Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Refugees Welcome? Not in New England in 1718

A South East View of the City of Boston in North America 1

Above: Boston, 1730

"But what shall be done for the great number of people that are transporting themselves thither from ye North of Ireland?” - Cotton Mather

Mather's family were familiar with Dublin life, his father was at Trinity College and his two uncles were rectors in the city. He wrote letters to 'diverse persons of honour' with the aim of attracting them to the New World. He had a fair idea of the type of people who would come, not urban Dubliners, but northern Presbyterians with the Siege of Derry still in their veins. He hoped they would in some way be similar to Francis Makemie, who had made a huge impact since his arrival in 1683, and whose work he greatly admired. But not everyone was so keen when the Ulster-Scots turned up:

"... The early ties of religious sympathy and common purpose of the two countries were such that it was natural for Ulster emigration to set strongly toward New England. But when the Scotch-Irish began to arrive in Boston in large numbers, they were not entirely welcome. Their ministers were received with marked courtesy by such leading citizens as Cotton Mather and Samuel Sewall, but in general the large arrivals of 1718 appear to have been viewed with anxiety. In July and August Scotch-Irish arrivals in Boston numbered between five and seven hundred. On August 13 the selectmen chose an agent to appear in court, "to move what he shall think proper in order to secure this town from charges which may happen to accrue or be imposed on them by reason of the passengers lately arrived here from Ireland or elsewhere." In the course of the winter a number were warned to leave or find sureties for their support ..."
– Henry Jones Ford, The Scotch-Irish in America (1915)