Friday, April 07, 2017

That elusive George Washington quote - and his letter to the "Yankee Club" of Stewartstown, County Tyrone

David reed marker

You know the one. That one. It’s mentioned in this excellent article by Dr Donald Fortson of Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. I have never been able to find a primary source for it, and neither have any real scholars who I have known for many many years.

But, as they say, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. It might yet turn up. Here is a very similar account, quoted by the then Governor of Ohio, and future President, William McKinley, at Springfield in 1893, addressing the Congress of the Scotch-Irish Society of the USA –

“… While he is distinctive as a type, the Scotch-Irishman is a racial evolution the result of a slow fusion of diverse characteristics. It is said of the Scotch-Irish that they are doers rather than talkers or writers. True, they have been builders; and their foundations were deep and strong and enduring. They have builded for the ages, but they write and talk quite as well as other races. Their deeds in behalf of American independence should ever be cherished in patriotic remembrance; and it is a remarkable fact as observed by those who have taken the trouble to examine the matter that it is only within the past few years that recorded history has given just credit to the sturdy race, to whom Washington looked as his never failing support and as his forlorn hope when all others should have left him, when defeat should have encompassed him. Representatives of the Scotch-Irish race are among the brightest names in American history. They have shone in every great epoch of national life. So long as there is a struggle for human liberty, so long as patriotism has a place in the American heart, that long will the name and fame of your ancestors be preserved and enshrined…"

Washington’s 1932 Bicentennial publication has a small section entitled ‘The Scotch Irish’ (click here) which refers to the David Reed in the signpost marker above.


Washington received a letter from Ulster in 1784:

(or Freeman's Chronicle)


You will be pleased to convey through the medium of your
extensive paper the following Address of the Yankee Club of
Stewartstown, to George Washington, and his Excellency's
Answer; as I am sure it was the intention of Mr. Campbell
Dick, of Philadelphia, my brother-in-law, the transmitter
(who is a strenuous advocate for Independence) to pay at
least equal respect to your paper, which was purposely set
up to support the expiring Freedom of the Press, in this
part of the Kingdom
I am, Sir, with every testimony of respect,

Your sincere friend and very humble servant,

Sept. 29, 1784


To which this reply was sent:

To the Yankee Club of Stewartstown, in the County of
Tyrone, and Province of Ulster, Ireland.


It is with unfeigned satisfaction I accept your
congratulations on the late happy and glorious revolution.
The generous indignation, against the foes to the rights of
human nature, with which you seem to be animated, and the
exalted sentiments of liberty, which you appear to entertain;
are too constant to the feelings and principles of the.
citizens of the United States of America, not to attract
their veneration and esteem; did not the affectionate and
anxious concern with which you regarded their struggle for
freedom and independence, entitle you to their more
particular acknowledgements.
If in the course of our successful contest, any good
consequence have resulted to the oppressed Kingdom of
Ireland, it will afford a new source of felicitation to all
who respect the interests of humanity.
I am now, Gentlemen, to offer you my best thanks for the
indulgent sentiments you are pleased to express of my
conduct; and for you benevolent wishes respecting my
personal welfare, as well as with regard to a more
interesting object - the prosperity of my country. I have
the honour to be, with due consideration, gentlemen, your.
most obedient servant.


Mount Vernon in Virginia, Jan. 20, 1784


gutcher said...

A David Reid [Reed] fought at the battle of Bothwell Brig. He was Reid of Holehouse of Eaglesham which lies not a great distance from the home of other Reids who fought at that battle and was most likely related to them.