The Scotch-Irish in America[1]

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

Samuel Swett Green

A Paper read as the Report of the Council of the American Antiquarian Society, at the Semi-Annual Meeting, April 24, 1895, with Correspondence called out by the paper.

A tribute is due from the Puritan to the Scotch-Irishman,[2] and it is becoming in this Society, which has its headquarters in the heart of New England, to render that tribute.

The story of the Scotsmen who swarmed across the narrow body of water which separates Scotland from Ireland, in the seventeenth century, and who came to America in the eighteenth century, in large numbers, is of perennial interest. For hundreds of years before the beginning of the seventeenth century the Scot had been going forth continually over Europe in search of adventure and gain. As a rule, says one who knows him well, “he turned his steps where fighting was to be had, and the pay for killing was reasonably good.”[3] The English wars had made his countrymen poor, but they had also made them a nation of soldiers.

Remember the “Scotch Archers” and the “Scotch Guardsmen” of France, and the delightful story of Quentin Durward, by Sir Walter Scott. Call to mind the “Scots Brigade,” which dealt such hard blows in the contest in Holland with the splendid Spanish infantry which Parma and Spinola led, and recall the pikemen of the great Gustavus. The Scots were in the vanguard of many a European host. Their activity showed itself in trade also. “In the Hanse towns and from the Baltic to the Mediterranean every busy centre and trading town knows the canny Scot.”[4]

The adventurous spirit of the Scotsman had hitherto shown itself in war and in trade; it is now to show itself in colonization. Our interest to-day is in the colonies which Scotchmen established in the north of Ireland in the seventeenth century, and in the great emigration from those colonies to America in the eighteenth century. Large tracts of land in Ulster had been laid waste, and James the First of England formed plans for peopling them with colonies of Englishmen and Scotchmen. Hugh Montgomery, the laird of Braidstane, afterwards Lord Montgomery of the Ards, and James Hamilton, afterwards Viscount Clandeboye (a title now borne by his descendant, the Marquis of Dufferin and Ava, formerly Governor-General of Canada and Viceroy of India, who as an Irish baron is Lord Dufferin and Clandeboye), led colonies into the northern portion of County Down in 1606. About the same time plantations, which afterwards became peculiarly Scottish, were made in Antrim. Then followed what is known as the “Great plantation,” in 1610. Read Scott’s Fortunes of Nigel, it has been said, and “you see the poverty of the old land north of the Tweed, and the neediness of the flock of supplicants who followed James to London.” That neediness and the poverty of their land led Scotsmen to Ireland, also.

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.