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The Contribution of ULSTER
to the

First published by the Ulster-American Loyalists Association, Los Angeles California in 1976,
the Bicentennial Year of the American Revolution.

THE SCOTCH IRISHOverlaid with the Declaration of Independence, this flag from the period of the American Revolution shows the true spirit ot the Scotch-Irish.

Northern Ireland has a unique relationship with the United States as being the cradle of the Scotch Irish, the pioneers and frontiersmen of early American life. 

The part played by these settlers. descendants of low land Scots who had settled in the north of Ireland two hundred years earlier (hence the name Scotch Irish. has tended to be overshadowed by the tremendous 19th century emigration from other parts of Ireland to the United States. Yet the earlier Scotch Irish movement, small though it was by comparison and different in character, made an impact that was without parallel in early American history. From the Scotch Irish (or Ulster Scots as they are called in the British Isles) have been drawn more than a quarter of all the Presidents of the United States including the only three first generation Americans to achieve this office as well as State Governors, generals, writers, administrators, churchmen and teachers. Several signatories of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States were Scotch Irishmen from Ulster. 

In the early seventeenth century Ulster was settled by people from Britain In what is usually referred to as "the Plantation of Ulster." These people came mainly from the Scottish Lowlands By the end of the century there were over 100,000 Scots and 25,000 English in the Province. From these people emerged a new strain of Ulstermen the "Ulster Scots" or the "Scotch Irish" 

During the years 1717 to 1770 over 250,00 Ulstermen left home with their families to settle in America. There was a constant flow of people crossing the Atlantic from Ulster a flow which at frequent intervals became a torrent. These people did not emigrate solely of their own free will but rather for social and economic reasons. 

In the year 1718 five ships sailed from Ulster to America and one group of emigrants founded and settled the township of New Londonderry in New Hampshire.

Their educational standards were very high for people of their station in the early 18th century. They were mostly small farmers and labourers who had been living in a comparatively remote province of the United Kingdom. 

Ulstermen moved to the New World in such numbers that they became the most important element in the colonial population of America after the English. By the time the United States became independent one American in five was of Scotch Irish, i.e., Ulster stock. 

Ideally suited for the new life by reason of their experience as pioneers in Ulster, their qualities of character and their Ulster Scottish background, they made a unique contribution to the land of their adoption. They became the frontiersmen of colonial America, clearing the forests to make their farms and, as one would expect, they had the defects as well as the qualities of pioneers. President Theodore Roosevelt described them us "a grim, stern people, strong and powerful for good and evil, swayed by gusts of stormy passion, the love of freedom rooted in their very hearts' core..." They suffered terrible injuries at the hands of the red men, and on their foes they waged terrible warfare in return. They were also upright, resolute, fearless, and loyal to their friends, devoted to their country. In spite of their many failings, they were of all men the best fitted to conquer the wilderness and hold it against all comers." 

They took with them into the wilderness their love of religion and learning, building churches and schools as they established each new settlement or fort. The primitive centres of further learning such as the Log College of Neshaminy in Pennsylvania which they early established achieved a notable reputation as "mothers" of new colleges, their graduates taking the lead in founding new institutions and providing the first presidents who gave them their character. Indeed it was in the field of education that the Scotch Irish made one of their most important contributions to American life.


Estimates of the number of Presidents of the United States of Scotch Irish origins vary, depending on the degree of relationship on which the claim is based. For the purposes of their search for ancestral homesteads the Ulster Scot Historical Foundation accepted only those of direct Scotch Irish descent. Even limited in this way the number amounts to eleven; a notable proportion when related to the very small group from which they sprang. They are Andrew Jackson, James Knox Polk, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses Simpson Grant, Chester Alan Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson. 

This list becomes all the more impressive when it is realized that three of the ten, Presidents Jackson, Buchanan and Arthur, were first generation Americans, i.e., Presidents whose fathers were born in Ulster. The United States Constitution lays it down that the President must be American born. In the long history of the United States these are the only three first generation Americans to achieve this high office. Andrew Jackson has left it on record that he only just made it since he was born soon after the ship in which his parents sailed from Ulster reached harbour in America. Three other Presidents, John Adams, James Monroe, and John Quincy Adams are reputed to have family links with Ulster. A further two presidents Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower claimed to have "Scotch Irish" blood in their veins.


The Scotch Irish were the servants and soldiers of the Revolution. President McKinley wrote of them that "they were the first to proclaim for freedom in these United States." President Theodore Roosevelt described them as "the men who before any other declared for American independence:' 

Both references are to the Mecklenburg Resolution of Independence adopted by a convention of Scotch Irish which met in North Carolina and which was one of the steps leading up to the Declaration of Independence adopted by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia on July 4, 1976. The latter is now regarded as marking the birth of the American nation, commemorated every year as Independence Day. Its immortal words come ringing down the centuries. "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness:" While Ulstermen and their descendants were establishing a unique record on the frontier they were also rivalling that record with their contribution to the Revolutionary cause. 

In a speech at Springfield, Ohio, on May 11, 1893, William McKinley, Governor of Ohio, later to become the 25th President, and whose ancestors came from Dervock, near Ballymoney, Co. Antrim, said about those Ulster emigrants: "They were the first to proclaim for freedom in these United States; even before Lexington the Scotch Irish blood had been shed for American freedom." McKinley was pointing out that the first encounter of the War of Independence was not at Concord and Lexington, but on the Alamance River in North Carolina when on May 14th, 1771, there was a clash between the Ulster Irish of that region and a British force under Governor Tryon. 

Among the signatories of the Declaration of Independence were five Scotch Irish delegates and one Scot with Ulster associations. They were Thomas McKean, Edward Rutledge, James Smith, George Taylor, Matthew Thornton, and Philip Livingstone, a Scot but whose great grandfather had been from County Down. 

The Secretary of the Congress which adopted the Declaration was an Ulsterman, Charles Thomson from Maghera, County Londonderry. It was first printed by another Ulsterman, John Dunlap a native of Strabane, County Tyrone, who is also remembered as the founder of the first daily newspaper in America, the Pennsylvania Packet.

One of the four members of Washington's first Cabinet, Henry Knox, came from Ulster. When Washington organized the first Supreme Court lie appointed John Rutledge, son of an Ulsterman, as one of the four Associate Justices under Chief Justice Lay whom Rutledge later succeeded. 

As would be expected of frontiersmen, the fighting qualities of the Scotch Irish came to the fore during the struggle for independence and in the subsequent conflicts in America. During the War of Independence General George Washington held in high regard his troops of Ulster origin. Throughout the War a large proportion of his troops were men of Ulster origins In tribute to them Washington said: "If defeated everywhere else. I will make my last stand for liberty among the Scotch Irish of my native Virginia." The great Civil War General, Robert E. Lee considered the Scotch Irish to have made fine soldiers because they had the courage and determination of the Scots with the dash and intrepidity of the Irish. 

General Stonewall Jackson is perhaps the best known of the fighting Scotch Irish and his great grandfather, John Jackson, went to America about 1748. A site at the Birches, County Armagh, is traditionally regarded as his home. Another Scotch Irish military leader was General Sam Houston, first President of the Republic of Texas, and Governor of Tennessee. He was the son of a Major Samuel Houston, veteran of the Revolutionary War, whose ancestors left Ulster for America in 1735. 

Frontier fighter and Hero of the Alamo, Davy Crockett, came from Scotch Irish stock too. His father, John Crockett, emigrated to America from Londonderry with his parents in the 18th century.


In the publishing world. in addition to John Dunlap, who was previously mentioned, who printed the first daily newspaper in the United States, was Horace Greeley, founder of the New York Tribune. Colonel Robert R. McCormick, proprietor of the Chicago Tribune and Harold Wallace Ross, founder of the New Yorker

Edgar Alan Poe was of Scotch Irish descent as also was the song writer, Stephen Foster, whose great grandfather sailed to America from Londonderry about 1728. 

The founder of the American Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Francis Makemie, was an Ulsterman. The Rev. John Rodgers, whose father came from Londonderry, was the first Moderator of the first General Assembly. The second was the Rev. Robert Smith, also from Londonderry. 

Andrew Mellon, financier was a descendant of people from Newtownstewart, County Tyrone. Robert Fulton, pioneer of the steam boat, Samuel Morse, inventor of Morse Code, and Cyrus McCormack, inventor of the reaping machine, all had ancestors from Ulster. 

In the field of education, descendants of Ulster people and Ulster people themselves were responsible, either wholly or in part, for the foundation of many great educational Institutions of the United States. They founded Log College which gave birth to the University of Princeton, also to Jefferson College, Hampden Sidney College, the University of North Carolina, University of Pennsylvania, and to Washington and Lee University of Virginia. The founder of Lafayette College was of Ulster stock; the first President of Bowdoin and the first President of what later became the University of Nashville were also of Ulster descent. 

Recently interest in research of the early settlers and founders of the United States has spread to institutions. particularly universities, where there is a growing realisation that the greatest contribution of the Scotch Irish to America was not in the national leaders they produced, nor even in the possibly decisive part they played in the Revolutionary War, but in the formative influence they had on the American character and way of life.


1. Andrew Jackson. 7th President. 1829 1837. Co. Antrim. 

2. James Knox Polk. 11th President. 1845 1849. Co. Londonderry. 

3. James Buchanan. 15th President. 1857 1861. Co. Tyrone. 

4. Andrew Johnson. 17th President. 1865 1869. Co. Antrim. 

5. Ulysses S. Grant. 18th President. 1869 1877. Co. Tyrone. 

6. Chester A. Arthur. 21st President. 1881 1885. Co. Antrim. 

7. Stephen Grover Cleveland. 22nd & 24th President. 1885 1889,1893 1897. 

8. Benjamin Harrison. 23rd 1889 1893. Co. Antrim. 

9. William McKinley. 25th 1897 1901. Co. Antrim. 

10. Theodore Roosevelt. 26th 1901 1904. Co. Antrim. 

11. Thomas Woodrow Wilson. 28th 1913 1921. Co. Tyrone.

Presidents John Adams. John Quincy Adams and James Monroe are reputed to lave family links with Ulster but these are rather tenuous. Presidents Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower claimed to have 'Scotch Irish' blood in their veins.

"I love Highlanders, and I lone Lowlanders, but when 1 cone to the branch of our race which has been grafted on to the Ulster stem I take my hat off with veneration crud with awe. They are, I believe, without exception the toughest, the most dominant, the most irresistible race that exists in the universe at this moment." Lord Rosebery

"From the near 1718, and all through the century a continuous stream of emigration poured from the North of Ireland, a stream that, at .frequent internals, became a flood... What did they dot What was the nature of their contribution to the United States?" 

Ulster Sails West, W. F. Marshall

"In assessing the contribution of the Scotch Irish to American life and culture, three fields stand high on the list: their influence in education, religion and politics." The Scotch Irish: A Social History, James G. Leyburn

"... it is doubtful if we have wholly realised the importance of the part played by that stern and virile people... the men who had followed Cromwell, and who had shared in the defence of Derry, and before any other declared for American Independence." 

Winning the West Vol. I, Theodore Roosevelt

In conclusion it must be pointed out that some writers relate truly, as they think, and without any malice of intent, the contribution of "Irishmen" to the making of the United States. There are also those echo nurse an "anti Ulster" bias and set down half truths and argue that an Ulsterman is an Irishman. These writers do so to deliberately deceive and fail to remember that the people they claim as their own would be the first to protest were they able to do so.

The "Irish" who have made such a great contribution to the United States of America are those people of Scottish extraction who emigrated from Ulster and not those who emigrated from Southern Ireland. In fact there was no substantial body of Southern Irish in America until the 19th century. 

President Theodore Roosevelt in his History of New York states the truth clearly: "It is a curious fact that in the Revolutionary War, the Germans and Catholic Irish should have furnished the bulk of the auxiliaries (mercenaries) to the regular English soldiers; but the most ardent Americans of all were the Presbyterian Irish settlers and their descendants." 

Owen Wister in A Square Deal is even more outspoken in support of the truth and in discrediting the lies and half-truths that, even today, are still being voiced by people who are supposed to be respected politicians: "Americans are being told in these days that they owe a debt of support to Irish Independence, because the Irish fought with us in our own struggle for independence. Yes, the Irish did, and we do owe a debt of support. But it was the Orange Irish who fought in our Revolution, and not the Green Irish."

Maureen Wilcher

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