lacking the essential basic knowledge, therefore, he has made a hodge-podge of the subject treated in endeavoring to prove too much.
This idea also seems to have struck Dr. Hale at the meeting in question, who wondered if Mr. Green claimed Columbus as Scotch-Irish. The absurdity of some of the speaker’s claims was also noted at the meeting by that excellent historian, Prof. Jameson of Brown University.
Mr. Green, like most people who use the mistaken term “Scotch-Irish,” appears to do so under the supposition that it is synonymous with Protestant-Irish. Not so. Thousands of Protestant-Irish are of English descent, with not a drop of Scotch blood in their veins. Other thousands are of Huguenot extraction, a point with which Mr. Green does not appear to have been acquainted. Welsh, German and Dutch blood also enters materially into this Protestant-Irish element.
The number of Protestant-Irish of English descent who came to the colonies, when compared with Protestant-Irish of possible Scotch descent, was as 8 to 1, while the number of Keltic or Catholic Irish who came at the same period was as 20 to 1. Yet, Mr. Green seems never to have heard of either the Anglo-Irish or the Catholic Irish in the upbuilding of New England.
The Irish immigrants to this country who were actually of Scottish ancestry were at that time called, and were content to be called, merely Irish. It remained for a later generation of “historians,” unable to suppress or deny the nationality of these comers, to dub them with what was intended to be a palliating term, Scotch-Irish.
Mr. Green makes another blunder in regarding all Ulstermen as of Scotch descent. With him the fact that a man hailed from the northern province is sufficient to stamp him as “Scotch-Irish.” To any student of Irish history the fallacy of this is at once evident. Why, some of the most ancient blood in Ireland comes from Ulster, and at the time of the English conquest thousands of Catholic Ulstermen were exiled and settled all along the New England coast, from Maine to Connecticut. These Mr. Green would no doubt calmly appropriate as “Scotch-Irish.”
His assertion that the Sullivans, John and James, were of Scotch extraction is so utterly nonsensical as not to merit a serious reply.
His claim that the Perrys were “Scotch-Irishmen” will make Rhode Islanders laugh. The mother of the Perrys was content to be known as a plain, everyday Irish woman. She was a daughter of an Irish rebel, and was never guilty of using a “Scotch” or any other extenuating prefix.
Mr. Green would have us understand that emigration from Scotland to Ireland commenced at the beginning of the 17th century. In this he is over a thousand years out of the way. Migration and emigration between the two countries began many centuries earlier than the 17th, or when Scotland became an Irish colony. When that was Mr. Green can easily ascertain by giving the matter proper attention and careful inquiry.
Alluding to the Presbyterian Irish who settled at Worcester, Mr. Green again rings the changes on the “Scotch-Irish,” and says they introduced the Irish potato. But to be consistent, why does he not call it the Scotch-Irish potato? Why let the Irish-Irish have the credit?
In very truth this “Scotch-Irish” fad has become an unutterable bore. While some Irish people of immediate or remote Scottish descent did unquestionably come to these shores, not five per cent. of those claimed as such by current writers were really of Scotch extraction. And these were so hopelessly overwhelmed in numbers by other Irish who came, that any attempt to claim exclusive merit for the handful, can only result in mortification to the claimant.
The Protestant John Mitchell declares that “Scotch-Irish is a cant term coined by bigots.” He then goes on to state that in Ireland the term was seldom or never heard.
A friend of mine, an Episcopalian, once said: “I notice that so long as an Irishman goes to the Roman Catholic Church he is spoken of as Irish; but should he change his creed and frequent the Baptist or the Methodist Church he is immediately referred to by his new friends as ‘Scotch-Irish.’” This is a fair specimen of the shaky ground on which the shibboleth rests.
Most Rev. Dr. Plunkett, Protestant archbishop of Dublin, speaking on the “Scotch” and other prefixes, eloquently disapproves the same and warmly declares: “In truth, we are simply Irish, and nothing else.”
Thomas Hamilton Murray.
This letter also appeared in The Pilot, Boston, in the issue of May 11. Following is a reply which was printed in The Pilot of June 15.
The same letter, substantially, had appeared in the Boston Traveller of May 3, in answer to Mr. Murray’s letter of May 1.
THE “SCOTCH-IRISH” AGAIN.
Editor of The Pilot:
Worcester, Mass., May 11, 1895.—A marked copy of The Pilot of to-day has been sent to me, calling my attention to a communication from Thomas Hamilton Murray, in which Mr. Murray criticises statements which he supposes me to have made in a paper which I read before the American Antiquarian Society recently, and opinions which he supposes me to hold. He is laboring under misapprehensions as to my views.
Will you kindly allow me to correct some of these mistakes? They arise mainly from the fact that Mr. Murray did not hear the paper read and has not had an opportunity to read it himself.
He writes:—“Thousands of Protestant-Irish are of English descent, with not a drop of Scotch blood in their veins. Other thousands are of Huguenot extraction, a point with which Mr. Green does not appear to have been acquainted.”
In my paper I stated that William III. exerted himself to bring colonies of Huguenots to the North of Ireland after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. I mentioned also English colonists. I stated, too, that the Irish who were of Scotch blood intermarried with those of English-Puritan and Huguenot blood in Ireland. My subject, however, was the Irish of Scotch blood.
Mr. Murray says: “Mr. Green seems never to have heard of either the Anglo-Irish or the Catholic-Irish in the upbuilding of New England.” I am perfectly aware that both of these classes of Irishmen have had great influence here, but, as stated before, I limited myself in the paper to the influence of the Irish of Scotch descent.
Mr. Murray says: “The Irish immigrants to this country who were actually of Scottish ancestry were at that time called, and were content to be called, merely Irish.”
I have not supposed that the Irish of Scottish blood were content to be called “merely Irish.” See, for example, the letter of Rev. James McGregor, of Londonderry, N. H., to Governor Shute of Massachusetts, as quoted by Jeremy Belknap, by Parker in his History of Londonderry, N. H. (p. 68), and Lincoln in his History of Worcester, Mass. (p. 49.)
“Mr. Green makes another blunder,” writes Mr. Murray, “in regarding all Ulster-men as of Scotch descent.”
I hold no such belief, but chose to single out the inhabitants of Ulster of Scotch descent.
By reading a note appended to the names of General John Sullivan and Governor James Sullivan in my paper, Mr. Murray would see that I agree with him in finding no reasons for believing that they had Scotch blood. Am I wrong in believing that Miss Sarah Alexander, of Newry, Ireland, who married the father of Oliver Hazard Perry, was the granddaughter of James Wallace, an officer of the Scotch army and a signer of the Solemn League and Covenant, and that he fled in 1660 from County Ayr to the North of Ireland? If I am, I should be grateful to Mr. Murray if he would correct me.
Mr. Murray says, “Mr. Green would have us understand that emigration from Scotland to Ireland commenced at the beginning of the seventeenth century.” I would not have anybody so understand, but, as I stated at the beginning of my paper, I selected for treatment the emigration during that century.
My old friend, Rev. Dr. Hale, expressed himself as much pleased with my paper, and would be very much surprised to learn that he was understood as disputing statements made by me because a jocose remark occurred to him.
Professor Jameson, whom, with Mr. Murray, I regard as an “excellent historian,” took particular pains to say, at the meeting where my paper was read, that he had no objections to make to any statements which I had made, but had some doubt about the Scotch descent of one or more of the persons mentioned in a quotation which I had made from the history of Douglas Campbell.
Remarks about the “Irish potato” were made by me in a letter which I sent to you a week ago, and it is unnecessary for me to repeat here what you already have in that letter.
In regard to my sources of information, which Mr. Murray thinks were “misleading,” I refer him to a somewhat long list of authorities given at the close of my paper.
I do not imagine that Mr. Murray and I could agree entirely, but I am sure that we agree more nearly than he has supposed, and that such an approach to agreement would appear if he were to read my paper. I hope that it will be printe in a few months; and when it is printed, he can learn, if he wishes, exactly what I have written.
Samuel Swett Green.
The letter in which there were remarks about the Irish potato was called out by the following paragraph in The Pilot of May 4:
There is something appropriate in the claim made by Dr. S. S. Green, of Worcester, before the American Antiquarian Society of Boston, on April 24, that the “Irish potato” was introduced into Worcester, as well as into many other places in America, by the “Scotch-Irish.” It was just like the enterprising Scotch-Irishman to do that. He is the only creature in the whole wide realm of fiction who would have thought of “introducing” a vegetable to the land of its birth. Somebody with time on his hands and a laudable ambition to dispense the information, should tell the American Antiquarian Society that the potato is indigenous to America, and that the name “Irish potato” is as much a sham and a misnomer as the other name, “Scotch Irish,” with this difference, that the vegetable is a real potato of American origin, while the human hybrid is neither Scotch nor Irish.
Following is the letter, with comments as it appeared in The Pilot of May 18.
THE “IRISH” POTATO.
Editor of The Pilot:
Worcester, Mass., May 4, 1895.—Will you kindly allow me to correct a mistake which was made by the writer of a paragraph in to-day’s issue of your paper, regarding a statement recently made by me in an essay read before the American Antiquarian Society in Boston.
The writer does not understand how the potato could have been introduced into Worcester and other places in this neighborhood during the eighteenth century when it is indigenous to America.
There is no doubt that it is indigenous on this continent and no doubt that it was carried from this country to Europe in the sixteenth century. It is also true, however, that it was introduced into Worcester and other places in this country in the eighteenth century by emigrants from the North of Ireland.
About 200 persons, who were a portion of a party of three or four times that number which arrived in Boston, August 4, 1718, went to Worcester, and were among its earlier settlers.
Most of this body of emigrants from the North of Ireland were of Scotch extraction, as is well known. A few of them, however, were of pure Irish blood. Of the latter was a family of Youngs who went to Worcester. They are credited with the introduction of the potato there. The people of Worcester knew little or nothing about that vegetable before. Their ignorance is shown by an anecdote which has come down to us and which is narrated in Lincoln’s History of Worcester.
After writing that “it is remarkable that the esculent, now considered essentially necessary for table and farm should have been introduced at a period so late,” Lincoln continues: “It is related, that some of our early inhabitants, after enjoying the hospitality of one of the Irish families, were each presented with a few potatoes for planting. Unwilling to give offence by refusing the present, they accepted the donation; but suspecting the poisonous quality, they carried the roots only to the next swamp, and there threw them away, as unsafe to enter their homes.” (p. 49, note 2.)
Speaking of the portion of the emigrants from the North of Ireland who came over in 1718 and, with others of their countrymen who soon joined them, settled at Londonderry, N. H., Parker, the historian of that town, writes: “They introduced the culture of the potato, which they brought with them from Ireland. Until their arrival, this reliable vegetable, now regarded as one of the necessaries of life, if not wholly unknown, was not cultivated in New England. To them belongs the credit of its introduction to general use. Although highly prized by this company of settlers, it was for a long time but little regarded by their English neighbors, a barrel or two being considered a supply for a family. But its value as food for man and for beast became at length more generally known, and who can now estimate the full advantage of its cultivation to this country! The following well-authenticated fact will show how little known to the community at large the potato must have been.
A few of the settlers had passed the winter previous to their establishment here, in Andover, Mass. On taking their departure from one of the families, with whom they had resided, they left a few potatoes for seed. The potatoes were accordingly planted; some came up and flourished well; blossomed and produced balls, which the family supposed were the fruit to be eaten. They cooked the balls in various ways, but could not make them palatable, and pronounced them unfit for food. The next spring, while ploughing their garden, the plough passed through where the potatoes had grown, and turned out some of great size, by which means they discovered their mistake.” (pp. 48 and 49.)
It appears natural after this statement of facts that the potato should have been very generally called the Irish potato, in Worcester and elsewhere.
I remember perfectly that in my boyhood, fifty years ago, and afterwards when we had two kinds of potatoes on the table, in my father’s family, we were always asked whether we would have a sweet potato or an Irish potato. The name is still used to a considerable extent.
‘Samuel Swett Green.’
[We make room, with pleasure, for Mr. Green’s letter. It was only in the interest of historical accuracy that we deprecated the use of the term “Irish potato,” as that esculent is a peculiarly American product; and, as Mr. Green avows, it certainly is not a “Scotch-Irish” vegetable. The introduction of the American potato into Ireland was, unhappily, a Nessus-gift. The fatal facility of its culture led the people to place unwise dependence upon it; so that when the “blight” of 1847 came, they found themselves without other means of existence, and, as a consequence, 1,225,000 human beings died of the “Great Famine” of that year. It was a sad day for Ireland when it first knew the potato; but if America has profited by its repatriation, give the credit to Irish, not Scotch, Ireland.—Editor Pilot.]
Mr. Murray continued the correspondence by sending the following letter to the Worcester Telegram, June 27, 1895.
To the Editor of The Telegram:
Samuel Swett Green, A. M., of Worcester, a short time ago read a paper in Boston before the American Antiquarian Society. His subject was the Scotch-Irish, so-called, among our early immigrants.
I took exceptions to many statements by Mr. Green as they were reported in the Boston journals at the time, several days having elapsed between the appearance of said reports and the publication of my criticism.
As Mr. Green had not questioned the general accuracy of these newspaper reviews of his essay, I was entirely justified in making them the basis of my objections. And this the more so, from the fact that the different papers—the Globe, Journal and others—practically agreed in their statement of the salient points.
Since then Mr. Green has replied, both in the Boston Traveller and the Boston Pilot, to the adverse criticism I had advanced. I wish to acknowledge at the outset the courteous language of his reply, and his frank, honest method of discussing the subject with me. It is a pleasure to have a disputant of Mr. Green’s ability, character and good nature. His calm, judicial mind is not impervious to argument, nor does he close his ears, because he may, perhaps, hear something that runs counter to previously conceived ideas.
Mr. Green says: “I do not imagine that Mr. Murray and I could agree entirely, but I am sure that we agree more nearly than he has supposed, and that such an approach to agreement would appear if he were to read my paper.”
I am glad Mr. Green displays this conciliatory spirit of arbitration, for it goes a great way toward a satisfactory discussion of the subject.
In answer to my criticisms he makes several important admissions, viz.: (1) People from the north of Ireland are not necessarily of Scotch descent. (2) Thousands of north of Ireland Protestants and thousands of Protestants from other parts of Ireland have come to this country who were not of Scottish ancestry. (3) The term Scotch-Irish is not equivalent to that of Protestant-Irish. (4) The Catholic Irish have had great influence here, before, during and since the revolution. (5) The Sullivans, John and James, were not of Scottish ancestry. Several other admissions are likewise made by Mr. Green, all of which bring us nearer together in point of general agreement.
Mr. Green says in explanation of his paper that he limited himself to “the Irish of Scotch descent.”
Ah! that is better. So long as he strictly adheres to it—not claiming as of Scotch descent Irishmen who are not—just so long will he have no contention. Rather do I praise him for his efforts in that respect.
Any writer who honestly aims to give any section of Irish settlers in this country a deserved meed of praise shall always have my respect and encouragement. It is only when Irish are claimed as of Scotch descent, who are not, or when exclusive merit is claimed for those who are, I object. In this respect I think that Mr. Green will frankly admit that my position is an entirely proper one.
No man of sense can properly object to the term “Irish of Scotch descent,” when rightly used, whereas the term “Scotch-Irish” is open to very grave objections from many points of view. Mr. Green will, I think, recognize the point.
We of the old Irish race draw no invidious distinctions, but receive into brotherhood all born on Irish soil, or of Irish parents, regardless of creed and no matter where their grandfather or great-grandfather may have come from.
It is a fact, as no doubt Mr. Green is aware, that thousands of north of Ireland Catholics are of Scottish descent on one side or the other. It is also true that many of the best friends of Irish nationality, autonomy and independence have been of the same element, Protestant and Catholic. But they were simply “Irish,” look you. They weighted down their birthright with no extenuating prefix or palliating affix.
It is a blunder to suppose that all the Irish settlers in New Hampshire were of “Scottish descent.” Many of the most prominent who located there were not. Yet because some were, hasty writers have jumped to the conclusion that all were of Scotch ancestry. A more lamentable error it would be difficult to fall into.
I stated in my first reply to Mr. Green that the early Irish immigrants to this country who were actually (and not by recent pretence) of Scottish ancestry were content to be called merely Irish. Mr. Green appears unwilling to admit this and quotes a letter of Rev. James McGregor, of Londonderry, N. H., to Gov. Shute, of Massachusetts. But while McGregor may have been unwilling to acknowledge himself or his immediate associates as pure, unalloyed Irish, there is no real evidence that the bulk of New Hampshire’s Irish settlers agreed with him. Lincoln, the Worcester historian, no matter how excellently informed in other respects, cannot, to my mind, be recognized as an authority on early Irish immigration. And this comment must also apply to Dr. Hale and Prof. Jameson—both of whom are admirably posted on other phases of New England history, but lamentably deficient in this.
Against McGregor, above mentioned, I place McSparran. Parson McSparran, I need not tell Mr. Green, was an Irish Protestant clergyman who for nearly forty years (from 1721) was rector of St. Paul’s Church in Narragansett. Although of Scottish ancestry and partly educated in Scotland, he never spoke of himself as “Scotch-Irish.” Yet if the term were ever justifiable, it would have been so in his case. The expression “Scotch-Irish” never occurs in McSparran’s writings. He always alludes to himself as “Irish,” as being an “Irishman,” and as able to speak, read and write “the Irish language.” He was proud of his Irish nationality, and while not loving the land of his ancestors less, admired that of his nativity more.
McSparran in his quaint work, American Dissected, thus speaks of early New Hampshire settlers:
“In this province lies that town called London-Derry, all Irish, and famed for industry and riches.”
Leaving New Hampshire, he continues:
“Next you enter Main (e), which, in its civil government, is annexed to the Massachusetts, as Sagadahock also is, and both rather by use than right. In these two eastern provinces many Irish are settled, and many have been ruined by the French Indians.”
No mention of “Scotch-Irish,” you will notice! Yet McSparran was in close touch with his countrymen throughout New England. Again he writes:
“It is pretty true to observe of the Irish, that those who come here with any wealth are the worse for their removal, though doubtless the next generation will not suffer so much as their fathers; but those who, when they came, had nothing to lose, have throve greatly by their labors.”
Again, referring to Pennsylvania, he says: “By the accessions of the Irish and Germans, they threaten, in a few years, to lessen the American demands for Irish and other European linens.”
Speaking of Maryland, McSparran declares “There are some Quakers here and some Irish Presbyterians, owing to the swarms that, for many years past, have winged their way westward out of the great Hibernian hive.”
Referring to Pennsylvania, he writes: “The Irish are numerous in this province, who, besides their interspersions among the English and others, have peopled a whole county by themselves, called the county of Donegal, with many other new out-towns and districts.”
McSparran gives absolutely no indication that he ever heard of the “Scotch-Irish” term. Certainly he never used it personally. His family, education and good sense placed him above such a cowardly subterfuge. A short time before his death he forwarded his diplomas of master and doctor to a cousin in Ireland, requesting that they be registered in the parish registry of Dungiven “so that my relatives in time to come might be able to speak of me with authority.” Thus he marked for all time his identity as an Irishman.
The colonial records repeatedly mention the “Irish,” not the Scotch-Irish. Cotton Mather in a sermon in 1700 says: “At length it was proposed that a colony of Irish might be sent over to check the growth of this countrey.” No prefix there. The party of immigrants remaining at Falmouth, Me., over winter, and which later settled in Londonderry, N. H., were alluded to in the records of the general court as “poor Irish.”
On St. Patrick’s day, 1700, Irish of Portsmouth, N. H., instituted St. Patrick’s lodge of Masons. Pretty good proof that they were content to be called merely “Irish.” Later we find Stark’s rangers at Fort Edward requesting an extra supply of grog so as to properly observe the anniversary of St. Patrick. Very little comfort here for your “Scotch-Irish” theorist.
Rev. John Moorhead, a Presbyterian minister of Boston, was born in the north of Ireland and received much of his education in Scotland. Yet he wished to be regarded as mere “Irish.” In proof of this he joined the Charitable Irish Society of Boston in 1739, and made an address on that occasion. Only men of Irish birth or extraction could be admitted to actual membership in the society then as now. Mr. Moorhead in being thus admitted so acknowledged himself. His congregation is described by Drake, Condon, Cullen and other authorities, as being composed of “Irish Presbyterians.”
No mention whatever is made of any “Scotch-Irish” in the neighborhood.
Marmion’s maritime ports of Ireland states that “Irish families” settled Londonderry, N. H. Spencer declares that “the manufacture of linen was considerably increased by the coming of Irish immigrants.” In 1723, says Condon, “a colony of Irish settled in Maine.” Moore, in his sketch of Concord, N. H., pays tribute to the “Irish settlers” in that section of New England. McGee speaks of “the Irish settlement of Belfast,” Me. The same author likewise declares that “Irish families also settled early at Palmer and Worcester, Mass.” Cullen describes the arrival at Boston in 1717 of Capt. Robert Temple, “with a number of Irish Protestants.” Capt. Temple was, in 1740, elected to the Charitable Irish Society. In another place Cullen alludes to “the Irish spinners and weavers who landed in Boston in the earlier part of the 18th century.”
Many persons who continually sing the praises of the so-called “Scotch-Irish” stand in serious danger of being considered not only ignorant but positively dishonest. Their practice is to select any or all Irishmen who have attained eminence in American public life, lump them together and label the lump “Scotch-Irish.”
Among those who have been thus wrongly claimed are Carroll, Sullivan, Knox, Moylan, Wayne, Barry, Clinton, Montgomery, Elliott, Hand and a host of others. Of a later period, Jackson, Calhoun, Meade and Sheridan have been ridiculously styled “Scotch-Irish.” The late John Boyle O’Reilly has not yet been so styled, but no doubt will be after he has been dead long enough to make it comparatively safe.
Of the revolutionary heroes mentioned above, Charles Carroll was of old Irish stock. His cousin, John Carroll, was a Roman Catholic clergyman, a Jesuit, a patriot, a bishop and archbishop. Daniel Carroll was another sterling patriot.
The Sullivans, James and John, were also of ancient Irish stock, the name having been O’Sullivan even in their father’s time.
Gen. Knox and his father were both members of the Charitable Irish Society of Boston. The general also belonged to the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, Philadelphia.
Moylan was a brother of the Roman Catholic bishop of Cork. Quickly would he have repudiated the term “Scotch-Irish.”
Wayne was of Irish descent and proud of his Irish lineage. There is abundant evidence of this did space allow me to present it. He was an active member of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick.
Barry was an Irish Roman Catholic. It was he who, when met by an English frigate on the high seas, replied to the commander’s demand as to who he was, with “The United States ship Alliance, saucy Jack Barry, half Irishman, half Yankee—Who are you?”
The Clintons, George and James, were sons of a county Longford Irishman, who with a large family immigrated from Ireland in 1729.
Montgomery was an Irishman by birth and patriotism, and a native of county Donegal. His father was a member of the Irish parliament.
Brig.-Gen. Elliott was a member of the Charitable Irish Society of Boston, and at one time its president.
Hand was a native of Kings county, Ireland, and served in France with the Irish brigade. During our revolution he attained the rank of brigadier-general, and was a great favorite with Washington.
All the foregoing would have laughed had any attempt been made in their lifetime to tag them “Scotch-Irish.”
Mr. Green asks: “Am I wrong in believing that Miss Sarah Alexander of Newry, Ireland, who married the father of Oliver Hazard Perry, was the grandaughter of James Wallace, an officer in the Scotch army and a signer of the Solemn League and Covenant, and that he fled in 1660 from county Ayr to the north of Ireland? If I am, should be gratified to Mr. Murray if he would correct me.”
No general correction is necessary. Miss Alexander’s grandfather, at least on the paternal side, was Scotch. But what of it? Sarah, his grandaughter, was an Irish woman—Irish by birth, education, sympathy and association. Would Mr. Green consider himself the less an American because his grandfather happened to be English or Irish or Scotch? Certainly not! He cannot, therefore, apply the law of nationality in his own case and refuse its application in that of Sarah Alexander. A man of his clear sense and logical mind will not, I am sure, after thinking it over, have any desire to do so.
Prejudiced or poorly informed writers have made sad work of this “Scotch-Irish” business. Thus Henry Cabot Lodge gives the absurd definition of “Scotch-Irish” as being “Protestant in religion and chiefly Scotch and English in blood.” This has only been equalled in absurdity by Dr. McIntosh, who defined this elusive element as “not Scotch nor Irish, but rather British.” Here we have two gentlemen claiming to speak as with authority, yet unable to agree even in first essentials. What an excellent farce, indeed, is all this.
Probably no man in recent years has done more to shatter the “Scotch-Irish” fallacy than Hon. John C. Linehan, the present state insurance commissioner of New Hampshire. His vast researches and able articles relative to the early settlers justly entitle him to be considered the historian of the Irish in the Granite state. His recent contributions on “How the Irish came as builders of the nation” contain a mass of priceless information regarding the Irish pioneers in Londonderry, Antrim, Dublin and other New Hampshire places.
Returning to the Charitable Irish Society, it should be stated that all the founders were Protestants—chiefly Presbyterians. Some of them were from the North of Ireland and may have had Scottish forefathers. But whether they had or not, all wished to be considered as simply “Irish.” Had they desired to be considered “Scotch rather than Irish,” they would have joined the Scotch Charitable Society—which was already inexistence in Boston. But no! They wanted a distinctively Irish organization, and consequently founded one on St. Patrick’s day, 1737. You will particularly note that they named it the Charitable Irish Society and not the Charitable Scotch-Irish Society. Indeed, they make no use at any time of the latter hyphenated expression.
We admire the upright, sturdy Irishman; we have respect for the genuine Scotchman. But for the man who through ignorance or association is ashamed of his native land, and who represents himself as something he is not, we have only pity and contempt in about equal parts. The most sincere Orangeman I ever knew never dreamt of denying that he was an Irishman. With the mass of his countrymen he did not agree in religion or politics. But he knew, as they did, that these matters were separate, apart and distinct from his nativity or nationality.
But enough! Truth only is permanent. False assumptions, mistaken theories or deliberate misrepresentation may create for a time a certain impression. In the end, however, cold, stern, unrelenting fact will always prevail.
Thomas Hamilton Murray.
Lawrence, Mass., June 26, 1895.
The foregoing letter also appeared in the Boston Herald of June 28. The following reply was printed in the Worcester Daily Telegram of June 28. It was cut out from a copy of the Telegram and sent to the Boston Herald, but was not printed by that paper.
To the Editor of The Telegram:—
A very courteous letter appeared in this morning’s Telegram from Thomas Hamilton Murray of Lawrence, in continuance of a correspondence regarding statements made by me in a paper read at the semi-annual meeting of the American Antiquarian Society, held in Boston the 24th of April last. Please allow me to say a few words in reply.
As no part of the correspondence has appeared in a Worcester paper, in so far as I know, I can best introduce the whole subject by asking you to print the following letter, which appeared in the Boston Pilot, June 15, in answer to a letter which was printed in the Pilot of May 11, and which had appeared before in the Boston Traveller of May 1. A reply from me appeared in the Traveller May 3. The reply in the Pilot, although written May 11, was delayed in its appearance until June 15.
Here followed Mr. Green’s first reply to Mr. Murray. The second letter went on as follows:
It appears from this letter that what Mr. Murray calls “admissions” were denials that I had made certain statements and held views which he supposed me to hold. Mr. Murray gives reasons and extracts to show that the Irish of Scotch descent who came here in the 17th century were content to be called “merely Irish.”
Now, I have no doubt that to a very considerable extent they associated with other Irishmen, and especially with Presbyterians from the North of Ireland, not of Scotch extraction, and I know that the name Irish was frequently applied to men of Scotch blood who had lived in Ireland. But there was strong feeling, too, between many of the Catholic and Protestant Irish, which began when the Scotch went to the North of Ireland in large numbers in the earlier parts of the 17th century and which was intensified by the troubles in 1688 between James II. and William III. There was a prejudice in this country, too, regarding the Irish.
It is believed in Worcester that one of the reasons why the settlers from the North of Ireland who came here in 1718 were cruelly treated, was that they were victims of that prejudice. Rev. Mr. McGregor’s letter probably represented the views of many emigrants from the North of Ireland, on being termed “merely Irish.”
Last May I received a letter from Hon. Leonard A. Morrison of Canobie Lake, N. H., in which he wrote: “I am one of Scotch-Irish blood, and my ancestors came with Rev. Mr. McGregor of Londonderry, and neither they nor any of their descendants were willing to be called ‘merely Irish.’ I have twice visited the parish of Aghedowary, county Londonderry, from which they came in Ireland, and all that locality is filled, not with Irish, but with Scotch-Irish, and this is pure Scotch blood to-day, after more than 200 years. I can show you families here of as pure Scotch blood as you can find in the lowlands of Scotland, where there has never been a marriage with any but those of Scotch blood.”
Mr. Morrison is the author of the History of Windham and several other books in which he has to deal largely with Irish of Scotch descent. I am not writing in a polemical spirit, but simply as a student of history, and it seems to me as such that a large portion of the emigrants from the North of Ireland in the 17th century were as proud of their Scottish descent as emigrants from Ireland of the last 50 years are proud of their Irish descent.
I do not understand why the late William Lincoln should not be trusted when he writes about the earlier settlers in Worcester from the North of Ireland. About 200 of the immigrants who reached Boston in August, 1718, from the North of Ireland came to Worcester. That number was as great probably as the population found here when they came. The new comers were, therefore, an important portion of the population of Worcester, whose history Mr. Lincoln wrote in such manner that his work holds a high place among town histories. He spoke of the colony of persons who came here in 1718 from the North of Ireland as “Scots.” It seems to me that Jeremy Belknap, Rev. Mr. McGregor, and Messrs. Morrison and Lincoln may be trusted in regard to representations made by them respecting bodies of men among whose descendants they were living and about whom they had prepared themselves to write.
In regard to the use of the term Scotch-Irish, I did not realize that I should give offence by employing it, and I probably should have used some other designation to convey my meaning rather than irritate bodies of men whom I respect. I used the word, however, only in a descriptive sense, just as I sometimes use the terms Afro-American and Swedish-American. I entirely agree with Mr. Murray that, generally speaking, it is best not to use words which show the differences of the inhabitants of a country rather than the things which they hold in common. For example, it is better to speak generally of Americans, rather than Irish-Americans or French-Americans.
Still men must make themselves understood in writing, and it is sometimes very convenient for purposes of description to place an adjective indicative of blood before the name denoting nationality. Thus, upon taking up a newspaper this morning, which recognizes in the highest degree the services of our fellow citizens of Irish blood, I found it speaking for descriptive purposes of “Irish-Americans.”
Mr. Murray asks: “Would Mr. Green consider himself less an American because his grandfather happened to be English or Irish or Scotch?” “Certainly not,” is his answer. Still if one of my grandfathers had been a Scotchman I do not think that I should be troubled, if I showed Scotch characteristics, should my acquaintances speak of me as a Scotch-American. It so happens that one of my grandmothers, Nancy Barber, was a descendant of one of the early settlers in Worcester of Scotch extraction. I have so little of her blood in my veins, however, that I suppose that nobody would think of calling me either an Irishman or Scotchman or Scotch-American. I think that I should preserve my equanimity were either of the three designations applied to me.
Mr. Murray speaks of the inconsistent definitions which are given by authors to the term Scotch-Irish. In so far as I am concerned, I gave my own definition on the first page of my paper, as follows: “The Scotch-Irish, as I understand the meaning of the term, are Scotchmen who emigrated to Ireland and such descendants of those emigrants as had not, through intermarriage with the Irish proper, or others, lost their Scotch characteristics. Both emigrants and their descendants, if they remained long in Ireland, experienced certain changes, apart from those which are brought about by mixture of blood, through the influence of new surroundings.”
Mr. Murray speaks of the mistakes which have been made in ascribing Scotch blood to distinguished Irishmen. Of the persons named by him I have not claimed Scotch extraction for Carroll, Sullivan, Moylan, Wayne, Barry, Elliott, Hand, Meade or Sheridan. Nor do I expect to claim it for my friend, the late John Boyle O’Reilly, nor for my correspondent, and I think I may add, my friend, Mr. Murray, for either he or a predecessor on the Lawrence American has praised highly my methods of library management, still I must add that the Christian name “Hamilton” is a little suspicious. It has a Scotch look, and I am inclined to think that my friend may be related to Lord Dufferin, the descendant of the Nobleman Hamilton, who led a colony of Scotchmen into Ireland in James the first’s time.
In regard to Knox, Clinton, Montgomery, Jackson and Calhoun, I must ask Mr. Murray to consider the testimony brought forward in the notes to my paper. Mr. Murray will be glad to hear that I have referred to some of Mr. Linehan’s writings in the list of sources of information at the end of my paper. I will try to add, if not too late, Parson McSparran’s work.
I do not find it easy to reconcile Mr. Murray’s statements regarding Rev. Dr. Hale and Prof. Jameson. In his letter in the Traveller and Pilot, in speaking of me as “lacking the essential basic knowledge” and so as having “made a hodge-podge of the subject treated in endeavoring to prove too much,” he wrote: “This idea also seems to have struck Dr. Hale at the meeting in question. The absurdity of some of the speaker’s claims was also noted at the meeting by that excellent historian, Prof. Jameson of Brown University.” In the letter in this morning’s Telegram Mr. Murray, after saying that Lincoln cannot be “recognized as an authority on early Irish immigration,” goes on to say: “And this comment must also apply to Dr. Hale and Prof. Jameson, both of whom are admirably posted on other phases of New England history, but lamentably deficient in this.” Why the change in the estimate of these two men? Is it because they supported me in my views instead of opposing me?
Dr. Hale has wide interests and, I presume, knows much about Ireland and Scotland, and the Scotch who settled in Ireland. Prof. Jameson intimated at the meeting of the American Antiquarian Society at which my paper was read, that he was descended from an Irishman of Scotch extraction. He seemed, too, to be interested in the subject of my paper, and to have knowledge regarding it.
Samuel Swett Green.
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The passage of more than one hundred years since The Scotch-Irish in America by Henry Jones Ford was first published in 1915 has rendered the book no less fascinating and gripping. Written in a thoroughly accessible way, it tells the story of how the hardy breed of men and women, who in America came to be known as the ‘Scotch-Irish’, was forged in the north of Ireland during the seventeenth century. This book is a comprehensive and very informative account of the history of the Scotch-Irish in America.