by Arthur Steele
As a teen-ager my father told me that our "Steele's came from Pennsylvania, they were Scotch-Irish and they didn't like the Stuarts." I knew about Pennsylvania - both what and where. I was not at all sure what Scotch-Irish really meant, I reckoned it was a mixture of Scots and Irish bloodlines. I had no idea what the Stuart remark meant. Since then I have read several histories of the Scotch-Irish and now have a better appreciation of who they are. I also learned that the "Stuart's" refers to the royal family of Scotland of historical fame. I can recommend one of the Scotch-Irish history books highly. The book is: "The Scotch-Irish - A Social History" by James G. Leyburn. It is a very well researched book which traces the Scotch-Irish, as a race, back to their Scotland beginnings and shows how they developed into the frontiersmen of the new American colonies.
The following description is a short summary of who the Scotch-Irish really are.
Who are the "Scotch-Irish"?
Beginning in about 1606, Lowland Scots were encouraged by the English Crown to settle in what is now Northern Ireland. Many of these Scots were living in dire poverty under feudal lords in Scotland and were glad to move anywhere. It was expected that they would make Ireland more economically prosperous and, incidentally, exert a Protestant influence on that Catholic land. You will sometimes see these referred to as the "Ulster Plantations" and it is important to note that these people were simply Scots who lived and worked in Ireland for about three generations. The name "Scotch-Irish" is a peculiarly American term for these Scots and has never been used in Ireland or England as they referred to these Scots as "Ulster Scots".
The Ulster Scots, in fact, created such a successful economy (primarily in dairy products and wool) that they gave stiff competition to the English who responded by passing laws greatly restricting the exportation of Scot products. One of the laws most harmful to the Ulster Scots was the Woolens Act of 1699. Other negative things happened also; as land leases expired, those who held the leases were often cheated out of the land they had improved and farmed for years and had to leave it. The English then cracked down on religion (virtually all the Scots were Presbyterian and most were very devout). The Test Act of 1703 required office-holders to take the sacrament in the Church of England and held that if you had been married in any but the Church of England (Episcopal) you were a fornicator and your children were bastards. There were other ramifications too, and, in addition to all of this, a series of natural disasters (epidemics, sheep rot, and severe frosts and drought years) contributed to a general dissatisfaction among the Scots with life in Ireland.
By 1717 life had become nearly intolerable, and that was the year that more than five thousand Ulster Scots came to America. Between 1717 and 1775 a quarter of a million more Scots followed them to America. The name "Scotch-Irish" was soon given to these people who came from Ireland but insisted that they were Scots. The Scotch-Irish were superb frontiersmen (they had been trained in a hard school during their century in Ireland). The stereotypical American pioneer is in essence a portrait of the Scotch-Irish, who in time had great influence on the developing nation and the American character. They were known for their feistiness and their insistence on "squatting" on land that was not in use. They were the original frontiersmen during the "French-Indian" war in the 1750's where they developed a reputation for being great "Indian Fighters", particularly in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania was a favorite target for Ulster Scot migration to America due to the religious freedom policies of William Penn and the "Quakers". From Pennsylvania many of the Scotch-Irish migrated toward the southwest via the Great Valley, which took them down a Pennsylvania valley to the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. From there they migrated further south and west into the Carolina's, Kentucky and Tennessee. The Shenandoah Valley became known as an "Irish" stronghold, which affected Virginia politics as did the "Irish" in Pennsylvania soon oust the Quakers as policy makers. Reference to the "Irish" during colonial times usually meant the "Scotch-Irish," as they were much more numerous than the "Irish" Irish were.
The first non-English President of the US was a Scotch-Irishman named Andrew Jackson. This maverick President was typical of the Scotch-Irish. He was tough, stubborn and relentless - he was a frontiersman and an Indian fighter.
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