Friday, March 16, 2012

Liberty and St Patrick, 17 March 1764 - "the Christian white savages of Peckstang and Donegall"


Benjamin Franklin wasn't overly fussed about the Ulster-Scots who were filling Pennsylvania. Some have said that he feared the strength of their numbers, and the decline of Quaker control (much of which had been built up by Ulster-born James Logan). A group of them, known locally as the Paxton Boys, had killed 20 Conestoga Indians around 1763. Outraged, Franklin put pen to paper and wrote a famous response entitled A Narrative of the Late Massacres, in Lancaster County, of a Number of Indians, Friends of this Province, by Persons Unknown With Some Observations on the Same (link here). Persons unknown? Hardly, he probably knew them by name. He described the Scotch-Irish as 'the Christian white savages of Peckstang and Donegall'.

Incensed by what he regarded as Franklin's one-sided account of the context and events, a Carrickmacross (County Monaghan) born Anglican itinerant missionary, Thomas Barton (1730-1780), responded with his own publication The Conduct of the Paxton-men, Impartially Represented (link here). He quoted a Quaker member of the assembly for Chester County, Nathaniel Grubb, who in 1755 in an 'unChristian and ungenerous speech' had described the Ulster settlers as 'a pack of insignificant Scotch-Irish, who, if they were all killed, could well enough be spared' (source here). Grubb later denied he had ever said such thing. Barton believed the Pennsylvania authorities had left the Scotch-Irish communities unprotected for many years, and therefore they had a right to self-defence.

Here's the main point for today. He signed it off as follows:

Dated from my Farm-House, March 17th, 1764
A Day dedicated to Liberty and St Patrick.

So in Scotch-Irish frontier Pennsylvania of 1764, St Patrick's Day was being observed.


Citizen_69 said...

Yes, both the Charitable Irish Society (formed 1737)and the Friendly Sons Of St. Patrick (formed 1771) who organised the first St. Patrick's day parades in Boston & New York respectively were both overwhelmingly Scotch-Irish in membership.