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Scotland's Mark on America

Scotland's Mark on America

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Published by: jock on May 01, 2010
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09/13/2010

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FOREWORDIt has been said that the Scot is never so much at home as when he isabroad. Under this half-jesting reference to one of thecharacteristics of our race, there abides a sober truth, namely, thatthe Scotsman carries with him from his parent home into the worldwithout no half-hearted acceptance of the duties required of him inthe land of his adoption. He is usually a public-spirited citizen, auseful member of society, wherever you find him. But that does notlessen the warmth of his attachment to the place of his birth, or theland of his forbears. Be his connection with Scotland near or remote,there is enshrined in the inner sanctuary of his heart, memories,sentiments, yearnings, that are the heritage of generations with whomlove of their country was a dominant passion, and pride in the deedsthat her children have done an incentive to effort and an antidoteagainst all that was base or ignoble.It is a fact that goes to the core of the secular struggle for humanfreedom that whole-hearted Americanism finds no jarring note in thesentiment of the Scot, be that sentiment ever so intense. In thesedulous cultivation of the Scottish spirit there is nothing alien,and, still more emphatically, nothing harmful, to the institutionsunder which we live. The things that nourish the one, engenderattachment and loyalty to the other. So, as we cherish the memories ofthe Motherland, keep in touch with the simple annals of ourchildhood's home, or the home of our kin, bask in the fireside glow ofits homely humor, or dwell in imagination amid the haunts of oldromance, we are the better Americans for the Scottish heritage fromwhich heart and mind alike derive inspiration and delight.It is as difficult to separate the current of Scottish migration tothe American Colonies, or to the United States that grew out of them,from the larger stream which issued from England, as it is todistinguish during the last two hundred years the contributions byScotsmen from those of Englishmen to the great body of Englishliterature. We have the first census of the new Republic, in the year1790, and an investigator who classified this enumeration according towhat he conceived to be the nationality of the names, found that thetotal free, white, population numbering 3,250,000 contained 2,345,844people of English origin; 188,589 of Scottish origin, and 44,273 ofIrish origin. The system of classification is manifestly loose, andthe distribution of parent nationalities entirely at variance withknown facts. That part of the population described as Irish waslargely Ulster-Scottish, the true Irish never having emigrated in anyconsiderable numbers until they felt the pressure of the potatofamine, fifty years later. There is excellent authority for thestatement that, at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War one-third ofthe entire population of Pennsylvania was of Ulster-Scottish origin. ANew England historian, quoted by Whitelaw Reid, counts that between1730 and 1770 at least half a million souls were transferred fromUlster to the Colonies--more than half of the Presbyterian populationof Ulster--and that at the time of the Revolution they made one-sixthof the total population of the nascent Republic. Another authorityfixes the inhabitants of Scottish ancestry in the nine Colonies southof New England at about 385,000. He counts that less than half of theentire population of the Colonies was of English origin, and thatnearly, or quite one-third of it, had a direct Scottish ancestry.These conclusions find powerful support in the number of distinguished
 
men whom the Scots and the Ulstermen contributed to the Revolutionarystruggle, and to the public life of the early days of the UnitedStates. Out of Washington's twenty-two brigadier generals, nine wereof Scottish descent, and one of the greatest achievements of thewar--the rescue of Kentucky and the whole rich territory northwest ofthe Ohio, from which five States were formed--was that of GeneralGeorge Rogers Clark, a Scottish native of Albert County, Virginia.When the Supreme Court of the United States was first organized byWashington three of the four Associate Justices were of the sameblood--one a Scot and two Ulster-Scots. When the first Chief Justice,John Jay, left the bench, his successor, John Rutledge, was anUlster-Scot. Washington's first cabinet contained four members--two ofthem were Scotch and the third was an Ulster-Scot. Out of thefifty-six members who composed the Congress that adopted theDeclaration of Independence eleven were of Scottish descent. It was inresponse to the appeal of a Scot, John Witherspoon, that theDeclaration was signed; it is preserved in the handwriting of anUlster-Scot who was Secretary of the Congress; it was first publiclyread to the people by an Ulster-Scot, and first printed by a thirdmember of the same vigorous body of early settlers.George Bancroft will hardly be accused of holding a brief for the Scotin American history but, with all his New England predilections, hefrankly records this conclusion: "We shall find the first voicepublicly raised in America to dissolve all connection with GreatBritain, came not from the Puritans of New England, or the Dutch ofNew York, or the planters of Virginia, but from Scotch-IrishPresbyterians." It was Patrick Henry, a Scot, who kindled the popularflame for independence. The foremost, the most irreconcilable, themost determined in pushing the quarrel to the last extremity, werethose whom the bishops and Lord Donegal & Company had been pleased todrive out of Ulster.The distinguished place which men of Scottish or of Ulster origin hadasserted for themselves in the councils of the Colonies was not lostwhen the Colonies became independent States. Among the first of thethirteen original States two-thirds were of either Scottish orUlster-Scottish origin. Of the men who have filled the great office ofPresident of the United States, eleven out of the whole twenty-fivecome under the same category. About half the Secretaries of theTreasury of the Government of the United States have been of Scottishdescent, and nearly a third of the Secretaries of State.But it is perhaps in the intangible things that go to the making ofnational character that the Scottish contribution to the making ofAmerica has been most notable. In 1801, the population of the whole ofScotland was but little over a million and a half, and behind thatthere were at least eight centuries of national history. Behind that,too, were all the long generations of toil and strife in which theScottish character was being molded into the forms that Scott andBurns made immortal. It is a character full of curious contrasts, withits strong predilection for theology and metaphysics on one side, andfor poetry and romance on the other. Hard, dry and practical in itsattitude to the ordinary affairs of life, it is apt to catch fire froma sudden enthusiasm, as if volatility were its dominant note andinstability its only fixed attribute. And so it has come about thatside by side with tomes of Calvinistic divinity, there has beentransmitted to Scotsmen an equally characteristic product of the mindof their race--a body of folksong, of ballad poetry, of legend and ofstory in that quaint and copious Doric speech which makes so direct an
 
appeal to the hearts of men whether they are to the manner born ornot. It is surely a paradox that a nation which, in the making, hadthe hardest kind of work to extract a scanty living from a stubbornsoil, and still harder work to defend their independence, theirliberties, their faith from foes of their own kindred, should be bestknown to the world for the romantic ideals they have cherished and thechivalrous follies for which their blood has been shed.But, it is well to remember that long before the Reformers of thesixteenth century founded the parish school system of Scotland, themonasteries had their schools and so had the parish churches; therewere high schools in the burghs and song schools of remarkableexcellence. The light of learning may have waxed dim at times, but itwas not from an illiterate land that Scottish scholars carried intoEurope all through the Middle Ages the name and fame of their country,any more than it was from a people unversed in the arts of war thatScottish soldiers went abroad to fight foreign battles, giving now aConstable to France, a General-in-Chief to Russia and still again aLieutenant to Gustavus Adolphus. If evidence were needed of the vigorof the Scottish race, it is readily forthcoming in the fact that forfive hundred years the Land O'Cakes enriched the world with thesurplus of her able men.Nurse of heroes, nurse of martyrs, nurse of freemen, are titles whichbelong of right to our Motherland and she has been justified of herchildren, at home and abroad. The rolls of honor of many countries andmany climes bear their names; there is no field of distinction whetherit be of thought or of action that has not witnessed their triumphs.That Scotland has yielded more than her share of the men who have goneforth to the conquest of the world is largely due to the fact that itwas part of her discipline that men must first conquer themselves. Theweakest of them felt that restraining influence, and the strivingafter the Scottish ideal, however feeble, has been a protectionagainst sinking into utter baseness. The most wayward scions of theScottish family have known that influence, and have borne testimony tothe beauty of the homely virtues which they failed to practice and thenobility of aspirations which fell short of controlling their life.It belongs to the character and antecedents of Scotsmen that theattribute of national independence should take so high a place amongthe objects of human effort and desire. It was because Scotlandsettled for all time, six hundred years ago, her place as anindependent State that she proved herself capable of begetting menlike John Knox, Robert Burns and Walter Scott. It is because the vigorof the Scottish race and the adaptiveness of the Scottish geniusremain to-day unimpaired, that the lustre of Scottish-names shone sobrilliantly during the World War. It may be confidently asserted that,whether regarded as a race or a people no members of the greatEnglish-speaking family did more promptly, more cheerfully or morecourageously make the sacrifices required to perform their full partin the struggle to defend the freedom that belongs to our commonheritage and to preserve the ideals without which we should not regardlife as worth living. The union, centuries old, in the Scottish mindand heart of the most uncompromising devotion to individual libertywith the most fervid patriotism, is a sentiment of which the worldstands greatly in need to-day. We need not go far to find evidence ofhow perilous it is to sink regard for the great conception of humanbrotherhood in a narrow, nationalistic concern for individualinterests. In the Scottish conception of liberty, _duties_ have alwaysbeen rated as highly as _rights_; it has been a constructive, not a

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