Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Scots-Irish vote

James Webb claims that the some 30 million Scots-Irish are invisible to the cultural elites, but a candidate for president can’t get elected without them. "The president will not win re-election without carrying the votes of the Scots-Irish, along with those others who make up the "Jacksonian" political culture that has migrated toward the values of this ethnic group.

At the same time, few key Democrats seem even to know that the Scots-Irish exist, as this culture is so adamantly individualistic that it will never overtly form into one of the many interest groups that dominate Democratic Party politics. Indeed, it can be fairly said that Al Gore lost in 2000 because the Democrats ignored this reality and the Scots-Irish enclaves of West Virginia and Tennessee turned against him." Read it all. It may be imperfect, but it is interesting. Webb, a novelist (Fields of Fire, etc.), was Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy, and one of the most highly decorated Marines in the Viet Nam War. His new book, Born Fighting: How the Scots Irish Shaped America, is now available

Discussions - 4 Comments

Interesting points. My family is largely Scots-Irish, but I’ve never considered us as a part of a cohesive group. I can’t speak for Scots-Irish in general, but my impression and experience seems to indicate a strong committment to values and a resentment of any attempt to be labelled and packaged. I’ve never seen any inclination to be individualistic just like everyone else. We can’t be pigeon-holed, and our attitudes can not be taken for granted. We look at each individual issue that has meaning for us, and vote the balance of that value. No wonder the democrats can’t get a handle on us.

My own heritage is pure Scotch-Irish-American Indian on both sides of the family. We followed Webb’s migration from Massachusetts to Tennesse to Texas. I’m the first member of my family since before the Alamo to be born outside of Texas. I can relate to nearly all of Webb’s identifiers - independence, self-sufficency, values, family, faith, etc.

The point he doesn’t emphasize which is very relevent today is that the Scotch-Irish are almost pure Anglo-Saxon - arguably one of the most violent, blood-thirsty peoples on earth. Yes, we make up much of the military, just as we have embraced the blood feud, the duel, and the just war. America’s never lost a war militarily and our nation’s enemies - internal and external - insist on being reminded what it means to make the Scotch-Irish their enemy every 50 years or so.

The heritage is a mixed blessing (yes, my family has a lot of rednecks, hard-drinkers and cowboys), but in times of peril I believe it’s superior to the alternatives.

Calling the Scots-Irish "Anglo-Saxon" is a misnomer.

Ethnically, the Scots-Irish [originally Presbyterian Lowland Scots encouraged to move to northern Ireland by Cromwell] are Celts, not Angles or Saxons [originally German tribes who colonized the isle of Britain].

Calling a Scots-Irish person an Anglo-Saxon is like calling a Scot or a Welshman "English"--a mistake, and in some places even today, still potentially a fighting word.

An interesting academic take on Scots-Irish culture and its view of freedom can be found in the David Hackett Fischer’s fascinating book, "Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in North America".

The others, if you’re interested, are the English of Virginia (most originally from the Royalist and Anglo-Catholic west and south of England), the Quakers of the Delaware Valley (mostly from the English Midlands), and the Puritans of New England (mostly from East Anglia, originally).

Fischer interprets the Scots-Irish a bit more broadly as North British borderers--for example, he discusses people from the English county of Cumberland on the Scottish border--and not just Scots who transplanted from the Lowlands to keep the Irish Catholics in line as militarized colonists sponsored by Cromwell.

Once in America, the Scots-Irish also gravitated to the border region, the frontier and so-called "back-country" just behind it. In part this was because they were the latest-arriving of the four groups, not here in strength till the 1740s. Most came in through Quaker-dominated Philadelphia and moved west and then south, settled the Alleghany and Appalachian spine from central and western PA all the way south to the northern hill country of Georgia and Alabama.

Both in Britain and in North America, the border country the Scots-Irish inhabited was conflict-ridden, and the S-I were a warlike people. Andrew Jackson was one, of course. So were Gen. Daniel Morgan, John C. Calhoun, James K. Polk, Stonewall Jackson, and Sam Houston. Sen. Lamar Alexander is of S-I stock from Tennessee; so was LBJ on one side of his family. U.S. Grant was of "Scots" stock simpliciter, but his attitude of "unconditional surrender"/"I propose to move immediately upon your works"/"I will fight it out on this line if it takes all summer" is full of Scots-Irish spirit.

I suspect that Webb is right in thinking that the S-I have had an incalculably deep influence on the American character, and this probably goes a long way toward explaining why white Americans (esp white American males) are far and away the most conservative, unabashedly patriotic, and tough-minded large bloc of people anywhere in the Western world to this day. [And of course let me hasten to add that this is not to slight the many nonwhite Americans are "spiritually Scots-Irish" as well.]

Enter text to make bold the lowland scots as a derivation of ancestry is a generalization. the people of the midland regions of the southern u.s. can trace their respective families to the borderlands of scotland & england, hence the towns in the regions names reflect their genesis;cumberland, westmoreland,durham. the area of migration in northern england, southern scotland was the abode of the lothians,bernicians,northumbrians i.e. anglians. an influx of danes: danelaw: and scots: a pictish word for the Irish raiders; do also add to the genetic makeup of border people, however one would be amiss to describe scots irish as purely or even mostly celtic.

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