Scotch-Irish Characteristics

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

The Scotch-Irish emigrants to this country were, generally speaking, men of splendid bodies and perfect digestion. They were men, too, of marked mental characteristics, which have impressed themselves on their posterity. They were plain, industrious and frugal in their lives. It has been said, such was their thrift, that Poor Richard himself could have given them “no new lessons against wastefulness and prodigality.”[86]

But they had good intellectual powers and strong wills. They were notable for practical sagacity and common sense, and for tenacity of purpose. Conscious of their merits they were self-reliant and always ready to assert themselves, to defend their own rights and those of their neighbors, and courageously push forward. Plain in speech, they were not infrequently frank to the point of rudeness. With energy and firmness, while often hard, they were affectionate towards persons who conciliated them, hospitable and faithful. Their sedateness was qualified by their wit and humor.

The Scotch-Irish were led to come to this country, not only by the desire to better their material condition and to escape persecution, but by a spirit of daring.

As we have seen they took up their abode on our frontiers and defended us from the depredations of Indians, and did a large portion of the fighting required in our wars. They were ardent promoters of civil and religious liberty. As was to be expected, these Scotch Calvinists breathed the spirit of John Knox and contended fervently that the final regulation of political action belongs to the people.

For many years, also, they had been fighting for religious liberty in Scotland and Ireland, and, taught by ecclesiastical and governmental oppression, had become the warmest adherents of religious liberty. The Scotch-Irish were a devout and religious people, and constant and earnest Bible readers. In many a home in this land they reproduced the beautiful picture of domestic piety which has been painted by the genius of the immortal Scottish poet, Burns, in the Cotter’s Saturday Night.

The Scotch-Irish, however, were never content with a sentimental piety, but sought always with tremendous earnestness, to place religion on a basis of knowledge and thought. They were men, too, of high moral principle and marked integrity. Another characteristic which never failed to appear among settlements of this people, was a mighty zeal for education. They were never content with the lower grades of common schools, but demanded, everywhere, classical high schools, and later, colleges and universities. Look at the schools which they established in Londonderry[87] and other New Hampshire towns. In the little town of Cherry Valley, in New York, they opened the first classical school in the central and western portions of that great State.[88] They seem to have furnished the principal schoolmasters of all the provinces south of New York, prior to the Revolution, and it is noteworthy that a large portion of the leaders in that great movement in the lower Middle, and Southern States, received their education under men of this race.[89] From them they undoubtedly caught an ardent love of liberty and an increased glow of patriotism.

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.