COLONISATION - HOW THE SCOTCH-IRISH
OCCUPIED THE NEW WORLD
|"There were three reasons why
these streams of Ulstermen went so far from the settled part of
the country. The first was that they might have liberty to
worship God as their fathers' did: there was burned into their
very soul the memory of English ingratitude and English
persecution. The second reason was that they were determined to
have nothing more to do with a settled government, which to them
had proved in Ireland only another name for tyranny, and they
went to those regions where they would be beyond the reach of
any civil authority. The third reason was that the land beyond
the pale of civilisation was cheap, and large families could be
supported at small expense."
- J. B. Woodburn.
The emigrants from Ulster found that the most welcome door by which to
enter America was the Delaware River ports. Those who went to Boston
found great problems and a frosty reception, whereas those who entered
by Philadelphia or Chester or New Castle found a real home-coming
welcome. Indeed so enthusiastic was their welcome, and so convincingly
did they persuade their friends back in Ulster of that fact, that "to
go to America" for an Ulster emigrant was to take ship to
Pennsylvania. It is reckoned that well over three-quarters of all
Ulster emigrants entered America by the State of William Penn.
With the coast towns as their spring-board the Scotch-Irish leaped
forward to the western frontier. The three major settlements of the
Ulster emigrants were in South-eastern Pennsylvania, in the Valley of
Virginia and in the Piedmont of the two Carolinas.
Pennsylvania was as the Promised Land to the Ulster settlers. They
came from a land with bad harvests and famine to a land with rich soil
where it did not look likely that harvests would ever fail. Meat could
be got by the shot of a gun for game was very plentiful, and wood was
abundant for the construction of their new homes and their
Further, the church to which they belonged was already established
there. It had been founded in America, as we have already noticed, by
one of their own fellow countrymen, Rev. Francis Mackemie.
James Logan, the Provincial Secretary of the State, and himself a
native of Lurgan, Ulster, wrote in 1720: "At the time (of the arrival
of the first large number of Ulster emigrants) we were apprehensive
from the Northern Indians . . . I therefore thought that it might be
prudent to plant a settlement of such men as those who formerly had so
bravely defended Londonderry and Inniskillen as a frontier in case of
The Scotch-Irish settlers were determined to make good. President
Theodore Roosevelt writes of them: "It is doubtful if we have fully
realised the part played by this stern and virile people. They formed
the kernel of that American stock who were the pioneers of our people
in their march westward."
They travelled from the coast mostly on foot. A few who could
afford a horse made easier going. As there were no roads on the
Pennsylvania frontier a wheeled vehicle would have been useless
anyway. The emigrants followed the river valleys, the flowing
waterways pointing the way onward and forward for them and its
magnetism was irresistible.
The emigrants eventually crossed the Susquehanna and commenced
settling the Cumberland Valley. In fact that rich valley became as one
writer puts it, "the seed-plot and nursery of their race
(Scotch-Irish), the original reservoir which, after having filled to
overflowing, sent forth a constant stream of emigrants to the
northward and especially to the South and West. For a generation other
racial groups were but scantily represented here."
THE VALLEY Of VIRGINIA
Eventually the continued waves of emigration swept onward into the
Valley of Virginia. If the Cumberland Valley was the seed-bed of the
Scotch-Irish in Pennsylvania the central valley of Virginia became the
same in that State. What seems to be a never-ending flow of
Scotch-Irish poured into the valley, and so created a highway which
eventually led to Kentucky. However, at the first, the tide of
emigration flowed toward the Piedmont of the two Carolinas. As the
Virginia settlement resulted from the overspill from Pennsylvania so
the Piedmont settlement resulted from the overspill from Virginia, or
in other words Pennsylvania and Virginia were but the stepping stones
in the onward march of the Scotch-Irish occupation.
Those who followed, after the settlements in Pennsylvania and
Virginia had been established, found these now occupied territories
more expensive to live in, and pressed on to those lands still
The second generation of the Scotch-Irish also felt the urge
forward and onward, and the call of lands, cheap and plentiful, lured
them to join the immigrant trains.
A restlessness had become part of the character of the emigrants
from Ulster. They had to be on the move. They loved to strike out on
their own. They all had the conviction that the far off fields were
THE PIEDMONT OF THE CAROLINAS
The leaders in North Carolina's State affairs did everything in
their power to encourage the Scotch-Irish settlers. In fact two of the
most prominent, Rowan, President of the Council, and Dobbs, the
Governor 1754-1765, were themselves Ulstermen.
Soon the emigrants' restlessness led them on to South Carolina, the
Governor there had secured large areas of the Cherokee Indian
territory. This was a welcome signal for the emigrants and of those
emigrants, the Scotch-Irish were preponderant. The descendants of
those settlers eventually crossed the Appalachian Mountains and blazed
the trail finally to the Pacific coast.
All the settlements felt the power of Indian raids and the awful
barbarity of Indian warfare.
THE BATTLE WITH THE INDIANS Prof. Leyburn says:
"The Scotch-Irish, by their constant incursion into western territory
and their often complete insensitivity to Indian rights and feelings,
were destroying the Indian way of life and making the future seem
bleak indeed. On the other hand, the pioneer had made a home in what,
to him, had been wilderness and empty land; he had no intention of
retiring supinely from what he had created with his own toil. Because
his settlements were nearest the Indians and most subject to forays,
he had personal reasons for bearing the brunt of years of guerrilla
"The Scotch-Irish soon got over any Old World notions of the
`proper' way to fight; they quickly adopted Indian methods. If the
savages butchered the white man, the only way to fight back was to
butcher the Indians, to scalp him, burn his villages in surprise
attacks. There is no doubt that this is brutal and that whatever finer
sensibilities the people may have possessed frequently became dulled.
Chivalry and honour to Scotch-Irish now felt to be fantastic whims if
applied to a savage opponent. The policy of appeasement so long
followed by the Quakers seemed now more obstinate stupidity; in its
place the rule must be blow for blow, death for death - and woe to the
vanquished. The Scotch-Irish carried the war informally into the
Indians' territory and wrought desolation at every opportunity.
"Easterners in the English parts of Pennsylvania and Virginia could
now clearly distinguish between the characteristics of back-country
settlers. Germans, in general, especially those in Pennsylvania,
retired rather than fight the Indians; many of these Rhinelanders were
as pacific as the Quakers and the others had taken pains to obtain
Indian consent to their settlements. Scotch-Irish, on the other hand,
were known to be excitable and hotheaded.
"Tidewater people generally saw them as 'invincible in prejudice,'
frequently rude and lawless, implacable to enemies. Yet, as a later
historian of the Braddock expedition put it, `they hated the Indian
while they despised him . . . Impatient of restraint, rebellious
against anything that in their eyes bore the resemblance of injustice,
we find these men readiest among the ready on the battlefields of the
"If they had their faults, a lack of patriotism or of courage was
not among the number. Amongst them were to be found men of education,
intelligence, and virtue. Ministers fought along with their
congregations. Many accounts tell of sermons preached with the
minister, gun at hand in the pulpit, keeping watch through the church
door for signs of Indians."
Governor Gilmer, writing in the history of his State of Georgia,
said: "Kentucky was first settled by Ulstermen from Virginia and North
Carolina. East of the Alleghany Mountains they formed the protecting
wall between the red men and the tide water. But not for long did our
people endure the mountain frontier. Everywhere they leaped across it
and opened out the country in the West."
It will surely be interesting for Ulster people to know that Daniel
Boone and Davy Crockett, the famous Indian scouts and fighters, were
of Ulster stock.
ULSTER'S NAME AND FAME
Dr. Marshall point out that . . .
"Ulster's mark on America is also visible in its place names. There
are eighteen towns in the United States named after Belfast. There are
seven Derrys, nine Antrims and sixteen Tyrones. There is a Coleraine
in Massachusetts. New Hampshire has Stewartstown. Washington, Ohio and
Iowa have each a Pomeroy. Hillsborough is in New Hampshire, Illinois,
North Dakota and Wisconsin. Miami has Newry. Ohio has Banbridge. In
twelve States there are twelve Milfords. In Michigan there is a town
named after that river that is not in Ulster, but once was dyed red
with Ulster blood, the famous River Boyne."
Perhaps at this stage a further word should be said about that
early Scotch-Irish settlement, New Derry in New Hampshire and the
influence of its people. Those early pioneers set the standard and way
for the Ulster folk who followed them to the New World. They erected a
fort for their general protection against the Indians. The second
house erected was the Meeting House for the public worship of Almighty
God. This demonstrated the value they placed on spiritual things.
The third building they erected was the School House and finally
houses for themselves.
It was not for nothing they called it Londonderry. Many of its
citizens had taken part in the famous seige. McGregore himself, their
minister, had been a soldier at the time of the seige. The musket
which he carried into the pulpit is still proudly displayed.
Dr. Marshall records that "into every walk of life this town of New
Derry and its offspring towns sent out men of distinction, men like
Matthew Thornton, signatory to the Declaration of Independence, and
Horace Greeley, founder of the New York Tribune and a national figure
in the anti-slavery agitation. In fifty years of New Hampshire
history, nearly half of its State Governors had the Ulster blood while
all through New England the Ulstermen rapidly forced their way to the
front, and the Puritan and Quaker were left behind in the race for
It would be a fitting conclusion to this section of our story to
mention one notable emigrant from Ulster.
The reputation of Francis Mackemie made a unique impression on an
Anglican clergyman in Ulster, the Reverend William Tennent. William
Tennent was born in 1673. His birthplace was probably Scotland.
We know, however, that he was educated in Glasgow University and
was received as a probationer in the General Synod of Ulster. His son,
Gilbert, was baptised by the Presbyterian minister at Vinecash in
Ulster. In 1704 Tennent was ordained a deacon and afterwards a priest
in the Anglican Church. He remained in Orders in that Church for
thirteen years. Becoming disgusted with the anti-Christian spirit of
the State Church he returned to the Church of his fathers and having
received from his relation, James Logan, the Secretary of
Pennsylvania, a promise of help, he sailed to America with his wife,
four sons and a daughter. The courage of the man was outstanding. He
was forty-five years old, an age when most men would be settling down,
when he set forth to the New World.
Shortly after he arrived at Philadelphia in September, 1718, he was
accepted by the Synod of the Presbyterian Church and in November of
the same year was installed as minister of East Chester, New York.
Later he pastored the church at Bedford, New York.
At the age of 54 he moved to Neshaminy, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
He built a Meeting House there and his influential friend, James Logan
made over to his wife Katherine, some fifty acres of land. Here
William Tennent started the school he always dreamed of in a log cabin
beside his home with his own five sons as the first students. That log
cabin school came to supply the Presbyterian Church of America with a
galaxy of able ministers of the Word.
The "Log Cabin" as it was called brought great Opposition from many
ministers in the American Presbyterian Church. Its graduates were men
of zeal and those who had settled down into a dead and defunct
orthodoxy felt condemned by their flaming soul-saving ministries.
Eventually the American Presbyterian Church divided. Those who
followed the Tennents and supported the "Log Cabin" became the Synod
of New York.
The "Log Cabin" men without doubt dominated the American religious
scene and were the means of arousing the church to a great revival and
forward movement. George Whitefield, the famous leader of the Great
Evangelical Awakening, and Gilbert Tennent, William's son, became
close companions in the spread of the awakening in the New World.
The "Log Cabin" was in fact the forerunner of one of America's most
famous Presbyterian schools - Princeton. All its twenty-one graduates
attained to places of the greatest distinction.
Dr. Hanzsche says:
"William Tennent saved the Christian religion in America from dry rot
on the one hand and ignorant emotionalism on the other. He made the
Christian faith a fervent personal experience and an adventure for
souls; yet he kept it on a scholarly Biblical basis. And he made the
development of character the high purpose of education. This quiet
man, in his little log cabin in the woods, did more than any other man
of his day to mould and direct the leadership, the life and the form
of the American Christian Church."
LIBERATION: HOW THE SCOTCH-IRISH SIGNED THE DECLARATION OF
INDEPENDENCE AND FOUGHT THE WAR OF REVOLUTION
|"The chief reason of the
difference is religion. The men of Ulster took their
Christianity in the early centuries to Scotland, and Scotland
repaid that debt many centuries later by giving them the
Reformed Faith when she sent her sons across the channel to the
North of Ireland, and it was the Reformation under God that made
the Ulster Scot what he is." - J. B. Woodburn
The whole weight of evidence goes to prove that the Scotch-Irish were
foremost in the Revolutionary War and the Declaration of Independence.
They were eager to fight in that war and were in fact the first to
declare it. Their Calvinism had taught them that tyrannical rulers,
whether kings or parliaments, ought to be resisted and that
Constitutional Rights must be defended.
Indeed the first drawing of blood in the campaign was on the
Alamanac River in North Carolina on May 14th, 1771, when the
Scotch-Irish clashed with British Forces under Governor Tryon.
ARRAY OF WITNESSES
A formidable array of witnesses testify to the contribution made by
the Scotch-Irish in originating and supporting America's independence.
President McKinley said of the Scotch-Irish, "They were the first to
proclaim for freedom in these United States: even before Lexington the
Scotch-Irish blood had been shed for American freedom. In the
forefront of every battle was seen their burnished mail.and in the
rear of retreat was heard their voice of constancy."
The American historian Bancroft states:
"The first voice publicly raised against Great Britain came, not from
the Puritans of New England, nor from the Dutch of New York, nor from
the Cavaliers of Virginia but from the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians."
As a matter of fact, before the American Declaration of
Independence, the Ulster settlers in North Carolina called a
convention at Charlotte and passed Resolutions of Independence and so
became the first public voice in the Colonies advocating this course
of action. These resolutions became known as the Mecklenburg
A similar course was followed by the settlers of Ulster origin in
New Hampshire. They issued their own Declaration of Independence prior
to that of the Congress.
President Theodore Roosevelt speaking of those early declarations
by the Scotch-Irish said:
"The West was won by those who have been rightly called the
Roundheads of the South, the same men who before any other declared
for American lndependance."
There was Scotch-Irish unity on the issue of Independence. So much
so that it was recorded, "a Presbyterian loyalist (ie someone
supporting Britain in the Revolutionary war) was a thing unheard of."
Froude writes: "Throughout the revolted colonies, and, therefore,
probably in the first to begin the struggle, all evidence shows that
the foremost, the most irreconcilable, the most determined in pushing
the quarrel to the last extremity, were the Scotch-Irish whom the
bishops and Lord Donegal and company had been pleased to drive out of
In 1778 an army officer wrote, "Call this war by whatever name you
may, only call it not an American rebellion; it is nothing more or
less than a Scotch-Irish Presbyterian rebellion.
No wonder King George III called it "a Presbyterian war" and Horace
Warpole summed it up with the jibe, "I hear that our American cousin
has run away with a Scotch-Irish parson."
The epitaph of John Lewis, Ulster pioneer settler in Augusta
County, illustrates the fighting spirit of the Scotch-Irish:
"Here lies the remains of John Lewis, who slew the Irish lord,
settled Augusta County, located the town of Staunton, and furnished
five sons to fight the battles of the American Revolution."
SOLDIERS OF THE REVOLUTION
General George Washington had the highest possible regard for those
of his troops of Ulster origin. "If defeated everywhere else" he
declared, "I will make my last stand for liberty among the
Scotch-Irish of my native Virginia."
In the war for Independence the Scotch-Irish were the first to
start and the last to quit. At times they formed the major part of
Washington's army. Evidence goes to show their predominance.
Those who appeared before a Committee of the House of Commons
testified that Ulstermen made up half of the rebel army.
Plowden records that most of the successes in America were
immediately owing to the vigour and courage of the Scotch-Irish
The Scotch-Irish showed their valour and more than proved their worth
in the day of battle.
At one period when Washington admitted that he did not know "what
is to become of us" the Scotch-Irish won a victory which put fresh
heart into the whole independence struggle. After a march of some four
days a group of Scotch-Irish militia utterly defeated a British force,
numbering twice their size, at King's Mountain, killing the Commander
and one hundred and eighty of his men and taking some one thousand
prisoners. The five colonels of the militia were all Presbyterian
elders. This encounter marked the turning point of the war. At the
battle of Cowper, Morgan and Pickens, both elders in the Presbyterian
Church, both Scotch-Irish, and leading a force of Scotch-Irish,
overthrew the British, killing one hundred, wounding another two
hundred, and capturing five hundred.
As no large armies were engaged in the war, this was another
FINANCING THE STRUGGLE
The Ulster-Scotch also helped to finance the war. Dr. Marshall
"In 1780 the army of the United Colonies was in a sad condition,
imperfectly supplied with equipment and munitions of war,
disgracefully clad and poorly paid. A number of patriotic citizens,
hopeless of Congress action, subscribed a large sum of money to
purchase equipment, clothing, and food for their fighting men. Among
those patriots was Blair McClenaghan who gave 50,000 dollars. He was
born in Ulster. James Mease gave 25,000 dollars. He was born in
Strabane. His uncle John, born in the same town, gave 20,000 dollars.
John Dunlop gave a similar sum, and he was also born in Strabane. John
Murray was born in Belfast. He gave 30,000 dollars. John Donaldson
gave 10,000 dollars. John Nixon, Thomas Barclay and John Nesbitt were
three men of Ulster origin wha gave 30,000 dollars apiece. The list
could be extended, and these are only a few out of those who might be
named. The acid test of enthusiasm for a cause is generous support in
the form of hard cash. It is clear our folk passed the test."
The desperate plight of the Revolutionary Army at times is best
summed up in the words of Washington himself:
"If Historiographers should be hardy enough to fill the page of
history with the advantages that have gained with unequal numbers (on
the part of America) in the course of the contest, and attempt to
relate the distressing circumstances under which they have been
obtained, it is more than probable that Posterity will bestow on their
labours the epithet and marks of fiction; for it will not be believed
that such a force as Great Britain has employed for eight years in
this country could be baffled in their plan of subjugating it by
numbers infinitely less, composed of men sometimes half starved;
always in rags, without pay and experiencing, at times, every species
of distress which human nature is capable of undergoing."
How welcome the dollars from the Scotch-Irish must have been to
Washington and his army in those unbelievable circumstances.
Many of the high ranking officers in Washington's army, who served
with such distinction, were of Ulster origin.
The General sent by Congress to attack Quebec was Richard
Montgomery, a Donegal man.
The Commander of the Washington artillery was General Harry Knox,
the son of an emigrant from Donegal and a native of New Londonderry.
He became Secretary for War in Washington's first cabinet.
The grandfather of General Anthony Wayne, another of Washington's
officers, fought at the Boyne. Wayne told Washington he would storm
the gates of hell if he was ordered.
So the list could go on. It would include General Andrew Lewis born
in Donegal, General Dan Morgan who came from Co. Derry, General Walter
Scott born in the Maiden City, General William Thompson born in
Maghera, General John Clark born in Antrim, Washington's
Quartermaster, General Ephraim Baine - born in Donegal, Washington's
Adjutant General, Joseph Reid - the son of Ulster parents, and General
William Irvine, born at Enniskillen.One of the principal squares in
Savannah is named aster Sergeant William Jasper, and there is also a
monument there to his memory. He was born in Ulster.
The military record of the Scotch-Irish in the war of the
Revolution is second to none. No one acknowledged this more than
George Washington himself. The money given to him by the American
people as a gift after the war he donated to the founding of a school
in a predominantly Scotch-Irish part of his native Virginia.
SOLDIERS OF THE REPUBLIC
What was true of the Scotch-Irish in the Revolutionary War was also
true of them in the War with England in 1812 and in the Civil War.
General George Croghan received the thanks of the Congress for his
magnificent leadership in the war of 1812. He was of Ulster stock. His
memory is honoured by a State monument in Ohio.
The victor of New Orleans in that same war, Andrew Jackson, later
president of the United States, was born in North Carolina shortly
after his parents arrived from Ulster.
In the Civil War soldiers of Ulster stock distinguished themselves
both in Federal and Confederate sides.
Ulysses Grant, later United States President, was
Commander-in-Chief at the end of the war of the Federal Army. His
mother was of Ulster stock.
General "Stonewall" Jackson, the hero of the Confederate Army,
famous for his piety and genius, was also of Ulster origin.
General Robert E. Lee, of the South, was asked, "What race do you
think makes the best soldiers?" He replied, "The Scotch who came to
this country by way of Ireland, because they have all the dash of the
Irish in taking a position, and all the stubbornness of the Scotch in
THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
The Introduction of America's Declaration of Independence gives us
a good idea of the manner of men who framed it and those who
afterwards appended their names thereto.
"When in the course of human events," it begins, "it becomes
necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have
connect them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth
the separate and equal station to which the laws of Nature and of
Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind
requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created
equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable
rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted
among men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these
ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to
institute new government laying its foundations on such principles and
organising its powers in such a form, as to them shall seem most
likely to effect their safety and happiness."
It can be easily seen that those who drew up the Declaration were
men of religious convictions and steeped in the Calvinistic tradition.
That Ulster men and men of Ulster stock had a leading hand in it will
come as no surprise to those who have read what has gone before.
The Declaration is in the handwriting of an Ulsterman, Charles T
hompson of Maghera, Perpetual Secretary to the Congress. He was a man
of great integrity, so much so that a proverb was coined, "It's as
true as if Charles Thompson's name were on it."
The Declaration was first printed by another Ulsterman, John Dunlop
of Strabane. Its first public reading was by the son of an Ulsterman,
Colonel John Nixon. The first and only signature on the Declaration
for one month after it was drawn up was that of John Hancock, Governor
of Massachusetts, and President of Congress. Hancock's forebears were
Presbyterians hailing from the Co. Down area of Northern Ireland.
The committee of five which drew up the first draft of the
Declaration was chaired by John Rutledge, who was the son of an Ulster
Dr. Marshall lists some of the other signatories who were of Ulster
origin: "William Whipple-his parents came to Maine from Ulster in
1730. Robert Paine - his grandfather came from Dungannon. Thomas
McKean - his father was born near Ballymoney. Thomas Nelson-his
grandfather came from Strabane. Matthew Thornton - his father sailed
in one of the five ships in 1718, and settled in New Derry. George
Taylor - his father was an Ulster minister. Edward Rutledge - like his
great brother John, was the son of an Ulster emigrant."
The resolve of these men is seen in the last paragraph of the
"We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of
America, in General Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge
of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and
by authority of the good people of these Colonies, solemnly publish
and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be
Free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all
allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection
between them and the State of Great Britain is and ought to be totally
dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States they have full
power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish
commerce and do all other acts and things which Independent States may
of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm
reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to
each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honour.
The best way we could bring to an end this part of our story is to
record the testimonies of two prominent witnesses.
First, President Theodore Roosevelt who said, "it is a curious fact
that in the Revolutionary war, the Germans and the Catholic Irish
should have furnished the bulk of the auxiliaries to the regular
English soldiers; but the fiercest and most ardent Americans of all
were the Presbyterian Irish settlers and their descendants."
Second, the American Owen Wister, who states, "Americans are being
told in these days that they owe a debt of support to Irish
Independence, because the Irish fought with us in our own struggle for
independence. Yes the Irish did and we do owe them a debt of support.
But it was the Orange Irish who fought in our Revolution not the Green
|"In all the historic achievements of Scotland is
there any more remarkable than the conquest of leadership in a
land by men (ie Ulster Scots) half a century behind other and
strong races in entering upon the scene?"
- Whitelaw Reid.
ELEVATION - HOW THE SCOTCH-IRISH
ROSE TO POWER
For fifty-six years Presidents of direct Scotch-Irish descent
occupied the White House. In all, there were ten of them, a very large
proportion from the small group from which they sprang.
Of these ten five had their roots in Co. Antrim, Andrew Jackson,
Andrew Johnston, Chester Alan Arthur, Stephen Grover Cleveland, and
Three of the ten, Andrew Jackson, James Buchanan and Chester Alan
Arthur were first generation Americans, their fathers having been born
in Ulster. Presidents of the USA must, according to the Constitution,
be American born. In US history these are the only three
first-generation Americans to achieve the nation's highest office.
It should of course be mentioned that some other US Presidents,
above these ten, were of Scotch-Irish descent. These include
Presidents Truman and Eisenhower and the current President Ford.
ANDREW JACKSON - PRESIDENT 1829-1837
Andrew Jackson was born 15th March, 1767 and died June 8th, 1845.
He was the seventh President of the United States of America. His
father, Andrew, for whom he was named, and his mother, Elizabeth
Hutchinson, and his two brothers emigrated from Boneybefore,
Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland, in 1765. He was born in
the "lean backwoods" settlement of the Waxhaw in South Carolina, just
after the arrival of his parents in America.
He served as a boy trooper in the revolutionary war and took part
in the Battle of Hanging Rock, being captured along with his brother,
Robert, by the British. In prison they both contracted smallpox and
were released in exchange for two other prisoners. Robert shortly
after died from his war wounds and prison sickness. Mrs. Jackson, as a
result of nursing the war-wounded at Charleston, died of prison fever.
Andrew was thus left completely alone in the world at the age of
fourteen, his other brother, Hugh, having been killed in 1779.
Jackson trained as a lawyer and eventually, when Tennesse was
admitted as a state in 1796, sat as a delegate in the convention which
framed its first constitution. He then became Tennesse's first
Congressman to the Federal House of Representatives. Afterwards he sat
for the same state in the Senate. When he resigned from the Senate he
was appointed one of the superior judges of Tennesse.
He got elected Major General of the militia of Tennesse in 1802.
The war of 1812 gave Jackson his chance. The Creek Indians
massacred the inmates of Fort Mimms in Mississippi Territory and a
call came to Tennesse for help. Jackson did the seemingly impossible
by defeating the Indians at Horseshoe Bend on 27th March, 1814.
As a result Jackson was commissioned a major-general in the US
He made his real fame, however, as the defender of New Orleans
against Wellington's veterans. At the age of 48 he thus became the
hero of the nation and gained for himself the name, "Old Hickory"
He was appointed by President Munroe as the first Governor of
Florida. After resigning from that position he was in 1823 re-elected
for Tennesse to the American Senate. He failed to be elected President
in 1824 but in 1828 with his campaign managers conjuring with the name
"Old Hickory," he reached the White House. He served as President for
two terms from 1829-1837. He died in 1845. Jackson had all the
characteristics of a son of Ulster.
"His temper was hot and his spirit high yet he could restrain
emotions or play them up for the sake of effect. He spoke volubly, in
a vehement and somewhat declamatory manner, but with perfect
self-possession. He was tender and gentle with those whom he loved and
loyal to those whom he considered his friends. He hated his enemies
with unabated fervour and all who opposed him were his foes. He was
strong willed and impetuous in action yet he reflected carefully
before coming to a decision." - Dictionary of American Biography.
In his booklet, "The Scotch-Irish in America's History" Eric
"In the middle of the nineteenth century the old Jackson homestead
at Boneybefore was pulled down to make way for the railroad from
Belfast to Larne and the stones were used to build another house
beside the railroad, which is still standing and which incorporates
also a window from the old Jackson homestead."
A plaque marks the original site. It reads, "Reputed site of the
ANCESTRAL HOME OF ANDREW JACKSON, President of the USA 1829-1837."
JAMES KNOX POLK - PRESIDENT 1845-1849
James Knox Polk, eleventh President of the United States was born
on 2nd November, 1795 and died on 15th June 1849.
His family originated in Scotland but removed to Northern Ireland
where their name Pollock was contracted into Polk. The future
President's great-great-great grandfather, Robert Bruce Polk,
emigrated from Co. Londonderry to Maryland towards the close of the
James' mother was a Jane Knox, a rigid Presbyterian from whom he
derived his keen interest in religion and politics. Polk was a
dedicated sabbatarian all his life although he finally became a
After graduating from the University of South Carolina, he took up
the practice of law.
On Ist January, 1824, he married Sarah Childress, a lady of great
ability and culture, who became one of the most popular mistresses the
White House has ever known.
He entered Congress in 1825 opposing President Adams and giving his
support to Jackson. He failed to get elected to the Speakership of the
House of Representatives in 1834. At the next session of the House he
was, however, elected. His Speakership was noted for the volume of
heckling and abuse which he had to endure. He became Governor of
Tennessee in 1839. Largely through Jackson's influence he became a
candidate for the Presidency and took office in 1845.
In office he showed one of the traits of his Scotch-Irish
background, the trait of independence.. He even rejected advice from
"Old Hickory" himself, and fully justified his affirmation on election
to office, "I intend to be myself President of the United States."
During his Presidency the United States acquired both New Mexico and
Polk undermined his health by ardous labour and died on 15th June,
1849, a few months after his term of office ran out.
JAMES BUCHANAN - PRESIDENT 1857-1861
James Buchanan, fifteenth President of the United States, was born
on 23rd April, 1791, and died on 1st June, 1868. His ancestors -
Buchanans, Russels, Speers and Patersons - were all Ulster Scotch
His father, James Buchanan, was a descendant of George Buchanan of
Blairlisk, Scotland, who settled in Deroran near Omagh, County Tyrone
in 1674. James Buchanan, senior, emigrated from Ulster to Philadelphia
in 1783. He married Elizabeth Speer, who was also of Ulster
James Buchanan was educated at Dickinson College, became a
brilliant lawyer and one of the most able debaters in the United
States. In 1814 he was elected to the Pennsylvania House of
Representatives. He was the friend of Andrew Jackson.
In June 1831 he became US Minister to Russia. On his return from
Russia he was elected to the United States Senate. He refused the
office of Attorney General. He became Polk's Secretary of State.
Under the Presidency of Franklin Pierce, Buchanan became US
Minister in London.
He was nominated presidential candidate in 1856 and was elected,
though on a minority popular vote.
His presidential career was marked by a most vigorous foreign
policy, advantageous to the United States.
On the election of Lincoln it became evident that secession would
take place. Buchanan vigorously denied the right of secession but
confessed helplessness in dealing with it. His administration fell to
pieces in the remaining days before Lincoln was inaugurated. Buchanan
on retirement supported the administration throughout the war as a
Union Democrat. It has been stated that by nature he was neither
fitted "to ride the whirlwind or command the storm" to which awful
test he was forced in the mysterious workings of Providence.
ANDREW JOHNSTON - PRESIDENT 1865-1869
Andrew Johnson, seventeenth President of the United States, was
born on 29th December, 1808, and died on 31st July, 1875. His
ancestors from Northern Ireland lived in the neighbourhood of Larne,
Co. Antrim. The President's grandfather, also Andrew Johnson,
emigrated from there in or about the year 1750. Coming from poor
circumstances Johnson was a self-made man and developed great power as
a public speaker.
In 1835 he was elected to the Legislature of Tennessee and in 1840
he was elected to the State Senate. In 1843 he won a seat in the
Federal House of Representatives where he served for ten years.
He was elected Governor of Tennessee in 1853 and again in 1855. He
became a United States Senator two years later. He declared himself
for the Union and was hailed by the North as a powerful ally. He was
appointed by Lincoln Military Governor of Tennesse.
He became Lincoln's running mate in the great man's second election
campaign and became Vice President on Lincoln's election to the
Presidency. He succeeded to the Presidency on Lincoln's assassination.
He immediately announced that he would carry on Lincoln's policy.
The most outstanding incident in his Presidency was his impeachment
by the House of Representatives for high crimes and misdemeanours in
office. The impeachment failed and was generally admitted to have been
a blunder. He was re-elected to the United States Senate for Tennessee
in 1875 and thus began the reversal of judgment on his presidential
career. His last words in the Senate were memorable "Let peace and
prosperity be restored to the land, May
God bless the people; may God save the Constitution."
ULYSSES SIMPSON GRANT - PRESIDENT 1869-1877.
Ulysses Simpson Grant, the eighteenth President of the United
States, was born on 27th April, 1822, and died on 23rd July, 1885. He
became Lincoln's Commander of the Federal Forces in the Civil War.
His father, Jesse Root Grant, a tanner by trade, married in 1821,
Hannah Simpson, the daughter of a farmer. The Simpson family came from
County Tyrone. Their ancestral home at Dergina, near Dungannon, Co.
Tyrone, is still occupied by Simpsons.
Grant inherited many traits from his mother who was a deeply
religious woman of great common sense and good judgment.
Ulysses was brought up on his father's farm and from an early age
had a passion for horses. From seven until he was fourteen, besides
attending school, he says, in his "Personal Memoirs," "I did all the
work done by horses."
His father, eager to attain advantages for his family, secured for
him at the age of sixteen an appointment to the United States Military
Academy at West Point.
Although his name was at baptism Hiram Ulysses Grant, it was stated
by the authorities that his congressman had got the appointment for
him as Ulysses Simpson Grant and from henceforth that was to be his
He soon became known as the best rider amongst the cadets but when
he graduated, because there were no vacancies in the Cavalry he was
appointed to the Fourth Infantry. He saw active service in the war
with Mexico. He married Julia Dent on 22nd April, 1848. He was posted
to California and in 1853 promoted Captain. He became addicted to
drink and after admonition he resigned and found himself in 1854 after
eleven years of service, out of the army, penniless, with no job and
far away from home.
His chance came again when the Civil War broke out and Lincoln
called for volunteers. He was eventually appointed Colonel of the
Twenty-First Illinois Volunteers. A month after his appointment the
regiment was ordered to Mexico, Mo., and much to his surprise he was
promoted to Brigadier-General.
Grant proved himself by capturing Fort Henry and Fort Donelson
which resulted in the surrender of 14,000 Confederate troops. Lincoln,
amidst the frantic joy of the North, promoted him Major-General of
The glory of his achievement at Donelson was soon eclipsed,
however, by the Battle of Shiloh where because of his failure to take
adequate precautions, the Confederates, though driven back, had the
advantage over the Federal forces. Though pressed to relieve Grant of
his commission, Lincoln refused saying, "I can't spare this man - he
If Shiloh showed up Grant at his worst Vicksburg showed him up at
his best. There, in one of the boldest strokes ever recorded in the
annals of modern warfare he achieved a glorious victory. By this
victory the Union gained control of the Mississippi from the rise to
Once more Grant was hailed as a hero and promoted Major-General in
the regular army. He saved the Union Army from starvation and
capitulation at Chattanooga after their defeat at Chickamanga. He then
proceeded to chastise the Confederates defeating them under their
For the third time Grant was the man of the hour. Congress gave him
a gold medal, he was promoted to Lt. General and Commander of the
armies of the United States.
He refused to become a candidate for the Presidency stating that
his one objective was to win the war. Lincoln remained his steadfast
As Supreme Commander he conceived the overall plan to finish the
war and brought the plan successfully to a conclusion.
He was elected President in 1868. His Presidency had some solid
achievements, such as the harmony between the United States and the
United Kingdom, the steering of the United States away from another
civil war, the consolidation of the Government after the attempt to
remove a President (Andrew Johnson) and the weathering of the panic of
1873 with its financial and moral uneasiness.
He was buried in a great mausoleum of granite at Riverside Drive in
New York City.
CHESTER ALAN ARTHUR - PRESIDENT 1881-1885.
Chester Alan Arthur, the twenty-first President of the United
States, was born on 5th October, 1830, and died on 18th November,
1886. His father was the Rev. William Arthur, of Dreen, Ballymena, Co.
Antrim in Northern Ireland. His father was a graduate of Queen's
College, Belfast, and sailed for America with his father, Alan Arthur,
in 1816. The ancestral farmhouse still stands at the Dreen.
William Arthur settled in Vermont and became a Baptist preacher. On
12th April, 1821, he married Malvina Stone. Their second child born at
Fairfield, Vermont, was Chester Alan, the subject of this sketch.
After his election to the Presidency, A. P. Hinman published a book
entitled "How a British Subject Became President of the United
States." He claimed that the Rev. William Arthur preached on both
sides of the Vermont-Canadian Border, that Chester Alan was born in
Canada and that it was a second son who died in infancy who was born
in Fairfield, Vermont. He also alleged that before accepting
nomination as Vice-President, Arthur travelled to Canada secretly to
see that there were no incriminating public records. Hinman's
allegations fell on deaf ears and were treated a: totally false.
Arthur graduated from Union College, Schenectady, New York, in 1848.
In 1859 he married Ellen Lewis Hendon. While not serving in the Army
during the Civil War he performed administration duties in the New
York State with great ability. President Grant in 1871 made him
Collector of the Port of New York where for seven years he was
responsible for the honest handling of most of the customs revenue of
the United States.
Arthur lost that important appointment because of his loyalty to
the Republican Party. He was Garfield's running mate and became
President on his assassination. His administration was dignified and
honourable and he looked the part of President, standing six feet two
inches high and carrying himself with constant dignity. He failed to
gain the nomination for a second term and died early in the
administration of his successor.
STEPHEN GROVER CLEVELAND - PRESIDENT 1885-1889 and 1893-1897.
Stephen Grover Cleveland the twenty-second and twenty-fourth
President of the United States was born on March 18th, 1837 and died
on June 24th, 1908.
His father, Rev. Richard Falley Cleveland was a Presbyterian
minister. His mother was Ann Neal the daughter of Abner Neal who
emigrated from County Antrim, Northern Ireland to America late in the
He became a lawyer, and on the death of his father became the
breadwinner for the family. He was a Democrat and was elected Mayor of
Buffalo on a ticket of Reform.
He was elected Governor of New York on January 3rd, 1883.
Cleveland won the Democratic nomination for the Presidency simply
because it was believed that he would attract a large number of
Republican dissidents alienated by the Republican nominee James G.
A vicious campaign resulted and Cleveland was accused of personal
immorality. He however defeated Blaine and became the first Democrat
to occupy the White House after the Civil War.
He married on June 2nd, 1886, Frances Folsom.
After his first term, he was defeated by Benjamin Harrison and
retired to New York to resume his practice of law.
He was re-nominated by the Democrats in 1892, mainly because of his
opposition to the Republican protective tariff policy. When re-elected
Cleveland found himself unable to satisfy the voters who returned him
to the White House.
He retired to Princeton after his second term of office and became
an even more impressive figure out of office.
He refused to accede to his friends when they wanted him to contend
for the nomination for yet another term. His last work, was the
re-organisation of the Equitable Life Assurance Society.
BENJAMIN HARRISON - PRESIDENT 1889-1893.
Benjamin Harrison, the twenty-third President of the United States,
was born on August 20th, 1833, and died on March 13th, 1901.
His mother was Elizabeth Irwin whose two great grandfathers, James
Irwin and William McDowell, were Ulstermen.
He graduated from Miami University in 1852 and the following year
he married Caroline Lavinia Scott.
He became a lawyer and a staunch member of the Republican Party.
On the outbreak of the Civil War he became Colonel of the 70th
Indiana Infantry which he helped to raise.
After seeing war service in which he distinguished himself he was
brevetted Brigadier-General for "ability and manifest energy and
On March 22nd, 1865 he returned to the practice of the law in which
he rose to great prominence.
He was an elder in the Presbyterian Church and Superintendent of a
Sunday School. He was defeated in his fight for the Governorship of
Indiana. Later he was elected to the US Senate.
In 1888 he was the Republican nominee for the Presidency and
defeated the incumbent Cleveland. When he sought a second term the
result was reversed and Cleveland defeated him. He died of pneumonia
on March 13th, 1901, and was buried in Indianapolis.
WILLIAM McKINLEY - PRESIDENT 1897-1901.
William McKinley, the twenty-fifth President of the United States
was born on January 29th, 1843, and died on September 14th, 1901. He
was the great great grandson of James McKinley who came from Conagher,
near Ballymoney and emigrated to America about 1743.
The President's great grandfather David, fought in the
A new dwelling has been erected alongside the old McKinley
homestead on the farm at Conagher, close by the River Bush. The farm
is still known as McKinley's farm though the last McKinley to occupy
it was Francis who emigrated to the States in 1836. In 1897 F. A.
Claypool published a book entitled, "The Scotch Ancestors of William
At seventeen McKinley enlisted in the Union Army. He retired from
the Army as a brevetted major and became a lawyer. He married Ida
Saxton on January 25th, 1871.
He was elected to the Congress of the US in 1876, as a Republican.
With the death of Blaine, McKinley became the best presidential
timber which the Republicans could supply, and so in 1896 he found
himself the President by defeating that great Biblicalist William
Jennings Bryan with a popular majority. He was the first President
since 1872 to receive a popular majority.
The great event in his Presidency was the intervention of the US to
secure Cuba's independence from Spain.
He was re-elected with Theodore Roosevelt as his running mate, but
on September 6th, 1901 he was shot dead by an anarchist, Leon F.
Czolgosz. His last words were, "it is God's way. His will not ours be
done." He believed in the Divinity of Christ and by conviction was a
member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. His death brought to a close
a unique era of American political development.
WOODROW WILSON - PRESIDENT 1913-1921.
Woodrow Wilson the twenty-eighth President of the US was born on
December 28th, 1856 and died on February 3rd, 1924.
Wilson was descended from a Scotch-Irish family, and his ancestral
home is at Dergalt near Strabane. It is now in the possession of the
National Trust. Wilsons still farm the lands around it.
In 1807 the President's grandfather, James, emigrated. He married
an Ulsterwoman whom he met on the voyage to the New World, a Miss
Annie Adams. Their son, Rev. Joseph R. Wilson, was the President's
father. Woodrow Wilson became a lawyer after studying at Princeton and
Virginia. John Hopkins University awarded him a Ph.D. degree for his
thesis on Congressional Government.
He married Ellen Louise Akson on June 24th, 1885. At the age of
thirty-four he became Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Economy
He was nominated as Democratic candidate in 1912 and secured the
largest electoral majority up to that time. In 1916 he was re-elected.
On April 6th, 1917, America declared war on Germany.
Wilson did not succeed in his peace plans but nevertheless he was a
man of great sincerity and honour.
He confessed he became tired "swimming upstream" and on Sunday,
February 3rd, 1924, died in his sleep.
Besides those of Scotch-Irish descent who reached the White House
many more with Ulster blood in their veins became Provincial or State
Governors. Dr. Marshall gives a list of these which number as many as
It was not only in the political field however, that the
Scotch-Irish made their mark. John Knox gave to Scotland a National
Church and also a national system of education. That heritage the
Scotch-Irish brought with them to the New World. They founded schools
all over their settlements.
Dr. Hogg of New Jersey put on record that "Ninety per cent. of the
primitive, religious, educational, and university work done in America
was done by the Scotch-Irish."
Many a noble University of today in the US can trace its lineage
from a rude log but built by an Ulster minister which acted as a
school for the children of his congregation.
Not only in the field of education did the Scotch-Irish make their
mark and prove themselves leaders, it was the same in every walk of
IN OTHER FIELDS
Dr. Marshall records, "Horace Greeley was the founder of the New
York Tribune. Robert Bonner, from Rameltown, was the founder of the
New York Ledger. Charles Halpine, of the same stock, founded the New
York Citizen. John Dunlop, from Strabane, printed the first daily
paper ever issued in the United States. Edgar Allan Poe's great
grandfather was an Ulsterman.
"Of merchant princes, we can claim the Stuarts of New York, and the
Armours of Chicago. Of financiers, Andrew Mellon, whose link is with
Newtownstewart. We have Robert Fulton, of steam-boat fame, and Morse,
the inventor of the Morse system of telegraphy and McCormack, the
inventor of the reaping machine. McCormack's ancestors fought in the
seige of Derry. But time would fail me to instance the countless
further examples of Ulster-American industry and achievement. New York
is proud of its `first families.' Which of them can compare in
eminence and public service with the Routledges, the Calhouns, the
Breckinridges, the Polks, the McClellans, the McDowells, the Pattons
and the Prestons? The American writer. W. A. Robinson, thus describes
the Prestons, the first of whom was born in Derry City: `They were
Governors and Ambassadors and Senators; they were College Presidents
and eminent divines; they were Generals and Statesmen from Virginia,
Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, California, Ohio, New York, Indiana and
South Carolina. Four of them were Governors of Virginia. They were
members of the Cabinets of Jefferson, Taylor, Buchanan and Lincoln.
They had Generals by the dozen and Senators by the score, and officers
by the hundred. They furnished three candidates for the
Vice-Presidency of the United States. And all were from this Ulster
emigrant from the City of Derry."'
My task is done. The story is told and what a story it is. As I
said at the beginning, Ulster Protestants can this Bi-Centennial Year
lift up their heads with justifiable pride. Our forebears carried the
Torch of Liberty across the ocean and rested not till its Flame
illuminated the whole land. While sinister forces battle in loyal
Ulster today to extinguish that same Torch of Freedom, may we their
sons and daughters, prove ourselves worthy of our heritage, and with
God's help, both defend and maintain its Flame.
IN GOD WE TRUST
"Many Americans are misled by Republican propaganda. We ask them to
remember to whom it is that they largely owe their freedom; we ask
them to remember that it was our people from Ulster who were the first
to start and the last to quit; and when appeals are made to them, with
reminders of services said to have been rendered, let them remember
that these reminders rest on no basis of fact, that Southern Ireland
was no more in that war than she was in the last one, and that she
made no mark on the United States till the 19th century.
"Let me emphasise, in closing, that we are not beggars for American
help in our own struggle. We shall not rush cablegrams to American
Presidents. We shall not beg for a hearing in an American Senate or
House of Representatives. We shall not plead for American influence
with Britain on our behalf. We can fight our own battle. We can still
be the last to quit.
"But we do ask that American opinion on the Ulster question should
be guided by knowledge and understanding rather than by Republican
clamour. We do ask that the American people should thoughtfully and
fairly consider the facts, the facts of our position here, and the
facts of their own history over there. Knowledge brings understanding,
and the child of understanding is sympathy. We ask for all three, and
it is we who have the right to ask." - Dr. W. F. Marshall.
|W. A. CARSON,
||Ulster and the Irish
Republic, Belfast, 1950.
|R. J. DICKSON,
||Ulster Emigration to
Colonial America, London, 1969.
|H. J. FORD,
||The Scotch-Irish in
America, London, 1915.
|E. R. GREEN,
||Essays in Scotch-Irish
History, London, 1969.
||History of the Irish Presbyterian
Church, Edinburgh, 1881.
|C. A. HANNA,
||The Scotch-Irish or the Scot in
North Britain, North Ireland, and in North America, 2 Vols.,
|W. T. LATIMER,
||A History of Irish
Presbyterians, Belfast 1902.
|J. G. LEYBURN,
||The Scotch-Irish - A
Social History, N. Carolina, 1962.
|W. F. MARSHALL,
||Ulster Sails West,
||The Scotch-Irish in America's
History, Belfast 1965. PROCEEDINGS, Congress of the Scotch-Irish
Society of America, 1889-1896, 1900 and 1901.
||The General Synod of
Ulster, 3 Vols., Belfast, 1890.
|J. S. REID,
||History of the
Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Vol. 1, London, 1853.
||The Winning of the
West, 4 Vols, New York, 1896.
|J. B. WOODBURN,
||The Ulster Scot, His
History and Religion, London, 1914.
'Published by Martyrs Memorial Publications,
356-376 Ravenhill Road,
Belfast, BT6 8GL
Printed by Puritan Printing Co., Ltd., Belfast.
Copyright Ian R. K. Paisley, 1976.