Ulster and North America: Transatlantic Perspectives on the Scotch-Irish

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Ulster and North America: transatlantic perspectives on the Scotch-Irish

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The charge was a total fabrication. However, these stereotyped and negative images reflect only one segment of a diverse immigrant group, which also contributed to the Philadelphia region in many positive ways. Although the backcountry academy was short-lived, its alumni would have a profound impact on both American Presbyterianism and education.

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Finley later served as president of this prestigious institution, which by that time had been renamed Princeton University. However, he is better known for his missionary work among Native Americans and families living in the scattered settlements along the western frontier. Join the discussion at a Greater Philadelphia Roundtable or add your nomination online. Philadelphia was one of their principal destinations. After , when faced with deteriorating economic conditions and mounting religious and political persecution as dissenting Protestants not members of the official, state-sponsored Church of Ireland in Ireland, and later, after the failed Uprising a rebellion of Irish Protestants and Catholics that aimed to overthrow British rule and establish a republic and the British crackdown that followed it, they chose to migrate again.

This time, the Scots Irish came to America, migrating as servants and free people, individuals and families, and sometimes as political exiles and refugees. They arrived in two major waves at the ports of New Castle, Delaware, and Philadelphia between and and then again between and The Mid-Atlantic, particularly Pennsylvania, was thus the first American home of the Scots Irish, serving as the cradle for their culture. Pennsylvania had much to offer them. Because of the value proprietor William Penn — had placed on religious tolerance in planning his colony, Pennsylvania had a pluralistic society where these Scots Irish Presbyterians would no longer be stigmatized as dissenters.

An expanding flaxseed trade with Ireland during the eighteenth century, one closely tied to the immigrant trade, offered immigrant Scots Irish merchants abundant commercial opportunities in Philadelphia and encouraged farm families to continue the linen production they had done in Ireland in America. The growing colony and its practice of purchasing lands from Indians also offered newcomers abundant rural lands and a generally peaceful climate in which to settle.

Finally, with Philadelphia as the headquarters of the Presbyterian Church in America, the Delaware Valley also offered Scots Irish Presbyterians the promise of a spiritual home.

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Yet these stereotyped and negative images are only partly correct. While many did settle on the Pennsylvania frontier, many others did not; not all Scots Irish were country bumpkins and gun-toting ruffians.

The Scots-Irish musical legacy in the USA

Many Scots Irish individuals and families, who ranged in status from impoverished indentured servants, to middling shopkeepers and traders, to wealthy Atlantic World merchants and professional men, made their homes in urban Philadelphia and its hinterlands and in other, smaller interior Pennsylvania towns such as Carlisle, Easton, Bedford, and Pittsburgh.

They did not farm, but traded, retailed goods or services, practiced professions or trades, or labored as servants. And while some did live in log cabins, many others resided in stylish stone and brick homes where they enjoyed the kind of cosmopolitan lifestyle that other elite Americans did, albeit with a Scot-Irish emphasis on family, church, and education. When the Ulster-born minister Francis Makemie — founded the first presbytery in the colonies at Philadelphia in , Presbyterians claimed the Delaware Valley as their own.

The establishment of their first American synod at Philadelphia and the creation of new presbyteries at New Castle, Delaware, and Long Island, New York, cemented these regional ties in Presbyterian minister William Tennent founded this school in to train evangelically-minded clergy. Scots Irish Presbyterians also had a profound impact on higher education in the region.

When the transatlantic religious revival known as the Great Awakening approximately —60 bitterly split Scots Irish Presbyterians into New Sides who favored conversion and Old Sides who adhered to the primacy of scripture, it heightened Presbyterian commitments to education.

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New Side Presbyterian evangelicals such as the Ulster-born Rev. William Tennent bolstered their influence by founding schools to train evangelically minded, converted clergy. Old Side Presbyterians responded by founding their own schools. The Ulster-born Rev. Francis Alison established his New London Academy in in Chester County it was later moved to Newark, Delaware, and evolved into the University of Delaware and served as vice provost at the College of Philadelphia University of Pennsylvania until his death in Later, long after the church repaired this schism and reunited, Benjamin Rush and a group of Old Side Presbyterians chartered Dickinson College in Carlisle in In politics, the Scots Irish held many critical political leadership positions in the state.

Ulster and North America: Transatlantic Perspectives on the Scotch-Irish

Although that government model lasted only until , it was the most radical state government of the revolutionary period. Despite such gains, Scots Irish influence gradually waned during the nineteenth century. This happened in part because the new waves of more predominately Irish Catholic immigrants who began to arrive after , and especially during the famine migrations of the late s and s, challenged what it meant to be Irish in America.

Some of their working-class members took to the streets to join other nativists in violent anti-Catholic riots, and they supported the anti-immigrant platform of the Know-Nothing Party during the s. While some stayed in Pennsylvania, many other families left the region in search of new opportunities elsewhere beginning in the eighteenth century. Later, they traveled other overland routes across the Appalachian Mountains to pioneer the American Midwest and states such as Kentucky and Tennessee.

It is no surprise, then, that according to U. Census data from , only 1. Thanks to several centuries of migration, Scots Irish had become more often associated with the hillbilly culture of southern Appalachia or the cracker culture of the Deep South than with the mid-Atlantic region.


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Judith Ridner is an associate professor of history at Mississippi State University. Bankhurst, Benjamin. Ulster Presbyterians and the Scots Irish Diaspora, —