Preface: Scotch and Irish Seeds in American Soil

By Rev. J. G. Craighead



Two objects have been before my mind while preparing this volume:

First, to show the indebtedness of the American Presbyterian Church to the churches of Scotland and Ireland for the elements which entered into its original constitution, as also for its subsequent rapid growth and influence. In attempting this it was thought to be more important to bring clearly to view the principles and character of the ministers and members of those churches who came to this country, and identified themselves with the Presbyterian Church, than simply to point out their number or the periods of their arrival. Numbers alone might have been of comparatively little value, as they might have proved the means of discord, and consequently a source of weakness rather than of strength. But if the character of a people is strong, reliable, courageous, based on correct principles and built up into symmetry by conscientious adherence to convictions of right and duty, their numbers may be small and yet their influence be powerful and permanent.

If, then, we would understand how valuable was the contribution that Scotland and Ireland made to the Presbyterianism of this country, we must consider the previous religious condition of each, and the influences, favorable or otherwise, under which the religious life of the people was developed. In this way we can see how these future colonists were educated and disciplined in the Old World for the great work God in his providence had for them to do in the New.

The second object was to bring into propel prominence and perspicuity the principles of religious and civil freedom for which the Presbyterians of Scotland and Ireland so long battled, and to maintain which all of them were called to endure protracted persecution, and many thousands of them to lay down their lives. As the union of Church and State in those countries was so close and dependent, so the relation between civil and religious liberty was so intimately conjoined that those who contended for the one necessarily promoted the other; and, as a matter of fact, the two have ever existed together and neither can long survive without the other. The Presbyterians, therefore, while contending even unto blood for the headship of Christ over his Church, and for its freedom from the yoke of kingly or priestly authority, were naturally and necessarily the friends and supporters of the rights of the people as against the usurpations and exactions of despotic rulers.

In the perusal of this history the reader will notice: First, that the views of these Presbyterians were more accurate respecting religious liberty than were those of the Puritans who settled New England. Under the latter a law was enacted in Massachusetts in 1631 uniting the Church and State, with the provision that no one should vote unless he had been baptized in his youth and was a church member. Their desire was to found a theocracy, and therefore they adopted measures to unite the religious and civil power practically. Our Presbyterian fathers, on the other hand, distinctly discerned the separate province or sphere of each; and while unwilling to allow the Church to be controlled by the secular power, they neither asked its help nor depended upon it for authority or support. From their entrance into this country, as may be seen by their conduct in Virginia and New York, they opposed everything that looked like a union of Church and State or any dependence of the Church on the arm of civil power.

The second noticeable thing is, that in the long contests between these monarchical governments and their subjects, the natural and constant allies of despotism were the Romish and Episcopal hierarchies. These were ever the most dangerous as well as the most inveterate enemies of the nonconformists when they were resisting tyrants. Presbyterians, at least, had most to dread from Episcopal prelates, and from them they suffered most. The Episcopal Church was more frequently in the ascendant, and had much the greater influence with the civil rulers. This influence it almost invariably used to oppress all outside of its own communion. If, then, in our endeavor to present a truthful picture of these times we have occasionally spoken with severity of the prelates of the Established Church of England and Ireland, it is because the facts of history have compelled the statements.

In describing the development of these fundamental principles in these countries I have had no wish to undervalue the part taken by the Puritans from England, the Dutch from Holland, or the Huguenots from France, in their steadfast maintenance of those principles both in Europe and in this country. While the writer believes that the Scotch and the Scotch-Irish had clearer conceptions of the relations which ought to exist between the Church and the State, and were consequently foremost and most resolute in their defence of the same, he freely acknowledges that civil and religious liberty in America had no abler champions than were the emigrants from those countries. Of this fact he would have made more frequent mention had it come within the scope of the present volume, and had not this congenial subject been treated already by many and more competent writers.

It is greatly to be desired that the youth of the Presbyterian Church of this country should familiarize themselves with the history of the perscutions and sufferings endured by their Scotch and Scotch-Irish ancestors, and with the character and services of those heroes of the Church who maintained with such fortitude their conscientious views of civil and religious liberty, and who, in coming to America, brought their principles with them and did so much to have them engrafted into our republican institutions. Such an acquaintance with the origin and defence of the great cardinal principles of the polity and government of the Presbyterian Church would inevitably lead them to reverence the memories of the departed worthies of the Church, and to love and perpetuate their simple and scriptural faith and forms of worship.

It is impossible to state with any accuracy all the sources of information from which I have derived the materials for this volume. For those which pertain to the history of the Scotch and Irish churches I am indebted of necessity to the standard histories of those countries. The facts connected with the emigration from those lands, and the influence of the colonists upon Church and State in America, have been gleaned from a large number of volumes and pamphlets. Not unfrequently much care and research have been requisite to discover or verify a single incident or event; but the labor has been one of love, and rendered from a desire to be useful.

Contents | Chapter I.