EARLY USAGE OF THE TERM “SCOTCH-IRISH,” 1500-1800

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Michael C. Scoggins, York County Historical Center

April 14, 1573: “We are given to understand that a nobleman named ‘Sorley Boy’ (Macdonnell) and others, who be of the Scotch-Irish race, and some of the wild Irish, at this time are content to acknowledge our true and mere right to the countrie of Ulster and the crowne of Ireland, to profess due obedience to us and our crowne of England or Ireland, and to swear to be true subjects to us and our successors as themselves to our laws and orders, upon condition that they may be received as denizens of England and Ireland; and we (being willing by all gentle means to bring the strayed sheep home again to the right fold . . .) are content that any ‘meer Irish,’ or Scotch-Irish, or other strangers who claim inheritance or shall hold any lands, or be resident in any place which is within our grant. . . shall be reputed and taken for denizens, and not for ‘meer Irish’. . .”

– Queen Elizabeth I of England, Calendar of Patent and Close Rolls of Chancery, cited in David Stewart, The Scots in Ulster: Their Denization and Naturalization, 1603-1634 (Belfast: The Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland, 1954, 3 vols.), I:2-3.

(Hudson, 3; Leyburn, 328-329)

1675: “Franciscus Makemius, Scoto Hybernicus” (“Francis Makemie, Scotch-Irish”)

– register of the University of Glasgow, Scotland, recording the enrollment of Francis Makemie from Ramelton, Ulster, cited in James Seaton Reid, History of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (London, 1853; 3 vols.), II:342n. (Leyburn, 329)

June 1695: “In the two counties of Dorchester and Somerset [Maryland], where the Scotch-Irish are numerous, they clothe themselves by their linen and woolen manufactures.”

– Sir Thomas Laurence, Secretary of Maryland. (Leyburn, 329-330)

c. 1696: Thomas Craighead, a Presbyterian divinity student from Ulster, “was entered on the records of the University of Glasgow as Scoto-Hibernus, a Scot from Ireland.”

– Henry Alexander White, Southern Presbyterian Leaders, 30.

1700-1800: “In 1760 Professor [Thomas] Reid writes from Glasgow, ‘Near a third of our students are Irish. Thirty came over lately in one vessel. We have a good many English and some foreigners; many of the Irish as well as Scotch are poor, and come up late to save money.’ Half of the students who took degrees in Glasgow are entered ‘Scoto-Hibernicus.’”

– Dr. Thomas Reid, professor at University of Glasgow, referring to the enrollment of Presbyterian divinity students at Glasgow. (Henry Grey Graham, The Social Life of Scotland in the Eighteenth Century, 455; see also Leyburn, 329)

January 27, 1710: Rev. Gideon Johnson, Anglican Commissary to the Colony of South Carolina, reported that an Anglican minister accused him of being an “Irish Rappree and Scotch-Irish Lillibolero.”

– Rev. Gideon Johnson, in a letter to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, dated January 27, 1710, cited in Frank J. Klineberge, ed., Carolina Chronicles: The Papers of Commissary Gideon Johnston, 1707-1716, in L. K. Koontz and D. K. Bjork, et. al., eds., University of California Publications in History, XXXV: 172. (Hudson, 6)

September 1723: “They call themselves Scotch-Irish,–ignavus pecus,–and the bitterest railers against the church [of England] that ever trod upon American ground.”

– Rev. George Ross, Anglican missionary of the Society for the Propogation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, New Castle, Delaware, regarding settlers in Delaware. (Leyburn, 329-330)

October 11, 1728: “The first settlers of this county were for the far greatest part originally English, but of late years great numbers of Irish (who usually call themselves Scotch-Irish) have transplanted themselves and their families from the north of Ireland.”

– Rev. William Becket, Anglican minister of Lewes, Delaware, regarding settlers in Sussex County, Delaware, cited in “The Rev. William Becket’s Notices and Letters Concerning Incidents at Lewes Town, 1721-1742,” Manuscripts of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 21. (Dunaway, 8; Leyburn, 330, 353)

December 19, 1730: “This is the most audacious attack that has ever yet been offered. They are of the Scotch-Irish (so called here) of whom J. Steel tells me you seem’d to have a pretty good opinion but it is more than I can have tho’ [I am] their countryman.”

– James Logan, secretary to the Penn family, in a letter to Thomas Penn, in The Penn Manuscripts, Official Correspondence, 1683-1727, II:145. (Dunaway, 8; Leyburn, 330)

September 1737: “We hear from Pennsylvania, That several Ships have arriv’d there, and in the Three Lower Counties, within a few Weeks past, from the North of Ireland, and from Holland, and have brought a great Number of Irish, Scotch-Irish, and Palatines, Passengers.”

– Editor’s preface to a letter from James Murray of Pennsylvania to Rev. Baptist Boyd of County Tyrone, Ulster, reprinted in Virginia Gazette, September 30-October 7, 1737. (see also Montgomery, 3)

1740’s: A Marylander was accused of murdering the sheriff of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, after having called that officer and his assistants “damned Scotch-Irish sons of bitches.”

– Hubertis Cummings, Richard Peters, Provincial Secretary and Cleric, 1704-1776 (Philadelphia, 1944), 142. (Leyburn, 330, 353)

June 21, 1744: The inhabitants of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, are “chiefly High-Dutch, Scotch-Irish, [and] some few English families.”

– W. Marshe, in his journal, cited in The Oxford English Dictionary, 1982 Supplement. (Hudson, 7)

1755: “They are a Colony from Ireland removed from Pennsylvania of what we call Scotch-Irish Presbyterians who with others in the neighboring Tracts had settled together in order to have a teacher, i.e., a minister of their own opinion and choice.”

– Arthur Dobbs, Governor of North Carolina, regarding seventy-five families who settled on land he owned in North Carolina, cited in Colonial Records of North Carolina, V:356. See also R. D. W. Connor, Race Elements in the White Population of North Carolina (Raleigh, 1920), 85. (Spence, 7; Leyburn, 215-216, 221)

June 6, 1756: “WHEREAS some ill disposed Persons, regardless of Truth and Honor, have industriously spread a Report very detrimental as well to the private Reputation, as Publick Character, of NATHANIEL GRUBB, one of the Members of the House of Assembly of this Province, asserting that the said Nathaniel, being informed that sundry of the Back Inhabitants were cut off, and destroyed by our savage Enemies, replied, ‘That there were only some Scotch Irish kill’d, who could well enough be spared.’”

– Letter from Nathaniel Grubb, dated June 6, 1756, and printed in the Pennsylvania Gazette, June 10, 1756. (see also Montgomery, 3)

Hanna gives the following background for this quote, although he assigns a later date to the incident:

“As early as 1763-64 we find them [the Scotch-Irish] mentioned by the name ‘Scotch-Irish’ in the Legislature of the Province of Pennsylvania, when one Nathaniel Grubb, a member of the Assembly from Chester County so denominated the Paxtang settlers. These people had petitioned the Quaker government in vain for protection from the murderous attacks of the savages; and finally, despairing of help from that source, some of them took the law into their own hands and made an indiscriminate slaughter of such Indians as they could find in their neighborhood. In denouncing this action to his fellow Quakers, Grubb referred to these settlers as ‘a pack of insignificant Scotch-Irish, who, if they were all killed, could well enough be spared.’ (See, William H. Egle, History of Dauphin County, Penna., p. 60)” (Hanna, 26)

1757: “The number of white people in Virginia, is between sixty and seventy thousand; and they are growing every day more numerous, by the migration of the Irish, who not succeeding so well in Pensylvania as the more frugal and industrious Germans, sell their lands in that province to the latter, and take up new ground in the remote counties in Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina. These are chiefly presbyterians from the Northern part of Ireland, who in America are generally called Scotch-Irish.”

– Edmund Burke, describing the migration of large numbers of settlers from Pennsylvania to the Southern colonies, in European Settlements in America (1757), II:216. (see also Hanna, I:27; Dunaway, 8)

1760’s: Winchester, Virginia, is a city “inhabited by a spurious race of mortals known by the appelation of Scotch-Irish.”

– Lord Adam Gordon, a Scottish nobleman who traveled through the colonies in the 1760’s, cited in Ian Charles Cargill Graham, Colonists from Scotland: Emigration to North America, 1707-1783, 18.

February 7, 1764: “The Presbyterians, who are the most numerous I imagine of any Denomination in the Province [Pennsylvania], are enraged at their being charged in bulk with these facts [a massacre of Conestoga Indians], under the name of Scotch-Irish, and other ill-natured titles, and that the killing of the Conestegoe Indians is compared to the Irish massacre and reckoned the most barbarous of either, so that things are grown to that pitch now that the country seems determined that no Indian Treaties shall be held, or savages maintained at the expense of the Province, unless his Majestie’s pleasure on these heads is well known; for I understand, to my great Satisfaction that amidst our great confusions there are none even of the most warm and furious tempers, but what are firmly attached to his Majesty, and would cheerfully risk their lives to promote his service.”

– Rev. John Elder of Paxtang, Pennsylvania, in a letter to Col. Edward Shippen, referring to the massacre of Conestoga Indians in December 1763. (Hanna, I:26; Dunaway, 7).

January 25, 1767: “I was obliged to travel upwards—having engaged my Self for next Sunday at the Settlement of Irish Presbyterians called the Waxaws, among whome were several [Anglican] Church people.

“This is a very fruitful fine Spot, thro’ which the dividing Line between North and South Carolina runs—The Heads of the P. D. [Peedee] River, Lynch’s Creek, and many other Creeks take their Rise in this Quarter—so that a finer Body of Land is no where to be seen—But it is occupied by a Sett of the most lowest vilest Crew breathing—Scotch Irish Presbyterians from the North of Ireland—They have built a Meeting House and have a Pastor, a Scots Man among them. . . .”

– Rev. Charles Woodmason, Anglican minister preaching in the backcountry of South Carolina, in his journal. (Hooker, 14)

July 2, 1767: “. . . received an Invitation to preach to a Congregation on Granny Quarter Creek [South Carolina], which I attended next day, and found about 100 people assembled together. . . .

“Such a Pack I never met with—Neither English, Scots Irish, or Carolinian by birth—Neither of one Church or other or of any denomination by Profession, not having (like some of the Lynchs Creek people) ever seen a Minister—heard or read a Chapter in the Scriptures, or heard a Sermon in their days.”

– Rev. Charles Woodmason. (Hooker, 23)

July 17, 1768: “For altho’ he [Chief Justice Charles Shinner of South Carolina] was a Gentleman of Ireland, yet he abominated these Northern Scotch Irish and they are certainly the worst Vermin on Earth.”

– Rev. Charles Woodmason. (Hooker, 50)

October 22, 1772: An advertisement in the Virginia Gazette reported that Jack, a literate runaway Negro farrier, “speaks in the Scotch-Irish dialect, and in conversation frequently uses the words moreover and likewise.”

– Virginia Gazette, October 22, 1772. (Bridenbaugh, 169; Fischer, 652)

January 18, 1778: “Call this war [the American War for Independence], dearest friend, by whatsoever name you may, only call it not an American Rebellion, it is nothing more nor less than an Irish-Scotch Presbyterian Rebellion.”

– Captain Johann Heinrichs of the Hessian Jäger Corps, in a letter from Philadelphia, to “the Honorable Counsellor of the Court, H.,” cited in Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. XXII, No. 2 (1898), p. 137. (see also Hanna, I:155)

1789: The Irish of Pennsylvania “have sometimes been called Scotch-Irish to denote their double descent.”

– J. Morse, American Geography, 313, cited in The Oxford English Dictionary, 1982 Supplement. (Hudson, 7)

1800: “I ought perhaps to except [from the universal prevalence of dialect] the United States of America, in which dialect is hardly known; unless some scanty remains of the croaking, gutteral [sic] idioms of the Dutch, still observable in New York; the Scotch-Irish, as it used to be called, in some of the back settlers of the Middle States; and the whining, canting drawl brought by some republican, Oliverian and Puritan emigrants fom the West of England, and still kept up by their unregenerated descendants of New England – may still be called dialects. . . .”

– Jonathan Boucher, cited in Allen Walker Read, “British Recognition of American Speech in the Eighteenth Century,” Dialect Notes (1933), 6:313-334. (Montgomery, 4)

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bridenbaugh, Carl. Myths and Realities: Societies of the Colonial South. Baton Rouge:

Louisiana State University Press, 1952.

Burke, Edmund. An Account of the European Settlements in America. London: R. and

J. Dodsley, 1758. Reprinted New York: Research Reprints, Inc., 1970.

Dunaway, Wayland F. The Scotch-Irish of Colonial Pennsylvania. Chapel Hill:

University of North Carolina Press, 1944; reprinted Baltimore:

Genealogical Publishing Company, 1979.

Fischer, David Hackett. Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America. New York:

Oxford University Press, 1989.

Graham, Henry Grey. The Social Life of Scotland in the Eighteenth Century. London:

Adam and Charles Black, 1899, rev. and reprinted 1901.

Graham, Ian Charles Cargill. Colonists from Scotland: Emigration to North America,

1707-1783. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press for The American Historical

Association, 1956.

Hanna, Charles A. The Scotch-Irish, or the Scot in North Britain, North Ireland and

North America. 2 vols. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1902.

Hooker, Richard J., ed. The Carolina Backcountry on the Eve of the Revolution: The

Journal and Other Writings of Charles Woodmason, Anglican Itinerant. Chapel

Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1953.

Hudson, Rev. Thomas F. “The Source of the Term Scotch-Irish.” Selected Proceedings

of Scotch-Irish Heritage Festival, II at Winthrop College, November 17-19, 1983.

Ed. Jack W. Weaver. Baton Rouge, LA: VAAPR, Inc., 1984. 1-10.

Leyburn, James G. The Scotch-Irish: A Social History. Chapel Hill: University of North

Carolina Press, 1962.

Montgomery, Michael. “Eighteenth-Century Nomenclature for Ulster Emigrants.” The

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Spence, Thomas Hugh Jr. The Presbyterian Congregation on Rocky River. Concord,

NC: Kingsport Press, Inc., for Rocky River Presbyterian Church, 1954.

White, Henry Alexander. Southern Presbyterian Leaders. New York: The Neale

Publishing Company, 1911.

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