Origin of the Ulster Scot

For centuries the English Crown had striven to subdue the turbulent Celtic Irish people.

 James VI of Scotland came to be James I of England.  He judged the “plantations” would be a solution for the troublesome “Irish Question.”    In 1610 land was opened to certain Scotsmen.  Although it was originally intended for the English, it was natural for friends of the Scottish King to wish to share in the bounty.  Those were mostly lowland Scots.

 When Charles I came to the throne in 1625 he believed in the absolute authority of the Crown.  The independent Scots in Ireland were opposed to absolutism in government.  So, as early as 1636, Scottish clergy who had been deposed from their chapels in Ireland sailed for America with their flocks.  They were on Eagle Wing, but driven back by storms.

 Many were driven from their farms at the expiration of their leases.  The laws of 1698 forbid them to export woolen except to England and Wales.  They could raise flax but were not skilled in it.  Between 1714-1719 there were insufficient rains and flax failed.  The sheep died.  In 1716 there was a severe frost.  In 1718 smallpox ravaged them.  Even so, they considered the restrictions on religion a heavier burden.  They were willing to starve peacefully but not to be thwarted in their views or right to Heaven.

 They were prohibited from holding public office, or from being married by their own ministers until 1737.  Chapels were closed and they were not allowed to hold schools for their children.  They had to be buried by the Established Church (of England).  They had become virtual outlaws.

 Dean Swift said the people were in worse condition than the peasants of France or the vassals in Germany or Poland.  Their economic condition had become extremely bad.

 Many people immigrated to America at that time, under James II.  The Scots that stayed were treated so badly that Archbishop King said “I can not see how any more can be got from them except we take away their potatoes and buttermilk, or flay them and sell their skins!”

 The real immigration started then.  Between 1718-1720 about 600 immigrated.  In 1702 over 6,000 immigrated and in 1729 six crowded vessels arrived in Philadelphia in just one week!  This continued until 1750 until 1/3 of the Ulster Scots had departed Ireland.  On man in America wrote “I am of the opinion all of the northern of Ireland will be over here in a little time.”

 One source said between 1730-1750 more than half of the Presbyterian population of Ulster came to America, where it formed more than 1/6th of the entire population of the new world by the time of the Declaration of Independence.

 They had to sell all they had to come but most important was a letter of dismissal from the Presbyterian chapel stating “The bearer hereof being designed to go to America these are therefore to testify they leave us without scandal, lived with us soberly and inoffensively and may be admitted to church privileges.”

Back to Home