Prominent Scotch-Irishmen

Source:The Scotch-Irish in America
Author:Samuel Swett Green

“After the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, the various States proceeded to form their independent governments. Then the Scotch-Irish gave to New York her first governor, George Clinton, who filled the position for seven terms, of three years each, and died during his second term of office as Vice-President of the United States. To Delaware they gave her first governor, John MacKinney. To Pennsylvania they gave her war governor, Thomas McKean, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. To New Jersey Scotland gave her war governor, William Livingston, and to Virginia, Patrick Henry, not only her great war governor” but her civil leader.[64]

“It is a noteworthy fact in American history,” writes Douglas Campbell, “that of the four members of Washington’s cabinet, Knox, of Massachusetts, the only New Englander, was a Scotch-Irishman; Alexander Hamilton of New York was a Scotch-Frenchman; Thomas Jefferson was of Welsh descent; and the fourth, Edmund Randolph, claimed among his ancestors the Scotch Earls of Murray. New York also furnished the first Chief Justice of the United States, John Jay, who was a descendant of French Huguenots; while the second Chief Justice, John Rutledge, was Scotch-Irish, as were also Wilson and Iredell, two of the four original associate justices; a third, Blair, being of Scotch origin. John Marshall, the great Chief Justice, was, like Jefferson, of Welsh descent.”[65]

After the formation of the United States government we find men of the Scotch-Irish race winning honors in war as they had done in the Revolution, and in the earlier contests between France and Great Britain, and with the North American Indians.

At first, the United States had only a nominal army. In the spring of 1792 the number of troops was increased to 5,000, a legionary organization was adopted, and Anthony Wayne was appointed Major-General. With this army General Wayne took the field against the Miami Indians, and overthrew them at the battle of Maumee Rapids on August 20, 1794.

You all remember the stirring picture of the Battle of Lake Erie in the Capitol at Washington. Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, taking his younger brother Alexander with him and calling to four sailors to row him to the Niagara, is represented, with the flag of his vessel wrapped around his arm, as he passed from the disabled Lawrence in a small boat to the ship next in size to the ruined flag-ship. Going out from Put-in-Bay the 10th of September, 1813, with his whole squadron, he met the British fleet in a memorable naval contest. Himself a young man of twenty-eight years of age he was opposed to one of Nelson’s veterans. Himself a Scotch-Irishman, his opponent, Captain Robert H. Barclay, was a Scotchman. The engagement was hot, but at three o’clock in the afternoon the gallant Perry saw the British flag hauled down. For the first time since she had created a navy, Great Britain lost an entire squadron. “We have met the enemy and they are ours,” is the familiar line in which Perry announced his victory, in a despatch to General William Henry Harrison. Commodore Perry’s mother was Sarah Wallace Alexander, a Scotch woman from the north of Ireland.[66] She became the mother of five sons, all of whom were officers in the United States Navy. Two daughters married Captain George W. Rogers and Dr. William Butler of the U. S. Navy. Dr. Butler was the father of Senator Matthew Calbraith Butler, of South Carolina. After the victory at Lake Erie, some farmers in Rhode Island, you remember, declared, such was the estimation in which they held this woman, that it was “Mrs. Perry’s victory.”[67]

The furious battle at the Horse Shoe of the Tallapoosa River with the Creek Indians, March 27, 1814, brought to the front General Sam Houston, a man of the Scotch-Irish race of whom the country has heard much. Major-General Andrew Jackson, another distinguished Scotch-Irishman,[68] commanded in that battle. Jackson’s father, also named Andrew, came from Carrickfergus, on the north coast of Ireland, in 1765. This battle was a signal victory, and soon after a treaty of peace was signed by which the hostile Creeks lost the greater part of their territory. It is unnecessary to speak of General Jackson’s success at New Orleans in January of the following year.

It must be stated, however, that General James Miller, who won universal admiration by his gallant attack upon a battery at Lundy’s Lane, July 25, 1814, was Scotch-Irish, a native of Peterborough and out of the loins of Londonderry.[69] It is he who was subsequently Collector of Customs at Salem for more than twenty years, and of whom Hawthorne speaks so enthusiastically, calling him “New England’s most distinguished soldier.”[70]

Zachary Taylor, the popular hero of the Mexican war, is generally reckoned as having been of Scotch-Irish extraction; of that race, too, of course, was Matthew Calbraith Perry, the brother of the victor of the battle of Lake Erie, who ably assisted Scott as a naval commander at Vera Cruz, and who afterwards organized and conducted with marked success the well known expedition to Japan.

Officers and men of the Scotch-Irish race served in large numbers on both sides in the late Civil War, but I cannot stop to mention even the names of the most distinguished.

Mr. Campbell says “of the twenty-three Presidents of the United States, the Scotch-Irish have contributed six—Jackson, Polk, Taylor, Buchanan, Johnson, Arthur; the Scotch three—Monroe, Grant, Hayes; the Welsh one—Jefferson; and the Hollanders one—Van Buren. Garfield’s ancestors on his father’s side came from England, but the family line is traced back into Wales; his mother was a French Huguenot. Cleveland’s mother was Irish; Benjamin Harrison’s mother was Scotch.”[71] “The pedigrees of Madison and Lincoln are doubtful.”[72]

Six of the early settlers of the Scotch-Irish town of Londonderry, or their descendants, writes Parker, “have filled the gubernatorial chair of New Hampshire, namely, Matthew Thornton, who was President of the Provincial Congress, in 1775, Jeremiah Smith, Samuel Bell, John Bell, Samuel Dinsmore, and Samuel Dinsmore, Jr.”[73] To these names must be added at least one more, namely, that of our late associate, Governor and United States Senator, Charles Henry Bell, of Exeter, who was the third chief magistrate of New Hampshire, bearing the surname of the ancestor of the three, John Bell of Londonderry, N. H. Our late associate John James Bell, grandson of Governor Samuel Bell and son of Judge Samuel D. Bell, and Hon. Luther V. Bell, formerly Superintendent of the McLean Asylum, Somerville, Massachusetts, were also descendants of John Bell of Londonderry.

The Rev. Dr. Joseph MacKean, first President of Bowdoin College, was a native of Londonderry.[74]

The venerable Rev. Dr. John H. Morison, of Boston, is of Scotch-Irish extraction and is descended from the father of the first male child born in Londonderry. It is of him that the story is told that after he had delivered an election sermon before the New Hampshire legislature, and it had been moved to print a certain number of copies of the discourse, a member rose and said that he would move that additional copies be printed if the brogue of the preacher could be reproduced.

Horace Greeley, according to Whitelaw Reid, was of Scotch-Irish ancestry on both sides of his house.[75]

John Caldwell Calhoun, the great Southern statesman, like his sturdy opponent, President Jackson, was of the Scotch-Irish race,[76] so were the great inventors, Robert Fulton,[77] Cyrus H. McCormick,[78] and Samuel Finley Breese Morse. The last named was the son of our late associate Rev. Jedidiah Morse, and the great-grandson of Rev. Dr. Samuel Finley, a Scotch-Irish President of Princeton[79] College. The celebrated surgeon, Dr. D. Hayes Agnew, was Scotch-Irish on both sides of his family.[80] Joseph Henry was of Scotch descent.[81] Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, is a native of Scotland.[82] In Canada the distinguished statesman Robert Baldwin and a large portion of his associates in securing the establishment of the Dominion of Canada are stated to have been of Scotch-Irish blood.[83]

The versatile Sir Francis Hincks is said to have been of the same blood.[84]

It is interesting to know that our associate James Bryce, the sympathetic and painstaking writer of the American Commonwealth, is a grandson of a Presbyterian minister of the north of Ireland and a Scotch-Irishman.[85]

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.