James Bryce Bryce.

University and historical addresses, delivered during a residence in the United States as ambassador of Great Britain online

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Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceUniversity and historical addresses, delivered during a residence in the United States as ambassador of Great Britain → online text (page 12 of 24)
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memory of a plain and simple man, yet crowned with
the knightly virtues of truthfulness, honour, and





WHOEVER wanders hither and thither over the United
States, as the occupant of the post I hold is expected to
do, finds no small pleasure in noting how the various
racial stocks that have planted themselves in the United
States, and now make up its population, love to com-
memorate each its own race and the land whence it
came. To remember Germany or Norway or Sweden or
Scotland or Ireland does not make a man any the less
a good American citizen, and it adds to the interest of
his life and to the width of his outlook over the world
that he should feel he has another land, another race, an-
other literature, other historical traditions, with which he
can associate his memories and his sympathies. The
man of German extraction has Goethe and Schiller to
be proud of, and is the more drawn to retain or to learn
their tongue; the Icelander or Norwegian may read the
ancient Sagas of his land and stir his soul by recalling
the exploits of the heroes of Viking days. So even for
a stock like the Scoto-Irish which has for centuries been
a part of the British race and speaks the English tongue
it is well that societies like yours should exist to recall



and emphasize the further and more special tie which
binds you to one part of the British Isles besides that
tie which all Americans, of whatever origin, have to
our island realm, in language and literature, in tradi-
tions and institutions.

Now, gentlemen, before I come to speak of this Scotch-
Irish, let me say in passing that it might very nearly
have been a Dutch-Irish Society. It is said that there
was a time near the end of the sixteenth century when
the Dutch of the United Provinces, being then very
hard pressed by Spain, received an offer from the
English government that if they would abandon Hol-
land and sail off in ships that were to be provided
for them, they should be settled in Ireland and there
receive plenty of land and every encouragement. The
Might Have Beens of history are always an interesting
topic of speculation. Had the British offer been ac-
cepted, the incoming Dutch would, as Protestants,
have in two generations blent with the English and
Scotch elements. Ireland might have been a half
Dutch country, and the whole subsequent history of
the island would have been different. Whether it
would have been a history of peaceful progress I will
not now enquire one always walks over hot ashes in
discussing Irish history but it might well have been
more happy than were the annals of Ireland during
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Yet what
Ireland might have gained by the addition to her
population, then far less than the island could support,


of a valuable and industrious element, Continental
Europe would have lost, and the East too would have
lost, for there might have been no Dutch Empire there.

Let those things be as they were, or as they might
have been, the historian cannot but rejoice to see that
you in the United States take so keen a pleasure in
recalling the different racial stocks from which you
come. This sort of connection with the Old World,
a connection which some of you are too apt to forget,
because it is a fault of our tune to ignore the past and
think that it does not matter, adds to the interest of
your life in the New. It adds to the richness of your
own thoughts and memories that you are able to go
back from the country in which fate and the wander-
ings of your parents have placed you, and connect
yourselves with some particular part of the Old World
and with its history and its associations. You look
backward to two very remarkable stocks. Your posi-
tion is exceptional because you look back not to one
stock but to two. As Scotch-Irish, you are the off-
spring of two races: one of them the Irish is
Celtic; the other, the Scottish, is half Celtic and half
Teutonic, for the people of Scotland are a blend of
two Teutonic elements, the Anglian and the Norse,
with two Celtic elements, the Gaelic and the Cymric.
(There are also the Picts, but you will not expect me
to venture to say who the Picts were.)

I do not suppose that there ever were two peoples
who, considering how small were their numbers, have


made a greater noise in the world than the Irish and
Scotch, and you claim kinship with and descent from
both of those, the Scotch element probably contribut-
ing most of the blood.

Like other great and good things, both the Irish and
the Scotch peoples have had their detractors. Criti-
cisms have been passed upon them. It has been said of
the one race that it was reckless, dashing, bold, extrava-
gant, imprudent. It has been said of the other race that
it was dry, cautious, even parsimonious. I will not stop
to enquire whether these charges are justly brought
against either, for the sufficient reason that you are
neither pure Scotch nor pure Irish, but a blend of both,
and I never heard any charge whatever against the
blend, except that of having "an unco guid conceit" of
itself. On the contrary, it is well understood all
those historians whose tales of your settlement here
and achievements for America I have perused seem to
agree that the Scotch-Irish or Irish-Scotch, which-
ever way you like to have it, combine the characteristic
virtues of both the races, that they unite the tenacity,
perseverance, and shrewdness of the Scotsman of Alban
with the fire, dash, and geniality of the Celt of Erin, and
that these are the qualities which have made them
valued not only in the United Kingdom, as I shall
presently show you, but also in this land of their adop-
tion. So far as my own personal observation goes they
have really only two defects, and those defects may be
deemed to be rather the excess of good qualities. You,


Mr. President, referred to the experience I had when for
fourteen months it was my duty and function, not a
light one, to be virtually responsible for the government
of Ireland and for the maintenance of law and order
there. I found then that there were only two slight
defects that could be charged against the peo-
ple of Ireland, especially of the north of Ireland,
from which your ancestors came. One was that
they valued so highly the right of free speech that they
were hi the habit of expressing their views of politics,
church history, and theology, and especially their opin-
ions about one another, at regularly recurring mo-
ments, and they used to choose for those moments
anniversaries which long habit had associated with party
passions. The Protestants chose the i2th of July, the
anniversary of the battle of Aughrim, and the Roman
Catholics chose the i yth of March, a day which ought
not to have gathered to itself any partisan associations,
because it belongs to a saint, a Briton by birth, who
had a sweet and saintly character, and cherished no
animosity except to poisonous reptiles. On these oc-
casions historical sentiment, a good thing enough at
proper tunes, frequently gave rise to scenes that were
not altogether peaceful, because the other defect I have
referred to which might again be described as the ex-
cess of a virtue, their manly readiness to face danger
on behalf of their opinions, led them to be decidedly
more combative than was necessary or conducive to the
peace of the country.


It was often my painful duty, since I recognized the
maintenance of order to be the first and most obvious
duty of my office, to warn each party that they must
not hold meetings in places where there was likely to
be an armed collision with the other party, and even
to direct a force of police to be present at spots where
it was probable that collisions would occur and that
combats would follow; nor was this duty the easier
because partisans on each side attacked the Govern-
ment whether it permitted or prohibited the meeting.
But it all meetings and prohibitions, and even colli-
sions went along with very little of real bitterness,
one might almost say with a certain measure of good
humour; and no one who does not know Ireland can
know with how much good humour its people can, as
soon as the actual fighting is over, look back upon
the conflicts of the factions. Strong language and
even a little fighting are understood to be part of the
game which the parties have been accustomed to play,
and there is much less of bad blood and ill feeling left
behind than people in England suppose. Ireland
is, after all, a very charming and winning country.
Factions in Ireland do not really hate one another as
outsiders are apt to fancy. They have been fighting,
more or less, for over two centuries, and have got ac-
customed to it, and take it less seriously than is sup-
posed by those who are not to the manner born. Some-
times I used to think that those who denounced a
Chief Secretary for prohibiting a meeting or procession


would have been disappointed, and would indeed have
thought poorly of him, if he had not issued the prohibi-
tion. To issue it was expected from him, and, as you
might say, was understood to be his part of the game.
Anyone who has to govern Ireland is likely to come hi
for plenty of criticism, and will receive most of it when
he tries to be absolutely just and impartial, for then
both sides fire into him. But at the same time he is cer-
tain to leave the country with sincere regret, feeling that
he has enjoyed his time there, and loving the people even
more than he did before. That was my experience.

Now this tendency to pugnacity for which your
ancestors in Ireland, especially in the north of Ireland,
were famous, was the same quality that led the Scoto-
Irish settlers when they came over here to press to the
front, and to. take up the borderland of Pennsylvania,
protecting the more peaceful Quakers and German
Moravians who lived between them and the sea, and
choosing for themselves the arduous task of subduing
the wilderness and defending the frontiers of civiliza-
tion against the Indian tribes. And a very fine record
they made. Many of the most stalwart and daring
men of whom this country holds memory were the
original settlers of northern and western Pennsylvania,
the fathers of the men who passed from Pennsylvania
across the mountains into Kentucky and Tennessee, and
southward into western Virginia and the Carolinas and
Georgia. A great deal of the best blood, and a great
deal of the finest intellect that has shown itself in the


history of the southern United States is due to the men
who sprang from that stock.

They came hither for a reason which deserves to win
sympathy and respect for them. The earliest settlers of
New England left Old England in order to have liberty
to worship God in their own way, and the earliest
settlers who came to Pennsylvania from Ulster came
out because, having been brought over from Scot-
land on a promise of land and good treatment in the
north of Ireland, they found themselves ill treated and
almost persecuted by the Episcopalian government in
the Ireland of that day, a day of general religious
intolerance. They did not get such good conditions of
land tenure as they expected; and, what galled them
far more, they were not able to obtain that full freedom
and equality for the exercise of their religion and their
civil rights which they were entitled to count on. That
was one main cause why they emigrated to these colonies,
and one main cause also why they were foremost in
vindicating the claims of the colonists when trouble
arose between the latter and the mother country. It is,
moreover, an interesting historical fact that the system
of Presbyterian church government which these settlers
brought with them had much to do with the formation
of a republican spirit in this country and with the growth
of those habits which enabled your ancestors to work
republican institutions. The machinery of that system
is eminently republican, for it consists of representative
councils, leading up to a supreme representative body,


the General Assembly. The traditions and habits it
had formed proved useful when your forefathers began
here to organize the constitutional bases of your Com-
monwealths. One of the foremost champions of the
claims of the colonial insurgents was a Scotch Presby-
terian minister, John Witherspoon, president of Prince-
ton College and one of the signers of the Declaration
of Independence.

You have heard so often of the Scotch Irishmen who
have attained eminence in the United States that I need
say but few words regarding them. It is a long list,
even if you omit one alleged to have belonged to the
Scoto-American race, Captain Kidd, the famous, or
notorious, pirate. One may count four, five, or per-
haps even six, Presidents, and you have some claim
I am not sure of its strength to a man greater than
any of those Presidents, Chief Justice John Marshall,
as belonging to the stock. But the persons who have
figured most in American history have been the fiery
rhetorician Patrick Henry, the combative and some-
times headstrong Andrew Jackson, and the still more
remarkable John C. Calhoun, whose relentless logic
gave to South Carolina the impulse that made her
ultimately the leader in Secession. Calhoun applied to
politics a thoroughly Calvinistic line of thought, though
whether it was Calvinistic theology that formed the
logical precision and liking for a stringent symmetry
of doctrine that belong to the Scottish mind, or
whether the Scots took to Calvinistic theology be-


cause it suited their natural taste and bent, might
be a subject of enquiry for the curious. In these
men the lineaments of the race from which you spring
were unmistakable. In its later ornaments they are
less evident. Take the race all in all, it has deserved
well of the United States. I will not dwell upon the
inventors, like Robert Fulton, nor upon the many
estimable clergymen, local leaders of opinion, who
edified their congregations at a length which com-
manded admiration in those days as much as it would
repel the weaklings of our own time. But let us not
forget to pay a respectful tribute to the men, clerical
and lay, who worked for education with the true Scot-
tish spirit, and also to the pioneers who went out, south-
ward and westward, from Pennsylvania, tough and
valiant men, prepared to face the hardships of a lonely
life and the perils of the wilderness, carrying with them
into it nothing but their axe and their gun and their
Bible, ready to spend their lives in winning for those
who came after, that security which you now enjoy.

It was a strong race, one of the strongest that has
gone to the making of this now composite nation, in
which it is beginning to be hard to trace the several
threads that have been woven on the loom of Time into
the tissue. Some students of history have wished that
each racial stock of settlers, Irish and Germans and
Scandinavians and Italians and Poles had each been
left to occupy a region by itself, where its old idiosyn-
crasy could have been developed under new conditions


into new forms which would yet have retained a touch
of the old quality. But perhaps the mingling of all to-
gether into one vast nation gives to that nation more
flexibility and versatility, and makes it fitter to meet
the varying calls of a civilization which grows always
more complex.

Now let me turn to the Scotch-Irish in their earlier
home. Having spent part of my boyhood in Ulster
and frequently revisited it, I may be able to tell you
something about your Ulster forefathers. When I first
knew the north of Ireland there were a large number of
people there who spoke broad Scotch, just the same
broad Scotch that you would have then heard in Ayrshire
or Galloway, and who considered themselves to be for
every purpose Scotch, so much so that in the years be-
tween 1845 an d 1850 I have heard many an old farmer
in the County of Down or the County of Antrim talk
of the Roman Catholic Irish who inhabited the moun-
tainous districts, such as the Glens of Antrim and the
Mourne Mountains, into which the Scottish immigrants
had rather unceremoniously driven them, as "Those
Irish," or (to be quite literal) in broad Scotch they said,
"Thae Eerish." In Down and Antrim they inter-
married but little with the native Celtic population,
because the latter were nearly all Roman Catholics, but
there was in those days a less pronounced antagonism
between the Scoto-Irish Presbyterian and the Roman
Catholic than has grown up in later days, though even
now that antagonism is not so sharp as most people


outside Ireland suppose. In the days I speak of, the
Presbyterians had not forgotten the league of the United
Irishmen and the insurrection of 1798, in which many
of their strongest men took part, having been drawn
to common action with the Roman Catholics by the
misgovernment from which they both suffered. Some
of the Presbyterian Liberals of that generation used
to say that if the Roman Catholic insurgents of south-
ern Ireland had been as well organized and had fought
as well as the Protestant insurgents of the north, the
insurrection might have had a fair chance of success.

Otherwise the people of Antrim and Down had little
or nothing to do with Dublin, the capital of Ireland, or
indeed with any part of Ireland south of Carlingford
Lough. They considered themselves to be Scotch, and
all their social and commercial relations were with Scot-
land. Their trading was done with Glasgow or other
ports of the west of Scotland. Their sons who were
to be prepared for the ministry or any other learned
profession were sent to Glasgow University. In fact,
they were then a little colony of Scotch people planted
in the Counties of Down and Antrim and in parts
of Derry and Tyrone. I knew, sixty years ago, old
Presbyterian elders in County Down who were as
purely Scotch as if they had lived in Kirkintilloch
or Kilwinning, but such men would hardly be found
there to-day.

That, however, is compatible with our recognizing
that among those who migrated to America in the


eighteenth century, a good many purely Celtic names
may be found, and that in many a Celtic quality was
present. A certain number of the Scots who migrated
to Ulster intermarried with the Celtic Irish in Deny
and Tyrone, and a certain number of aboriginal Irish
became Protestants and as such joined the Scoto-Irish
Presbyterian body. There was, moreover, in those who
went from Scotland to Ulster and came from Ulster
hither a good deal of Gaelic blood. The West Highlands
sent Campbells and Macfarlanes and Macmillans and
Colquhouns, and there were plenty of Macs from Gal-
loway. That corner of Scotland was the original home
of most of those Macs who were at one time so numer-
ous in Pennsylvania that some one complained of the
"Macocracy" that was in control there. However,
whether it is Celtic blood, or whether the spirit of the
land itself breathes something new into them, certain it
is that the Scotch-Irish as you find them in Ulster now
are quite different from the Scotch. Nobody who knows
the Scotch people well could to-day mistake, when
he goes into Ulster, its people for Scotsmen, and when
you meet an Ulsterman in England or Scotland, you
at once recognize him not only by his accent, though
that is even more different from the brogue of southern
Ireland than it is from Lowland Scotch, but also by
something distinctive in his way of thinking and acting.
Even a man's face and manner will often indicate that
he is not the same sort of person as a man from the
Scottish lowlands.


As you claim that the Scotch-Irish have given
many men of high distinction and usefulness to this
country, so they have given many men of great fame
and honour and service to the United Kingdom. It will
suffice to mention five who belonged to the last genera-
tion. One of them was the late Lord Chief Justice of
England, who was, when at the bar, one of the most
powerful advocates of our time, a strong, if not a very
learned judge, Sir Charles Russell, afterwards Lord
Russell of Killowen, whose name is no doubt known to
many of you who follow the profession of the law. He
was an Irish Roman Catholic. The other four were
Irish Protestants. One of them was Sir Henry
Lawrence, one of the most gallant of our soldiers and
the heroic defender of Lucknow in the terrible Indian
mutiny of 1857. There were three others even more
famous. One was Lord Lawrence, brother of Sir
Henry, who was, with the possible exception of the
Scottish Lord Dalhousie, the ablest of all our Indian
administrators and viceroys for the last eighty or one
hundred years. The second was Lord Cairns, one of the
most finished masters of legal science in England the
nineteenth century saw, a most powerful parliamentary
speaker, a great advocate and a still greater judge.
The third was the grandson of a Presbyterian farmer
near the village of Ballynahinch, in County Down,
whose son had become professor of mathematics in Glas-
gow. This was William Thomson, afterwards known
as Lord Kelvin, and one of the first scientific men of the


century. The last time I ever sat by him at dinner he
told me that his father had, when a boy, been forced by
the insurgents of 1798 to carry food to them just before
the battle of Ballynahinch. There were no three men
who stood higher, or who deserved to stand higher, in
the sight of England and Scotland during the second
half of the nineteenth century than Lord Lawrence,
Lord Cairns, and Lord Kelvin. Those three men came
from the counties of Deny, Antrim, and Down. So
you see that in England and Scotland also your people
can claim to have done great things. Your forefathers,
when they left Ulster, did not take away all the strength
and vigour of the old stock, which continues to show
its quality there just as it has done here.

You look back, as I have said, to two countries as
the sources of that mixed race from which you sprang.
How different has been the fortune of those two coun-
tries ! Scotland had her troubled times, and she passed
out of them, and since the union with England, with
the short and unimportant exceptions of the Jacobite
rebellions in 1715 and 1745, Scotland has enjoyed peace
and an ever growing prosperity, and although at one
time the Scotch excited a little criticism and even dis-
taste in England, as you may remember from the
growlings and girdings at them of that fine old typical
Englishman, Dr. Samuel Johnson, still the Scotch have
made good their footing in England. They have suc-
ceeded in getting a fair chance at anything there is to
win or enjoy. It is no disadvantage to any Scotchman


who comes to England if he desires to rise to any Eng-
lish office or emolument. Four out of the last five prime
ministers of England were Scotchmen. The present
Archbishop of York and the present Archbishop of
Canterbury, primate of England, are both Scotchmen.
So you may see that the Scotchman has a free field open
to him in England. Scotland has been, in her union
with England, a happy and prosperous country. I
wish I could say the same for Ireland. Ireland, too,
has given many great and famous men to England be-
sides those Ulstermen whose names I mentioned to
you just now. There have been no orators more illus-
trious, few indeed so illustrious, in the long line of Eng-
lish oratory and statesmanship, as four Irishmen who
flourished at the end of the eighteenth century, Curran,
Plunkett, Grattan, and, above all, Edmund Burke, per-
haps the only person in modern times who was not only
a great statesman and orator but also one of the greatest
prose writers of his day. Any country that produced
four men like Curran, Plunkett, Grattan, and Burke,

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Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceUniversity and historical addresses, delivered during a residence in the United States as ambassador of Great Britain → online text (page 12 of 24)