Scotch-Irish Emigration to America (2) - Scotch-Irish in America

Henry Jones Ford
CHAPTER V (2) Start of Section

Reid says that during 1684 the greater part of the ministers composing the Presbytery of Laggan intimated their intention of removing to America "because of persecutions and general poverty abounding in those parts, and on account of their straits and little or no access to their ministry." But it does not appear that they put that design into effect, for with the death of Charles II. the following year the pressure relaxed. The persecutions to which the Ulster Presbyterians were exposed were less severe than those from which the Scotch Presbyterians were then suffering. There can be no doubt that the religious motive was an important factor in Scotch emigration at this period. In 1684 and 1685 bodies of Scotch people fleeing from persecution landed in East Jersey. George Scot, Laird of Pitlochie, who was active in the movement, gave as his reason for the enterprise that "there are several people in this kingdom, who, upon account of their not going that length in conformity required of them by the law, do live very uneasy; who, beside the other agreeable accommodations of that place may there freely enjoy their own principles without hazard or trouble." In a volume which he published in Edinburgh describing conditions and opportunities in East Jersey, he made this mention of the Scotch-Irish in Maryland:

"I had an account lately from an acquaintance of mine, that the Province of Ulster, where most of our nation are seated, could spare forty thousand men and women to an American plantation, and be sufficiently peopled itself. The gentleman who gave me this information is since settled in Maryland; the account he sends of that country is so encouraging that I hear a great many of his acquaintances are making for that voyage."

It is evident from this that there was a particularly close connection between Ulster and the Chesapeake Bay settlements at this period. Additional evidence of this is furnished by the fact that the congregation on Elizabeth River, Virginia, to which Makemie ministered for a time, obtained his successor from the bounds of Laggan Presbytery. He was Josias McKee, son of Patrick McKee, of St. Johnstone, County Donegal. He probably began his ministry in 1691 and he continued pastoral work in the Elizabeth River country until his death in November, 1716.

These particulars, which we owe to the minute research made by historians of the American Presbyterian Church, afford conclusive evidence of the existence of distinctively Scotch-Irish settlements on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia considerably prior to 1680, and probably dating back to the immigration started in 1649. Doubtless, in view of the intimacy between Scotland and Ulster, there was some Ulster ingredient in Scotch trade and Scotch settlements in other American colonies during the seventeenth century but no record has been discovered of distinctively Scotch-Irish settlements at this period except in the Chesapeake Bay region. The records of ministerial supply are of themselves enough to show that the Scotch-Irish community was well established. Moreover, this supposition is confirmed by records preserved in the State Papers. In a report of July 19, 1677, Lord Baltimore gave this account of religious conditions in Maryland:

"That there are now four ministers of the Church of England residing there who have plantations of their own, and those who have not are maintained by voluntary contributions of their own persuasion, as others are of the Presbyterians, Independents, Anabaptists, Quakers and Romish church. That there are a sufficient number of churches and meeting houses for the people there which are kept in good repair by voluntary contributions. . . . That three-fourths of the inhabitants are Presbyterians, Independents, Anabaptists and Quakers, the rest being of the Church of England and Romish church."

The Presbyterians mentioned as maintaining ministers "of their own persuasion" may be taken to include the Scotch-Irish settlers. A more distinct reference appears in a later report made by Lord Baltimore, which was received by the Board of Trade on March 26, 1678. Replying to interrogatories from the English Government, Lord Baltimore says:

"All the planters in general affect the style of merchants, because they all sell tobacco, and their chief estate is the number of their servants, who serve generally five or six years, and then become planters and call themselves merchants. . . . Can give no probable guess of the number of masters or servants, nor of the number imported for any time, but are generally English and Irish."

We are not left to inference as to whether these "Irish" included Ulster Scots, for some years later we find the same Chesapeake Bay settlements appearing in the State Papers as distinctively Scotch-Irish. In the course of a long report, June 25, 1695, from Sir Thomas Laurence, Secretary of Maryland, the following occurs:

"In the two counties of Dorchester and Somerset, where the Scotch-Irish are most numerous, they almost clothe themselves by their linen and woolen manufactures and plant little tobacco, which learning from one another, they leave off planting. Shipping, therefore, and the bringing in of all manner of English clothing is to be encouraged, and if they be brought in at easy rates, the planter will live comfortably and will be induced to go on planting tobacco."

Laurence says that cotton weaving has begun in Virginia and that some few have begun to grow cotton in Maryland. He suggested that it be taken into consideration "whether an act of Parliament should not be passed to prevent the planting of cotton in these countries." This mention of the Scotch-Irish exhibits them as a community so long established that linen and woolen manufactures had attained considerable development. This circumstance tallies with the fact that so early as 1680 the community was large enough to issue a call for ministerial supply. There is no record of any other Scotch-Irish settlement in America at that time. The most likely place then would have been Massachusetts, but a report of Governor Bradstreet of May 18, 1680, on conditions in that colony says that very few English, Scots, Irish or foreigners had arrived there for seven years; that there were there then about 120 negroes "and it may be as many Scots bought and sold for merchants in the time of the war with Scotland . . . and about half so many Irish."

All accessible data indicate that the Chesapeake Bay settlements were the first distinctively Scotch-Irish settlements made in America. But these settlements left in the wake of the tobacco trade do not appear to have been important as a stage in the Scotch-Irish occupation of America. When the emigration from Ulster began on a large scale in the eighteenth century it turned chiefly to Pennsylvania. The Maryland settlements, however, possess much importance in connection with the planting of the Presbyterian Church in this country, as will appear when that branch of the subject comes up for consideration in the course of this history.

The economic conditions that occasioned a genuine exodus from Ulster early in the eighteenth century were the outcome of the narrow views of commercial policy that then inspired governmental action. Colonies and plantations were valued simply as a convenience to home interests and it was considered intolerable that they should develop industries of a competitive character. The anxiety which Sir Thomas Laurence expressed over the linen and woolen manufactures of the Scotch-Irish on the Eastern Shore of Maryland is quite typical. Strafford during his lieutenancy of Ireland showed genuine solicitude for the development of industry and yet his correspondence shows that he held that Irish enterprise in such an important English industry as woolen manufacture was reprehensible. After the Restoration, when Ireland began to recover from the Cromwellian wars, Irish exports of cattle excited the alarm of English landowners who complained that the competition of the Irish pastures was lowering English rents. Laws were accordingly enacted in 1665 and 1680 absolutely prohibiting the importation into England from Ireland of all cattle, sheep and swine, of beef, pork, bacon and mutton and even of butter and cheese.

This attitude was not peculiar to the Government of England but was just as strong in Scotland at that period. The Government of Scotland complained of the effect of English laws on Scottish industry and obtained some concessions, but meanwhile it subjected Ireland to worse treatment than that of which it complained when it was the sufferer. In February, 1667, on the urgent representation of Scottish traders, an embargo was laid on the importation of Irish cattle, salt beef, meal and all kinds of grain; and subsequently horses were added to the list. This embargo was probably more detrimental to Ulster than the English prohibition, and it explains "the general poverty abounding in those parts" mentioned as one of the reasons that in 1684 caused a general disposition toward emigration among the ministers of the Laggan Presbytery. One marked effect of this sort of legislation was to build up a smuggling trade that long abounded in Ulster and on the neighboring coasts of Scotland.

In addition to shutting Irish produce out of English markets, English commercial selfishness was as urgently solicitous that Irish enterprise should not invade the colonies and interfere with English trade there. They were England's colonies and it was held that Ireland had no right to participate in colonial trade. Acts passed in 1663, 1670 and 1696 excluded Irish vessels from the American trade and prohibited any importation directly from the colonies to Ireland. In the presence of such restraints upon the commerce of the country in its natural products, the industrial activity of the people sought an outlet in manufactures. Woolen manufacture, whose beginning in 1636 Strafford had discouraged, now revived. The quality of Irish wool was excellent and the cloth obtained such a reputation that industrial prospects became bright. Although shut out of Scotland, England and America, Ireland might trade with the rest of the world and in that way establish her prosperity. The Irish woolen trade became so important that it attracted capital and manufacturers from Scotland, England and even Continental Europe. But there was an important woolen industry in England whose loud complaints were soon voiced in Parliament. The House of Lords and the House of Commons both made urgent representations to King William that the English woolen manufacture was menaced by the Irish industry.

The memorial of the House of Commons urged William "to enjoin all those you employ in Ireland to make it their care, and use their utmost diligence to hinder the exportation of wool from Ireland, except it be imported hither, and for discouraging the woolen manufacture." The King promised to comply with the request and the Irish Parliament itself was submissive. At a session begun in September, 1698, the Irish House of Commons pledged its hearty endeavors to establish linen and hempen manufacture in Ireland, with the hope that there might be found "such a temperament" in respect to the woolen trade as would prevent it from being injurious to that of England. It then proceeded to impose heavy duties on the export of Irish woolen goods. But even this was not enough to satisfy the English woolen manufacturers. By existing laws Irish woolen manufactures were already excluded from the colonial market, and were virtually excluded from England by prohibitory duties. In 1699 the work of exclusion was completed by a law enacted by the British Parliament prohibiting the Irish from exporting manufactured wool to any other country whatever.

The main industry of Ireland was thus destroyed. Even the promise that encouragement would be shown to other manufactures was only partially and grudgingly fulfilled. It was not until 1705 that, at the urgent petition of the Irish Parliament, the Irish were allowed to export white and brown linens to the British colonies, but checked, striped and dyed linens were absolutely excluded, and no colonial goods could be brought directly to Ireland. Efforts to build up linen manufacture met with opposition in England on the ground that the competition of Irish linen with Dutch linen might hurt the Dutch market for English woolen manufactures, and would therefore be indirectly injurious to England. It was only after a hard struggle that the linen manufacture escaped the fate of the Irish woolen manufacture. Hempen manufacture was discouraged until it ceased. Indeed for a long period no exactions seemed too great to make upon Ireland. There was even agitation in favor of measures to prohibit all fisheries on the Irish shore except with boats built and manned by Englishmen.