Friday, January 15, 2010

The term "Scotch-Irish", and the Scotch-Irish Society of America

John Hall.jpg

(NB: If you're reading this on Facebook, the original post is from my blog)

"...I have sometimes noticed a little confusion of mind in relation to the phrase "Scotch-Irish," as if it meant that Scotch people had come over and intermarried with the native Irish, and that thus a combination of two races, two places, two nationalities had taken place. That is by no means the state of the case. On the contrary, with kindly good feeling in various directions, the Scotch people kept to the Scotch people, and they are called Scotch-Irish from purely local, geographical reasons, and not from any union of the kind that I have alluded to. I haven't the least doubt that their being in Ireland and in close contact with the native people of that land, and their circumstances there, had some influence in the developing of the character, in the broadening of the sympathies, in the extending of the range of thought and action of the Scotch-Irish people; but they are Scotch through and through, they are Scottish out and out, and they are Irish because, in the providence of God, they were sent for some generations to the land that I am permitted to speak of as the land of my birth..."

- from this address by Rev Dr John Hall (shown here) of New York, 1892.

Hall (1829 - 1898) was originally from Armagh, had been appointed minister of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York, in 1867. He graduated from Princeton in 1875, and returned to Ulster in 1890. The following year, he addressed the Scotch-Irish Society of the USA and said "...I never saw the province present such a look of prosperity as it did last year... there was never so much money in circulation in legitimate ways among the people... I was born there and brought up there, and I labored for years in Ulster as a minister...I brought from that country two things that would have a great influence on my life. The first of these is a pronounced conviction of the unspeakable value of a definite religious belief, and the second of these is a wife of whom I am bound to say here that for all these years she has exercised over me that kind of Home Rule of which—[Here the speaker's voice was drowned with applause and laughter]..." So even in 1890s America, there was a high awareness of political events in Ulster! An excellent biography of Hall, written by his son Thomas C Hall DD, is available here:

"...One of the keen pleasures of his life was the recurring conventions of the Scotch-Irish in America. He looked forward with what was for him eager pleasure to these was my father's lot to preach before the convention, and nowhere did he ever feel more completely in touch with his audience than when taking part in the 'old-time meeting' which formed a part of the convention's exercises..." (p 296)

The Proceedings of the Scotch-Irish Society are great bound volumes from the late 1800s and early 1900s. I have two full sets of them I've gathered up over the years, but of course these days they can be found on the Net. Here are the links to readable, text-searchable versions:

First Congress (Columbia, Tennessee, 1889)
Second Congress (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1890)
Third Congress (Louisville, Kentucky 1891)
Fourth Congress (Atlanta, Georgia, 1892)
Fifth Congress (Springfield, Ohio, 1893)
Sixth Congress (Des Monies, Iowa, 1894)
Seventh Congress (Lexington, Virginia, 1895)
Eighth Congress (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1896)
Ninth Congress (Knoxville, Tennessee, 1900)
Tenth Congress (Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, 1901)

Some of the content has definitely dated and was a product of its time, however there's mountains of very valuable stuff in them too.

(PS - Hall's biography says he was a close friend, when a student for the ministry, of Matthew Kerr, the author of "The Ulster revival of the seventeenth century", published in 1859. Hall himself had reservations about some of the events of the 1859 Revival).

(PPS: The Scotch-Irish Society of the United States of America welcomes membership applications and can be found online here.)