The Contribution of ULSTER
First published by the Ulster-American Loyalists Association, Los Angeles
California in 1976,
the Bicentennial Year of the American Revolution.
THE SCOTCH IRISH
Northern Ireland has a unique relationship with the United
States as being the cradle of the Scotch Irish, the pioneers and frontiersmen of
early American life.
The part played by these settlers. descendants of low land
Scots who had settled in the north of Ireland two hundred years earlier (hence
the name Scotch Irish. has tended to be overshadowed by the tremendous 19th
century emigration from other parts of Ireland to the United States. Yet the
earlier Scotch Irish movement, small though it was by comparison and different
in character, made an impact that was without parallel in early American
history. From the Scotch Irish (or Ulster Scots as they are called in the
British Isles) have been drawn more than a quarter of all the Presidents of the
United States including the only three first generation Americans to achieve
this office as well as State Governors, generals, writers, administrators,
churchmen and teachers. Several signatories of the Declaration of Independence
and the Constitution of the United States were Scotch Irishmen from Ulster.
the early seventeenth century Ulster was settled by people from Britain In what
is usually referred to as "the Plantation of Ulster." These people
came mainly from the Scottish Lowlands By the end of the century there were over
100,000 Scots and 25,000 English in the Province. From these people emerged a
new strain of Ulstermen the "Ulster Scots" or the "Scotch
During the years 1717 to 1770 over 250,00 Ulstermen left home with
their families to settle in America. There was a constant flow of people
crossing the Atlantic from Ulster a flow which at frequent intervals became a
torrent. These people did not emigrate solely of their own free will but rather
for social and economic reasons.
In the year 1718 five ships sailed from Ulster
to America and one group of emigrants founded and settled the township of New
Londonderry in New Hampshire.
Their educational standards were very high for
people of their station in the early 18th century. They were mostly small
farmers and labourers who had been living in a comparatively remote province of
the United Kingdom.
Ulstermen moved to the New World in such numbers that they
became the most important element in the colonial population of America after
the English. By the time the United States became independent one American in
five was of Scotch Irish, i.e., Ulster stock.
Ideally suited for the new life by
reason of their experience as pioneers in Ulster, their qualities of character
and their Ulster Scottish background, they made a unique contribution to the
land of their adoption. They became the frontiersmen of colonial America,
clearing the forests to make their farms and, as one would expect, they had the
defects as well as the qualities of pioneers. President Theodore Roosevelt
described them us "a grim, stern people, strong and powerful for good and
evil, swayed by gusts of stormy passion, the love of freedom rooted in their
very hearts' core..." They suffered terrible injuries at the hands of the
red men, and on their foes they waged terrible warfare in return. They were also
upright, resolute, fearless, and loyal to their friends, devoted to their
country. In spite of their many failings, they were of all men the best fitted
to conquer the wilderness and hold it against all comers."
They took with
them into the wilderness their love of religion and learning, building churches
and schools as they established each new settlement or fort. The primitive
centres of further learning such as the Log College of Neshaminy in Pennsylvania
which they early established achieved a notable reputation as
"mothers" of new colleges, their graduates taking the lead in founding
new institutions and providing the first presidents who gave them their
character. Indeed it was in the field of education that the Scotch Irish made
one of their most important contributions to American life.
THE SCOTCH IRISH AND THE WHITE HOUSE
Estimates of the number of Presidents of
the United States of Scotch Irish origins vary, depending on the degree of
relationship on which the claim is based. For the purposes of their search for
ancestral homesteads the Ulster Scot Historical Foundation accepted only those
of direct Scotch Irish descent. Even limited in this way the number amounts to
eleven; a notable proportion when related to the very small group from which
they sprang. They are Andrew Jackson, James Knox Polk, James Buchanan, Andrew
Johnson, Ulysses Simpson Grant, Chester Alan Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin
Harrison, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson.
becomes all the more impressive when it is realized that three of the ten,
Presidents Jackson, Buchanan and Arthur, were first generation Americans, i.e.,
Presidents whose fathers were born in Ulster. The United States Constitution
lays it down that the President must be American born. In the long history of
the United States these are the only three first generation Americans to achieve
this high office. Andrew Jackson has left it on record that he only just made it
since he was born soon after the ship in which his parents sailed from Ulster
reached harbour in America. Three other Presidents, John Adams, James Monroe,
and John Quincy Adams are reputed to have family links with Ulster. A further
two presidents Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower claimed to have
"Scotch Irish" blood in their veins.
THE SCOTCH IRISH AND THE REVOLUTION
The Scotch Irish were the servants and
soldiers of the Revolution. President McKinley wrote of them that "they
were the first to proclaim for freedom in these United States." President
Theodore Roosevelt described them as "the men who before any other declared
for American independence:'
Both references are to the Mecklenburg Resolution
of Independence adopted by a convention of Scotch Irish which met in North
Carolina and which was one of the steps leading up to the Declaration of
Independence adopted by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia on July 4,
1976. The latter is now regarded as marking the birth of the American nation,
commemorated every year as Independence Day. Its immortal words come ringing
down the centuries. "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:" While Ulstermen and their descendants were establishing a
unique record on the frontier they were also rivalling that record with their
contribution to the Revolutionary cause.
In a speech at Springfield, Ohio, on
May 11, 1893, William McKinley, Governor of Ohio, later to become the 25th
President, and whose ancestors came from Dervock, near Ballymoney, Co. Antrim,
said about those Ulster emigrants: "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." McKinley was pointing out that the first
encounter of the War of Independence was not at Concord and Lexington, but on
the Alamance River in North Carolina when on May 14th, 1771, there was a clash
between the Ulster Irish of that region and a British force under Governor
Among the signatories of the Declaration of Independence were five Scotch
Irish delegates and one Scot with Ulster associations. They were Thomas McKean,
Edward Rutledge, James Smith, George Taylor, Matthew Thornton, and Philip
Livingstone, a Scot but whose great grandfather had been from County Down.
Secretary of the Congress which adopted the Declaration was an Ulsterman,
Charles Thomson from Maghera, County Londonderry. It was first printed by
another Ulsterman, John Dunlap a native of Strabane, County Tyrone, who is also
remembered as the founder of the first daily newspaper in America, the Pennsylvania Packet.
One of the four members of Washington's first
Cabinet, Henry Knox, came from Ulster. When Washington organized the first
Supreme Court lie appointed John Rutledge, son of an Ulsterman, as one of the
four Associate Justices under Chief Justice Lay whom Rutledge later succeeded.
As would be expected of frontiersmen, the fighting qualities of the Scotch Irish
came to the fore during the struggle for independence and in the subsequent
conflicts in America. During the War of Independence General George Washington
held in high regard his troops of Ulster origin. Throughout the War a large
proportion of his troops were men of Ulster origins In tribute to them
Washington said: "If defeated everywhere else. I will make my last stand
for liberty among the Scotch Irish of my native Virginia." The great Civil
War General, Robert E. Lee considered the Scotch Irish to have made fine
soldiers because they had the courage and determination of the Scots with the
dash and intrepidity of the Irish.
General Stonewall Jackson is perhaps the best
known of the fighting Scotch Irish and his great grandfather, John Jackson, went
to America about 1748. A site at the Birches, County Armagh, is traditionally
regarded as his home. Another Scotch Irish military leader was General Sam
Houston, first President of the Republic of Texas, and Governor of Tennessee. He
was the son of a Major Samuel Houston, veteran of the Revolutionary War, whose
ancestors left Ulster for America in 1735.
Frontier fighter and Hero of the
Alamo, Davy Crockett, came from Scotch Irish stock too. His father, John
Crockett, emigrated to America from Londonderry with his parents in the 18th
FAMOUS ULSTERMEN IN OTHER WALKS OF LIFE
In the publishing world. in addition
to John Dunlap, who was previously mentioned, who printed the first daily
newspaper in the United States, was Horace Greeley, founder of the New York
Tribune. Colonel Robert R. McCormick, proprietor of the Chicago Tribune and
Harold Wallace Ross, founder of the New Yorker.
Edgar Alan Poe was of Scotch
Irish descent as also was the song writer, Stephen Foster, whose great
grandfather sailed to America from Londonderry about 1728.
The founder of the
American Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Francis Makemie, was an Ulsterman. The
Rev. John Rodgers, whose father came from Londonderry, was the first Moderator
of the first General Assembly. The second was the Rev. Robert Smith, also from
Andrew Mellon, financier was a descendant of people from
Newtownstewart, County Tyrone. Robert Fulton, pioneer of the steam boat, Samuel
Morse, inventor of Morse Code, and Cyrus McCormack, inventor of the reaping
machine, all had ancestors from Ulster.
In the field of education, descendants
of Ulster people and Ulster people themselves were responsible, either wholly or
in part, for the foundation of many great educational Institutions of the United
States. They founded Log College which gave birth to the University of
Princeton, also to Jefferson College, Hampden Sidney College, the University of
North Carolina, University of Pennsylvania, and to Washington and Lee University
of Virginia. The founder of Lafayette College was of Ulster stock; the first
President of Bowdoin and the first President of what later became the University
of Nashville were also of Ulster descent.
Recently interest in research of the
early settlers and founders of the United States has spread to institutions.
particularly universities, where there is a growing realisation that the
greatest contribution of the Scotch Irish to America was not in the national
leaders they produced, nor even in the possibly decisive part they played in the
Revolutionary War, but in the formative influence they had on the American
character and way of life.
AMERICAN PRESIDENTS OF ULSTER DESCENT
1. Andrew Jackson. 7th President. 1829
1837. Co. Antrim.
2. James Knox Polk. 11th President. 1845 1849. Co.
3. James Buchanan. 15th President. 1857 1861. Co. Tyrone.
Johnson. 17th President. 1865 1869. Co. Antrim.
5. Ulysses S. Grant. 18th
President. 1869 1877. Co. Tyrone.
6. Chester A. Arthur. 21st President. 1881
1885. Co. Antrim.
7. Stephen Grover Cleveland. 22nd & 24th President. 1885
8. Benjamin Harrison. 23rd 1889 1893. Co. Antrim.
McKinley. 25th 1897 1901. Co. Antrim.
10. Theodore Roosevelt. 26th 1901 1904.
11. Thomas Woodrow Wilson. 28th 1913 1921. Co. Tyrone.
Presidents John Adams. John Quincy Adams and James Monroe are reputed to lave
family links with Ulster but these are rather tenuous. Presidents Harry S.
Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower claimed to have 'Scotch Irish' blood in their
"I love Highlanders, and I lone Lowlanders, but when 1 cone to the
branch of our race which has been grafted on to the Ulster stem I take my hat
off with veneration crud with awe. They are, I believe, without exception the
toughest, the most dominant, the most irresistible race that exists in the
universe at this moment." Lord Rosebery
"From the near 1718, and all through the century a continuous stream of
emigration poured from the North of Ireland, a stream that, at .frequent
internals, became a flood... What did they dot What was the nature of their
contribution to the United States?"
Ulster Sails West, W. F. Marshall
"In assessing the contribution of the Scotch Irish to American life and
culture, three fields stand high on the list: their influence in education,
religion and politics." The Scotch Irish: A Social History, James G.
"... it is doubtful if we have wholly realised the importance of the
part played by that stern and virile people... the men who had followed
Cromwell, and who had shared in the defence of Derry, and before any other
declared for American Independence."
Winning the West Vol. I, Theodore
In conclusion it must be pointed out that some writers relate truly, as they
think, and without any malice of intent, the contribution of
"Irishmen" to the making of the United States. There are also those
echo nurse an "anti Ulster" bias and set down half truths and argue
that an Ulsterman is an Irishman. These writers do so to deliberately deceive
and fail to remember that the people they claim as their own would be the first
to protest were they able to do so.
The "Irish" who have made such a great contribution to the United
States of America are those people of Scottish extraction who emigrated from
Ulster and not those who emigrated from Southern Ireland. In fact there was no
substantial body of Southern Irish in America until the 19th century.
Theodore Roosevelt in his History of New York states the truth clearly: "It
is a curious fact that in the Revolutionary War, the Germans and Catholic Irish
should have furnished the bulk of the auxiliaries (mercenaries) to the regular
English soldiers; but the most ardent Americans of all were the Presbyterian
Irish settlers and their descendants."
Owen Wister in A Square Deal is even
more outspoken in support of the truth and in discrediting the lies and
half-truths that, even today, are still being voiced by people who are supposed
to be respected politicians: "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 a
debt of support. But it was the Orange Irish who fought in our Revolution, and
not the Green Irish."