James Haltigan.

The Irish in the American revolution, and their early influence in the colonies online

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uplifting of this mighty and vigorous people. In our veins runs


the blood of many an old world nation. We are kin to each of
these nations and yet identical with none.

Our policy should be one of cordial friendship for them all,
and yet we should keep ever before our eyes the fact that we are
ourselves a separate people with our own ideals and standards,
and destined, whether for better or for worse, to work out a
wholly new national type. The fate of the twentieth century will
in no small degree — I ask you to think of this from the standpoint
of the world — the fate of the twentieth century as it bears on the
world will in no small degree depend upon the type of citizenship
developed on this continent. Surely such a thought must thrill
us witn the resolute purpose so to bear ourselves that the name
American shall stand as the symbol of just, generous and fearless
treatment of all men and all nations. Let us be true to our-
selves, for we can not then be false to any man.



Th« interval between the First and Second Congress was
one of intense excitement throughout the colonies, and in many
places incipient revolts occurred which paved the way for the
general uprising against English misrule which was soon to
spread broadcast over the land. John Sullivan had no sooner re-
turned from the First Congress than, as we have seen, he struck
the first blow in his seizure of Fort William and Mary in Ports-
mouth Harbor.

Without anything like a general understanding among them,
there were active spirits in the various sections of the countrv,
whose ceaseless agitation and wonderful resolution gradually
brought the people to the standard of independence.

Foremost among these men of action and most earnest in
pushing the movement to a physical test were the Irish and Irish-
Acierican colonists — the SuUivans, the O'Briens, the Whipples,
and the Thorntons of the East; the Montgomerys, the Thom-
sons, the McKeans, the Reids, and the Carrolls, of the Middle
Colonies ; and the Lewises, the Rutledges, the Lynches, the Grif-
fiths, and the Burkes of the South. These and scores of others
whom we could name were in the front rank of leadership in their
various sections and without their persistent agitation and ad-
vanced ideas it is doubtful if the gage of battle would have been
thrown down. Through their secret efforts, as well as by force
of their open examples, they brought the wavering element into
line and nerved the hesitating to action.

Their eloquence and statesmanship on the one hand and
their soldiery qualities on the other were thrown into the balance
against England when the crucial test came and turned the
scales in favor of liberty and independence.

Among the most powerful incentives to revolution were the
impassioned utterances of Patrick Henry, who was possessed of
that fire of Celtic eloquence which has done so much for liberty
throughout the world. His burning words found their way to
the most remote settlements, and filled the people with confidence
in themselves and a determination to preserve their rights. His
speech on the necessity of war with England, delivered before
the Virginia Convention on March 28, 1775, had more effect In
bringing about the independence of this country than the most


important battle of the revolution. It was a divine message from
God to man, and struck deep into the hearts of the people.

In former years this great speech, which for true eloquence
has never been surpassed, was printed in our school books and
every youth could repeat it from end to end, BUT IN THESE
PEARED FROM PUBLIC VIEW. In order that our youth
may have the benefit of its inspired words we print it here in
full as it was delivered by the immortal Henry :


By Patrick Henry, of Virginia.

Mr. President: No man thinks more highly than I do of
the patriotism, as well as abilities of the very worthy gentlemen
who have just addressed the House. But different men often
see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope
that it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen jf,
entertaining, as I do, opinions of a character very opposite to
theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without re-
serve. This is no time for ceremony. The question before the
House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own
part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom
or slavery, and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject,
ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way
that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfil the great responsi-
bility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep
back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense,
I should consider myself as guilty of treason toward my coun-
try, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven,
which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusion
of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth,
and listen to the song of that syren till she transforms us into
beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and
arduous struggle for liberty ? Are we disposed to be of the num-
ber of those who having eyes, see not, and having ears, hear not
the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation ? For
my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to
know the whole truth ; to know the worst and to provide for it.

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that


is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the
future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know
what there has been in the conduct of the British Ministry for
the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen
have been pleased to solace themselves and the House? Is it that
insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received?
Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not
yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this
gracious reception of our petition comports with these warlike
preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are
fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation ?
Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled, that
force must be called in to win back our love ? Let us not deceive
ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjuga-
tion, the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask, gentlemen,
sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force
us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible mo-
tives for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of
the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies ?
No, sir ; she has none. They are meant for us ; they can be meant
for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those
chains which the British Ministry have been so long forging.

And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argu-
ment? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years.
Have we anything new to offer on the subject? Nothing. We
have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but
it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble
supplications? What terms shall we find which have not been
already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive our-
selves longer. Sir, we have done everything that could be done,
to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned ;
we have remonstrated ; we have supplicated ; we have prostrated
ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition
to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament.
Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have pro-
duced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been
disregarded ; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the
foot of the throne. In vain, after these things, may we indulge
the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any
room for hope. If we wish to be free, if we mean to preserve
inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so
long contending; if we mean not basely to abandon the noble
struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we
have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious ob-
ject of our contest shall be obtained— WE MUST FIGHT 1 I


repeat it, sir, WE MUST FIGHT. An appeal to arms and to
the God of Hosts is all that is left us I

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so
formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will
it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are
totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in
every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and in-
action? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by
lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom
of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot?
Sir, we are not weak, if we make a proper use of the means
which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three mil-
lions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such
a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force
which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not
fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the
destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our
battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone, it is to
the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no elec-
tion. H we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to
retire from the contest. There is no retreat, but in submission
and slavery! Our chains are forged 1 Their clanking may be
heard on the plains of Boston 1 The war is inevitable, and let it
come ! I repeat it, sir, let it come 1

It is vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry
peace, peace ; iDut there is no peace. The war is actually begun I
The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears
the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the
field ! Why stand we here idle ? What is it that gentlemen wish ?
What would they have ? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to
be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it,
Almighty God I I know not what course others may take, but
as for me, give me liberty or give me death 1

Patrick Henry was acknowledged by all to be the greatest
orator of his day, but yet he was modest enough to state that
John Rutledge, of South Carolina, an Irish-American, was the
ablest speaker on the floor of Congress and that he was second
only to Washington in the confidence and esteem of its mern-
bers, Patrick Henry was also one of the most liberal men of his
time in religious matters. He was the warm friend of the CarroUs
and years afterward when Father Dubois, a refugee from the
French Revolution, arrived in Virginia, he taught him to speak
English and procured for him the use of the State Capital in
Richmond to hold his Catholic services. At this time Father


Dubois, who afterward became the third Bishop of New York
and who v/as then the only Catholic priest in Virginia — the only
one, in fact, between Baltimore and St. Louis — was a guest in
the home of James Monroe, afterward fifth President of the
United States, who also encouraged him in his holy mission.

Though John Kelly claims President Monroe as of Ulster
stock, the origin of his family seems to be in doubt, but whether
they came from Ireland or Scotland it is certain they were of
the Celtic race. All Monroe's predilections were decidedly Irish.
When he was Minister to France he was the warm friend of
Wolfe Tone during his negotiations with that country in behalf
of Ireland, and helped him materially in many ways, even to the
extent of advancing him money out of his private funds.

In his autobiography, under date of July 23, 1796, Tone tells
us that he dined most pleasantly with Mr. and Mrs. Monroe.
"After dinner," he writes, "I went with Monroe into his cabinet.
He tells me he is just now poor, but he offered to supply me to the
amount of fifty pounds, in sums of ten or fifteen as I might want
it, or else desired me to go to Skipwith, the Consul for the United
States, and see if he would give me cash for my bill on Philadel-
phia, which he would guarantee, or for one to the same amount
on himself, at a short date, which he would accept. He offered
me at the same time ten louis for my current expenses. All this
is very handsome in Monroe. After thanking him I told him I
would avail myself of his permission to try Skipwith, but that I
was not in any difficulties for some days to come, and conse-
quently refused, with many acknowledgments, the money he
offered me. He goes out of town to-night for two days ; on the
third I am to call on him and in the meantime see the Consul."

All his life Monroe was the inveterate foe of England. When
a mere boy of eighteen years he left college and joined the Revo-
lutionary Army as a lieutenant in the Third Virginia Regiment,
and fought the battles of his country for more than three years.
When England stood ready to seize the entrance to the Missis-
sippi President Jefferson sent Monroe to France as his special
envoy to conclude the purchase of Louisiana from that country.
Monroe threw all his energy into the work and the matter was
brought to a speedy and satisfactory settlement. When it was
done. Napoleon, after giving his consent, turned to his ministers
and exultantly uttered these prophetic words: "I have given to
England a maritime rival that will sooner or later humble her

When the second war with England took place Monroe was
Secretary of State in Madison's Cabinet, and in 1814 and 181 5
he also acted as Secretary of War. The public buildings in Wash-


ington were burned and it was only by the most strenuous efforts
that the destroying hand of England was stayed. Monroe proved
himself equal to the great emergency and gained much popularity
for the enthusiasm with which he prosecuted the war and saved
the capital and the country.

Among the Irishmen in Virginia most active on the eve of
the Revolution were John James and William Crogan. They ren-
dered efficient service to their own State at the most critical period
and afterward distinguished themselves in the army.

William Crogan was born in Ireland in 1752 and came to
America at an early age. Carroll Judson includes him in his
"Sages and Heroes of the American Revolution," and tells us
that as he imbibed no love for England in his native land, he de-
tested her tyranny in America and was among the first to take up
arms against it. In 1776 he received the commission of captain
in the Continental Army and took command of a company of in-
fantry in the Virginia line. He was in the battles of Brandywine,
Germantown, and Monmouth, and won the high approbation of
his superior officers. When the enemy invaded the South he was
ordered to that field and raised to the rank of major. At the fall
of Charleston he was among the prisoners surrendered by Gen-
eral Lincoln and was never exchanged during the remainder of
the war. He returned to Virginia on parole and was a looker-on
at the siege of Yorktown, but could not participate in that glori-
ous victory. In 1784 he removed to Kentucky, where he resided
until his death in 1822.

John James was bom in Ireland in 1732. His father and
several of his neighbors came to Virginia in 1733 and settled in
Williamsburg. At the commencement of the Revolution all their
descendants ranged themselves on the side of Independence and
no one among them was more enthusiastic in the cause of liberty
than John James. Being a captain of militia under the colony he
resigned his commission as the time for decisive action ap-
proached. His company all threw off their allegiance to England
and retained him as their commander in the patriot ranks. In
1776 he marched with his men to the defense of Charleston, where
he was soon promoted to the rank of major and became one of
the most efficient officers in the service owing to the knowledge
of border warfare which he had acquired in the colonial service.
He distinguished himself with great bravery in the many en-
gagements in which he took part, performed many bold exploits,
and had numerous hairbreadth escapes. At one time while he
was alone he was attacked by two British dragoons who were in
advance of their comrades, but while they were drawing their
sabers to cut him down he brought them to a sudden halt by a


quick display of an empty pistol, and then leaped over a chasm
which proved too broad for the Englishmen. Just before the
close of the war he retired to his farm in Virginia and lived there
until his death, in 1791, crowned with the honors of war and the
respect and admiration of his fellow-citizens.

In no part of the colonies was the spirit of patriotism more
active at this time than in the Carolinas. Both colonies were
largely peopled by that class which American historians persist
in calling Scotch-Irish, although they admit that they lived in
Ireland since the plantation of Ulster by James the First of Eng-
land — 170 years before the American Revolution.

As this period of Irish history is important in consideration of
those so-called "Scotch-Irish" in the American Revolution, a
brief reference to it will not be out of place.

James the First of England was James the Sixth of Scot-
land before he ascended the English throne. The Irish placed
confidence in him because while he was King of Scotland he was
always their friend. Moreover, he was a descendant of Edward
Bruce, who was chosen King of Ireland in the fourteenth cen-
tury and fought Ireland's battles at that period. Immediately
before ascending the throne of England and while he was still
King of Scotland, James the Sixth expressed himself in favor
of justice to Catholics and had written to Pope Clement the
Eighth promising that he would embrace the Catholic faith as
soon as he was established on the English throne. All this, how-
ever, was changed through the weakness of the King himself and
the bigotry of his Secretary of State, Cecil, the ancestor of the
late equally bigoted Lord Salisbury.

This Cecil found means to withdraw the letter to the Pope
and estrange the King from, his Irish and Catholic subjects. He
actually formed conspiracies against his King for the purpose
of betraying them and falsely accusing Catholics of their forma-
tion. It was he who concocted the conspiracy which resulted in
the confiscation of Ulster. In order to turn the King against
the Irish Catholics he resolved to involve them in treason. He
instructed one of his tools, Christopher St. Lawrence, Baron of
Howth, commonly called the One-Eyed, to invite the leading
Catholics of Ulster to a secret conference in order to entrap them.
The Earl of Tyrone and Tirconnell, with others, attended this
conference. St. Lawrence informed them that he had learned on
good authority that the Catholic religion was about to be driven
out of Ireland and advised them to take measures for their de-
fense. Instead of doing this, the noblemen, for the reasons we
have stated, unanimously replied that they had confidence in the
King and would remain faithful to him. Nevertheless they were


accused of having formed secret designs against the King and
were brought to London for examination. Learning that their
deaths were resolved upon, the Earls of Tyrone and Tirconnell
sought safety in flight. Thereupon they were proclaimed rebels
and not only their individual estates, but six whole counties^ in
Ulster were confiscated by the King without examination or trial.

English historians generally, and American historians as well,
attribute these confiscations to an insurrection in Ulster, but
everything was peaceful there when the criminal seizures began.
Owing to the severity with which they were carried out, and fear-
ing for himself the same fate as Tyrone and Tirconnell, Sir Cahir
O'Dougherty, Chief of Inishowen, a young man of twenty, took
up arms in 1608 in defense of the CathoHcs and administered
some severe blows to their persecutors. That was the only re-
bellion which took place in Ulster at that time and it was caused
by the confiscation which had already taken place.

It was during this period, at the opening of the seventeenth
century, that the ancestors of the so-called Scotch-Irish came to
Ireland and they lived there for more than a hundred years be-
fore they began to emigrate to America in any numbers. During
that period, they had forgotten their Scotch proclivities and had
become as wholly Irish, save in religion alone, as the natives
themselves. No fair-minded people could live in Ireland for any
time without being amalgamated by the natives or acquiring their
characteristics of generosity and love of justice.

In no part of America was this more clearly proven than in
North Carolina. There the Scotch people who had never been
in Ireland turned out to a man in favor of the English King,
while the descendants of Scotchmen who were planted in Ire-
land by King James the First and had lived there for genera-
tions fought unanimously in behalf of liberty and independence.

From its earliest days Irishmen were prominent in the af-
fairs of North Carolina. Arthur Dobbs, who was bom in Ire-
land, was Governor of the Colony from 1754 until his death in
1765. He had been a member of the Irish Parliament and was
distinguished for his attempt to discover the northwest passage.
He was also an author of ability, among his works being a vol-
ume on "Trade Improvements in Ireland," which was published
in Dublin in 1729. Though he was loyal to the crown of Eng-
land and highly aristocratic in his ideas he became much changed
by his democratic surroundings in the new country and had he
lived until the Revolution the chances are that he would have
espoused the cause of the people.

He was succeeded by William Tryon, another Irishman, but
one who, we are sorry to say, was a disgrace to the country that


gave him birth. Naturally grasping, cruel, and bloodthirsty,
ne was a tyrant to those under him and a cringing slave to those
above him in authority or power — a worthy representative of that
Cromwellian band who scourged Ireland and America alike.
Country made no difference to him. Irish in nothing but the
accident of birth and an utter stranger to everything good in
human nature, he was a fitting tool of England in her wars against

Among the genuine Irishmen who gave battle to Tryon and
his hireling cohorts was Samuel McRee, who emigrated from
County Down, Ireland, in 1740, and settled in North Carolina.
He soon became a prominent man in his section, and was elected
a magistrate in Bladen County. He left a family that became
distinguished in the annals of his State. His son, Griffith John
McRee, was a colonel in the Revolutionary army and afterward
Collector of Revenue for his district. His grandsons, William
and Samuel McRee, sons of Griffith John, rendered brilliant
service to the United States in the war of 1812, while his great-
grandson, Griffith John McRee, became a leading lawyer in
Wilmington, N. C, and won fame as a scholar and historian.
Fort McRee, Pensacola, Fla., was named in honor of William
McRee, grandson of the Irish founder of the family.

Thomas Burke, the first Governor of North Carolina under
Independence, was one of the most active spirits in the South
for ten years before the Revolution. He was born in Ireland in
1747 and came to America in 1764. He at first settled in Vir-
ginia, where he studied medicine and became a physician. Then
he turned to the study of law, and was admitted to the bar in
Norfolk, Va. Being a fluent speaker, a writer of ability and a man
of a bold and earnest temperament, he rapidly forged to the front
in the councils of the patriots. In 1774 he removed to Hills-
borough, N. C, where his fame preceded him and he at once
became one of the most prominent men in the colony. He was a

Online LibraryJames HaltiganThe Irish in the American revolution, and their early influence in the colonies → online text (page 29 of 67)