Born, bred and still living on the most easterly point of Northern Ireland - the Ards Peninsula - 18 miles across the sea from Scotland. I do lots of things- design, music, talks, trying to be a husband and father. This blog isn't an example of great quality writing or research, it's just a scrapbook pointing towards content that's of interest. © the author; contact me for permissions
Posted by Mark Thompson at Saturday, August 27, 2016
When on honeymoon nearly 20 years ago, we stayed at Boone Tavern which is part of Berea College in the town of Berea, Kentucky. This was the first integrated college in the South, established in 1855 by a Presbyterian minister called Rev John Fee and his wife Matilda Hamilton Fee. Here we are at the Tavern door, back in July of this year, struggling to take a 'selfie'. It is a wonderful place, one of the ‘Historic Hotels of America’.
Berea is named after the town referred to in the Bible in Acts chapter 17, the chapter from which the College took its motto: "And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth".
One famous black graduate of the College, in 1903, was Carter G. Woodson (1875–1950), regarded as the ‘Father of Black History’. His remarkable intelligence resulted in a PhD in history from Harvard University in 1912. In 1916 Woodson founded the quarterly Journal of Negro History, in which he frequently spoke of his lifelong rural neighbours as 'Scotch-Irish', and demonstrated a sound grasp of our history. His essay 'Freedom and Slavery in Appalachia' (link here) is still today regarded as a landmark, in which he says that:
"… the strongest stock among these immigrants, however, were the Scotch-Irish, "a God-fearing, Sabbath-keeping, covenant-adhering, liberty-loving and tyrant-hating race" which had formed its ideals under the influence of philosophy of John Calvin, John Knox, Andrew Melville, and George Buchanan.
By these thinkers they had been taught to emphasise equality, freedom of conscience, and political liberty ... when they demanded liberty for the colonists they spoke also for the slaves ... the ideals of the westerners were principally those of the Scotch-Irish, working for "civil liberty in fee simple, and an open road to civil honors, secured to the poorest and feeblest members of society" ...
they therefore hated the institution [of slavery] ... on the early southern frontier there was more prejudice against the slave holder than against the Negro ..."
In later publications he wrote these words:
“… In the States of Kentucky and Tennessee friends of the race were often left free to instruct them as they wished. Many of the people who settled those States came from the Scotch-Irish stock of the Appalachian Mountains, where early in the nineteenth century the blacks were in some cases treated as equals of the whites …"
“… Statistics of this period show that the proportionately largest number of Negroes who learned in spite of opposition were found among the Scotch-Irish of Kentucky and Tennessee. Possessing few slaves, and having no permanent attachment to the institution, those mountaineers did not yield to the reactionaries who were determined to keep the Negroes in heathendom. Kentucky and Tennessee did not expressly forbid the education of the colored people …"
“… A considerable portion of the abolition literature which influenced public opinion appeared in the Genius of Universal Emancipation, published by Benjamin Lundy. Through this organ the sentiments of a large number of antislavery people living in the Appalachian highland found expression. They were descendants of the Germans and Scotch-Irish immigrants who came to this country to realize their ideals of religion and government, differing widely from those of the aristocratic planters who maintained a slavocracy near the coast …"
“… In the very heart of the South, however, the Presbyterians did not fail to aid the instruction of Negroes wherever public opinion permitted it, although they had to confine themselves largely to verbal instruction. In the mountains of Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky, where the Scotch-Irish element dominated, there was no diminution of ardor in the religious instruction of the Negroes…"
Bear in mind that these are the words of America's foremost Black historian, a PhD born in New Canton, Virginia, on the fringes of the Appalachian mountains, and educated in West Virginia and Kentucky, a son of former slaves and who lived among the Scotch-Irish people. These are not the imaginings of some ancient expatriate Ulster Presbyterian relic, reminiscing about 'the bygone days of yore' from his retirement manse, waiting for the next annual Congress of the Society to come round. That’s a bit cheeky of me, but you get my point.
Some editions of the Journal are online. Here's the very first edition. If you text-search it, you'll see the term Scotch-Irish appears 14 times. It wouldn't be that frequent in a full year of today's Belfast Telegraph.
“A God-fearing, Sabbath-keeping, covenant-adhering, liberty-loving and tyrant-hating race”. That, in the words of none other than Carter G Woodson, is the Scotch-Irish.
Posted by Mark Thompson at Wednesday, August 24, 2016
In case you were in any doubt about the importance of the Fincastle story - there is a huge stone memorial with this plaque, at the site of the old Courthouse. Article here.
Posted by Mark Thompson at Tuesday, August 23, 2016
I took this shot, one of many, when we visited their store in Gatlinburg, Tennessee in July. To paraphrase Bill Clinton ‘I inhaled but I didn’t ingest’ - the aroma was something else, but I was driving that day! Post coming soon...
Posted by Mark Thompson at Tuesday, August 23, 2016
One of the most famous speeches of the American Revolution, given in Richmond, Virginia on 23 March 1775, depicted here in Luther-like pose. Patrick Henry's father was from Aberdeen, and his sister Elizabeth was married to William Campbell, one of the signatories to the Fincastle Resolutions outlined in the post below. Campbell is known to have been of Ulster-Scots descent. Campbell went on to become a hero of the American Revolution, achieving the rank of General. Here is a 1910 ‘Monument’ document to him, published by the United States Senate. What an extract –
‘… In the confronting ranks was a very different class of men. Those from the Holston, under Campbell, were a peculiar people … they were, almost to a man, Presbyterians. In their homes, in the Holston Valley, they were settled in pretty compact congregations; quite tenacious of their religious and civil liberties, as handed down from father to son from their Scotch-Irish ancestors. Their preacher. Rev. Charles Cummins, was well fitted for the times; a man of piety and sterling patriotism, who constantly exerted himself to encourage his people to make every needed sacrifice and put forth every possible exertion in defense of the liberties of their country.
They were a remarkable body of men, both physically and mentally … ever ready at the tap of the drum to turn out on military service; if in the busiest crop season, their wives, sisters, and daughters could, in their absence, plant and sow and harvest. They were better educated than most of the frontier settlers, and had a more thorough understanding of the questions at issue between the colonies and their mother country. These men went forth to strike their country's foes, as did the patriarchs of old, feeling assured that the God of battles was with them, and that He would surely crown their efforts with success. They had no doubts nor fears. They trusted in God and kept their powder dry. Such a thing as a coward was not known among them …’
Posted by Mark Thompson at Monday, August 22, 2016
“… the first adopted statement by the Colonies which promised resistance to the death …”
“… the earliest statement of armed resistance to the British Crown in the American Colonies …"
The fuse of the 1776 American Revolution was lit by Scotch-Irish Presbyterians. Four years earlier in a remote mountain place called Lead Mines (now Austinville) in south west Virginia, a Rev Charles Cummings (1732-1812) was a leading Presbyterian minister. He had been born in Ireland (possibly Donegal) and emigrated when he was 18 on board a vessel captained by his brother James. Charles went to college in Pennsylvania and graduated in theology, during which he was tutored by Newry-born Rev James Waddell (1739–1805).
Lead Mines was the frontier seat of the vast Fincastle County, then a huge jurisdiction covering what is now south-western Virginia and all of Kentucky. Aged around 40, Cummings accepted a call to the southwest frontier and found himself among Ulster folk, or folk of Ulster descent. His old cabin home still stands today in Sinking Springs Cemetery, Abingdon (just off Cummings Street).
He is said to have drafted the Fincastle Resolutions of 20 January 1775 which are regarded as a precursor to the eventual Declaration of Independence of 1776. There had been earlier statements from other counties, but this was the first to promise resistance to the death. When you read the words of the Resolutions below, you’ll hear echoes of the Siege of Derry ringing in your ears! (One writer thinks that the meeting which adopted the Resolutions was held at James McGavock’s tavern in Fort Chiswell. McGavock was born near Glenarm in County Antrim).
The 13 signers of the Resolutions were:
Here is the old Cummings cabin, recently restored:
In his 10 volume History of the United States from the Discovery of the American Continent, renowned American historian George Bancroft described the events as follows:
It is not probable that even one of the peers [in the House of Lords] had heard of the settlements beyond the Alleghenies, where the Watauga and the forks of the Holston flow to the Tennessee. Yet on the same day, the lords of that region, most of them Presbyterians of Scottish-Irish descent, met in council near Abingdon. Their united congregations, having suffered from Sabbaths too much profaned, or wasted in melancholy silence at home, had called Charles Cummings to the pastoral charge of their precious and immortal souls. The men never went to public worship without being armed, or without their families. Their minister, on Sabbath morning, would ride to the service with shot and pouch and rifle.... The news from Congress reached them slowly; but, on receiving an account of what had been done, they assembled in convention, and the spirit of freedom swept through their minds as naturally as the forest winds sways the firs on the sides of Black Mountain. They adhered unanimously to the association of Congress, and named as their committee Charles Cummings [and others]. Adopting the delegates of Virginia as their representatives, they addressed them as men whose conduct would immortalize them in its annals.
– George Bancroft, History of the United States from the Discovery of the American Continent, Vol. 7, 4th edition..
The Fincastle Resolutions should therefore be regarded as one of the great Ulster-Scots declaratory documents. If you are familiar with the various Scottish (Presbyterian) Covenants, you will see the template of conditional loyalty writ large in these words –
"To the Honorable Peyton Randolph, Esq; Richard Henry Lee, George Washington, Patrick Henry, junior, Richard Bland, Benjamin Harrison, and Edmund Pendleton, Esquires, the Delegates from this colony who attended the Continental Congress held at Philadelphia:
Had it not been for our remote situation, and the Indian war which we were lately engaged in, to chastise those cruel and savage people for the many murders and depredations they have committed amongst us (now happily terminated, under the auspices of our present worthy Governour, his Excellency the Right Honourable the Earl of Dunmore) we should before this time have made known to you our thankfulness for the very important services you have rendered to this country, in conjunction with the worthy Delegates from the other provinces. Your noble efforts for reconciling the Mother Country and the Colonies, on rational and constitutional principles, and your pacifick,steady, and uniform conduct in that arduous work, entitle you to the esteem of all British America, and will immortalize you in the annals of your country. We heartily concur in your resolutions, and shall, in every instance, strictly and invariably adhere thereto.
We assure you, Gentlemen, and all our countrymen, that we are a people whose hearts overflow with love and duty to our lawful sovereign George III. whose illustrious house, for several successive reigns, have been the guardians of civil and religious rights and liberties of his subjects, as settled at the glorious Revolution; that we are willing to risk our lives in the service of his Majesty, for the support of the Protestant religion, and the rights and liberties of his subjects, as they have been established by compact, law, and ancient charters.
We are heartily grieved at the differences which now subsist between the parent state and the colonies, and most ardently wish to see harmony restored, on an equitable basis, and by the most lenient measures that can be devised by the heart of men.
Many of us, and our forefathers, left our native land, considering it as a kingdom subjected to inordinate power, and greatly abridged of its liberties. We crossed the Atlantick, and explored this then uncultivated wilderness, bordering on many nations of savages, and surrounded by mountains almost inaccessible to any but those very savages, who have incessantly been committing barbarities and depredations on us since our first seating the country. These fatigues and dangers we patiently encountered, supported by the pleasing hope of enjoying those rights and liberties which have been granted to Virginians and were denied us in our native country, and of transmitting them inviolate to our posterity. But even to these remote regions the land of unlimited and unconstitutional power hath pursued us, to strip us of that liberty and property with which God, nature, and the rights of humanity, have vested us. We are ready and willing to contribute all in our power for the support of his Majesty's government, if applied to constitutionally, and when the grants are made by our own representatives; but cannot think of submitting our liberty or property to the power of a venal British parliament, or to the will of a corrupt ministry.
We by no means desire to shake off our duty or allegiance to our lawful sovereign, but on the contrary shall ever glory in being the loyal subjects of a Protestant prince, descended from such illustrious progenitors, so long as we can enjoy the free exercise of our religion, as Protestants, and our liberties and properties, as British subjects.
But if no pacifick measures shall be proposed or adopted by Great Britain, and our enemies will attempt to dragoon us out of those inestimable privileges which we are entitled to as subjects, and to reduce us to a state of slavery, we declare, that we are deliberately and resolutely determined never to surrender them to any power upon earth, but at the expense of our lives.
These are our real, though unpolished sentiments, of liberty and loyalty, and in them we are resolved to live and die.
We are, Gentlemen, with the utmost esteem and regard, your most obedient servant."
• Rev Charles Cummings’ parents were John Cummings and Sara (Polk) Cummings. His wife was Mildred Millicent (Carter) Cummings.
• You can read more here.
• Recent article on Cummings here
PS: Exactly 4 months after, on 20 May 1775, the more well-known Mecklenburg Declaration was proclaimed in North Carolina. One of the men present was a Rev Francis Cummings, whose parents were from Ireland, but he was born in Pennsylvania in 1752. When he was 19 his parents moved to Mecklenburg County where one of his pupils was the young Andrew Jackson. Read more on p 139 here.
Posted by Mark Thompson at Sunday, August 21, 2016
Posted by Mark Thompson at Sunday, August 21, 2016
This time the term refers to ‘dialect’.
And it goes on… the term has a far deeper pedigree than some are willing to acknowledge.
This clipping refers to Hugh Glass, the main character in the Oscar-winning movie The Revenant.
The Board of Health for Philadelphia didn’t want them in 1841. And many today will still deny that these people were called ‘Scotch-Irish’ at all. However, as more and more old printed material gets digitised and put online, more evidence continues to emerge for the veracity of our own history.
‘...commonly called Scotch Irish...’ clearly indicates that the term was in widespread use in 1841 - and so not therefore only a later sectarian invention which served to distinguish themselves from Catholic 'Famine Irish’, as is often alleged.