Ron Chepesiuk,
The Scotch-Irish:
From the North of Ireland
to the Making of America

(McFarland, 2005)

The story of the Scotch-Irish begins with the Celts from Ireland migrating into Scotland and gradually driving out or assimilating the Picts who already were there. They did such a good job that the language and culture of the Picts has almost been lost; the language of Scotland became Gaelic.

When England conquered Ireland, the English government invited or encouraged Englishmen and Scotsmen to move to Ireland in order to help quell Irish rebellions and make Ireland a colony. As settlers (more Scottish than English) arrived, the Irish lost much of their best land. The English government especially wanted northern Ireland (Ulster) under its control, and Scots (primarily Protestants/Presbyterians) took advantage of the situation.

But the Scots in Ireland proved troublesome as well, opposing the Church of England to join English Puritans against King Charles I and later against King James II in favor of King William and Queen Mary. Some Scotch-Irish decided they wanted more freedoms from government interference, so they sailed to America.

They were sadly disappointed at first. The Puritans of New England did not want them around, nor did settlers in New Jersey. Several southern colonies were more welcoming, however, and the Quakers of Pennsylvania urged the Scotch-Irish newcomers to make homes in the western portion of their colony. But, once there, they and German settlers began to oppose Quaker leadership after anti-war Quakers failed to aid them during the French & Indian War. The Scotch-Irish and Germans were able to overcome the Quakers' opposition and gain help from the government.

The Scotch-Irish most of the time did not try to retain their nationality or culture when they came to America. They wanted a fresh start in a new land. Many Scotch-Irish were supporters of the American Revolution, and many of George Washington's soldiers came from their ranks. After the revolution, the Scotch-Irish continued to have a great impact on the United States and its expansion. Twelve American presidents can trace their heritage to the Scotch-Irish.

Ron Chepesiuk is a professor and the head of the special collections at Winthrop University. He is the author of Sixties Radicals: Then & Now (1995), Raising Hell (1997) and Hard Target (1999).

Chepesiuk's book is a very interesting and readable history that includes end notes and a bibliography for further reading. The appendix has Scotch-Irish sites of historical interest in the north of Ireland. Some of these are the ancestral homes of the families of some of the presidents of the U.S. This book is recommended for public and academic libraries. It is also recommended to those interested in Scotch-Irish history, the history of Ireland and the history of the Scotch-Irish in early America.

by Benet Exton
11 February 2006

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