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otic heart :

"Of the operations of the war — I mean the soldiers — up to
the coming of the French, Ireland had furnished in the ratio of
one hundred for one of any nation whatever. Then honored be
the old and good services of the sons of Erin in the War of Inde-
pendence. Let the Shamrock be entwined with the laurels oi the
Revolution; and truth and justice, guiding the pen of history,
inscribe on the tablets of America's remembrance : "Eternal grat-
itude to Irishmen."

Were these noble words carried out there would be no need
now to compile this history or to assemble any historic facts
whatever to sustain the truth. But we are sorry to say they have
not been carried out and that neither truth nor justice now guides



34 THE IRISH IX THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION.

the pen of history. On the contrary, as we have shown on com-
petent authority, efforts have been made to hide or slur the truth
and do gross injustice to the men of Irish birth or blood who
sacrificed so much in fighting the battles of this Republic during
the dark days of the Revolutionary War,

We believe, however, we have stated sufficient facts to
expose those eflforts as the work of designing or unthinking men,
undertaken on the order or through the influence of the British
Government. We will return to Pennsylvania again and again
in the course of our history — especially to Philadelphia, the Cap-
ital of the new-born nation — but for the present we will review
the preliminary situation in other sections of the country.



■ ^ ' CHAPTER IV.

PROMINENCE OF THE IRISH RACE IN EARLY NEW YORK AND NEW
JERSEY.

New York, before the Revolution, was not the Empire State
that it is now. The city was behind both Philadelphia and Boston
in point of affluence and population, and the State was but sparsely
settled and greatly subject to Indian depredations.

New York was behind those sections, too, in the patriotic
ardor of its citizens, but at the same time it contained many brave
men within its borders, while nearly all the Irish population
flocked to the standard of Independence. Its continual occupa-
tion by the English as the headquarters of the Army and Navy
made it the center of the Tory or loyal English population. It
was long the base of operations on the part of the English, and
from the city itself more marauding parties started out to burn
and destroy the surrounding country than from any other point.
That section lying along the banks of the Hudson between New
York and Peekskill, which was called the Neutral Ground, owing
to its position between the two armies, was subject to continual
persecution and robbery from the beginning to the end of the war.

In 1 68 1, the year in which William Penn received the charter
of Pennsylvania, there was an Irishman Governor of the Colony
of New York. His name was Thomas Dongan, and he was born
in Castletown, County Kildare, Ireland, in 1634.

He was the best Governor ever sent to New York by the
English kings, and willingly granted the people their full rights.
But these rights were speedily taken away by his successors, as
they were opposed to the methods of English civilization, and had
to be fought for by the Americans in the Revolution nearly one
hundred years later. And yet his name was utterly forgotten until
a few years ago, when it was resurrected by an Irish-American
lecturer. The New York Times, in its literary edition of Feb-
ruary I, 1902, had a lengthy editorial on Dongan, which we print
here because it contains the truth and is eminently fair to Don-
gan's memory, though it is highly characteristic of the then chief
organ of the Anglo-Americans :

"And who might Thomas Dongan be? Such, no doubt, were
the thoughts which arose in many minds, on learning a few days
ago that a public dinner had taken place in this city in honor of
Dongan's memory, and that one of the speakers insisted that a
monument to Dongan should be erected in New York. A search

35



36 THE IRISH IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION.

of the cyclopedias would scarcely shed much light on the question.
In the English 'Dictionary of National Biography' there is nothing
about Dongan ; the 'Encyclopedia Britannica' has nothing, and
Johnson nothing, while 'Applcton's Dictionary of American Biog-
raphy' disposes of the man in a stickful.

"Thomas Dongan was Governor of the Province of New
York from 1682 until 1688, and during those six years left a mark,
on the history of the province such as no preceding Governor had
left and few subsequent ones were able to leave, except Burnet.
His administration was not only characterized by vigor and intel-
ligence, but by enlightenment in which a keen sense of political
liberty was pron^inent. To Dongan New York was indebted for
a document '.vhicli ought to be more famous than it is, that 'Char-
ter of Liberties and Privileges' which is a landmark in the history
of popular government in America. Its date is the year 1683, or
alm.ost a century back of the Revolution. Here are some of its
provisions :

" 'Every freeholder within this province and freeman in any
corporation shall have his free choice and vote in the election of
the representatives, without any manner of constraint or imposi-
tion, and in all elections the majority of voices shall carry it.

" 'No aid tax, tollage, assessment, custom, loan, benevolence,
or imposition whatsoever shall be laid, assessed, imposed or levied
on any of his Majesty's subjects within this province, or their
estates, uj^on any manner of color or pretense but by the act and
consent of the Governor, Council, and representatives of the
people in General Assembly met and assembled.'

"Under this act members of the New York Assembly thus
acquired the same privileges as those enjoyed by mem1-)ers of the
English Parliament. The most lib .ral provisions of the English
law were extended to the inhabitants of New York. In other
words, here was asserted the great principle of taxation by con-
sent. No charter in any of the governments of New England
secured liberties like these : in none of them were the people rec-
ognized as having legislative authority. Had these liberties
granted in New York remained thenceforth parts of popular
rights in America, there could, of course, have been no revolution,
for here was granted the very principle for which the Revolution
was fought — taxation only by consent of the taxed.

"The fate of Dongan's charter is interesting and memorable.
Having been proclaimed by Dongan, it was sent to England for
the Duke of York's approval and signature. It was duly signed
and sealed by him in March, 1684. A year afterward the Duke
succeeded as King of England, and it came up for discussion.
It was then decided to be too liberal, and the King did not 'think



THE IRISH IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, 37

fit to confirm it.' The law, however, had gone into force in New
York and so continued until near the end of the same year, or
about two years after Dongan had solemnly proclaimed it.

"These are not the only services which Dongan rendered.
Except for his defensive opposition to William Penn, it is likely
that Penn would have extended his domain far northward of
Pennsylvania. Penn sought to acquire from the Indians the
upper Susquehanna Valley because of its valuable fur trade.
Dongan opposed him at every point, and finally thwarted him,
becoming himself the purchaser of those lands from the Indians.
Penn never forgave Dongan. Rising high in favor at the Court
of James II, he fostered prejudice against him, and in 1688 Don-
gan was recalled.

"Dongan's further services pertain to that century-long con-
flict by which this continent was rescued from the French, and
made secure for Anglo-Saxon civilization. He was himself a
Romanist, but this did not restrain him from vigorous opposition
to French priests who sought to win over to the cause of France
the Indians of New York. Dongan was first among English
Governors to realize the importance of such action. In the next
century its importance was again realized by men from New
England, who sent Protestant missionaries into Central New
York. It was also realized by Sir WiUiam Johnson, another
Irishman, to whom, as to Dongan, a memorial might well be set
up in New York. Johnson held the Indians fast to the cause of
England and more than one historian has attributed to this the
final overthrow of the French power in America. But Dongan's
work began two generations before Johnson's. He also was the
pioneer.

"Men are just beginning to realize the tremendous impor-
tance of that war with France — in some ways a more important
factor in the civilization of this continent than the Revolution
itself. To Dongan belongs the singular and double honor of hav-
ing taken early and important steps against French aggressions,
and at the same time securing for New York a charter in which
were embodied the very principles for which ninety years after-
ward the Revolution was fought.

"He has been forgotten by this generation, but his day will yet
come — when some good cyclopedist shall actually tell who's who."

The opening paragraph in the Times article bears out our
contention that Irishmen have been systematically ignored in cur-
rent American publications — so much so that even the Times
itself in its concluding sentence hopes for a day yet to come "when
some good cyclopedist will actually tell who's who."



38 THE IRISH IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION.

We thank the Times for this admission, but at the same time
we must point out its typical errors about Enghsh civihzation and
object to its unjust conckisions. We also resent the insulting and
Cromwellian epithet of "Romanist," which it applies to Dongan,
who, it admits, was a man of liberal mind and sound judgment.

Dongan's policy, as we have said, was not founded on the
lines of so-called English civilization, because the course pursued
by England, not only here in America, but in Ireland and every
other country which she inflicted with her presence, was entirely
at variance with Dongan's methods of justice and true civiliza-
tion. Had England adopted his principles as her national policy
the American Revolution would have been rendered unnecessary
and Ireland would have been saved countless years of misery and
persecution.

The Times admits that no other colony in America secured
from England liberties like those granted by Dongan, the course
pursued in all of them being entirely adverse to his. Therefore
Dongan's methods were not English. If they were, they would
have been generally inaugurated long before his time and he
would have been maintained in office instead of being dismissed.
If Dongan were alive during the Revolution he would have taken
up arms in behalf of his own principles and would have been
found at the side of Washington helping to drive England and
her civilization from these shores.

Dongan's charter was founded on Irish civilization, not Eng-
lish. The liberties which he granted the people began and ended
with his term of office. They were the result of his Irish liberality
and feeling and utterly opposed to the course invariably pursued
by England.

After his removal the charter of liberty which he had granted
was not only repealed by the Protestant Assembly of New York,
at the order of King William, but in 1700 that body enacted a
law that "every priest remaining in or coming into the Province
after November i, 1700, should be deemed and accounted an
incendiary and disturber of the public peace and safety, and an
enemy of the true Christian religion, and shall be adjudged to
suffer perpetual imprisonment; that is, in case of escape and cap-
ture they should suffer death, and that the harborers of priests
should pay a fine of two hundred pounds, and stand three days in
the pillory."

This was the true English civilization — the same barbarous
methods which were practiced on Ireland for so many centuries —
which proved the bitter curse of every country in which England
has set her foot, and which finally drove America into Revolution.

It is the same old English policy which has remained un-



THE IRISH IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION. 39

changed and unchangeable for ages — the purely EngHsh doctrine
of hberty for itself and tyranny for all others, the shameless usur-
pation which rides roughshod over every people, confiscating
their property and destroying themselves.

As governor succeeded governor, the laws became more and
more exacting and the taxes grew higher and higher. Remon-
strances were of no use and only brought insult and added injury.
Governor Lovlace declared he would make the taxes so high that
"the people would have liberty for no thought but how to dis-
charge them."

The Times, too, does a great injustice to the memory of Gov-
ernor Dongan by comparing him to Johnson, the Irish Tory.
Johnson followed the lines laid down by England. He coerced
and persecuted the people instead of granting them any rights.
He even urged the Indians to commit depredations on the white
settlers, who were struggHng for those rights, and with fire and
sword did all in his power to thwart their efforts for independence.
This was the real English civilization which was driven out of
the country by the Revolution.

If this so-called Anglo-Saxon civilization was right the Amer-
ican Revolution was wrong, and all the sophistry in the world on
the part of the Times or its Anglo-American adherents will not
change the situation.

An Englishman's civilization, as we have said, means liberty
for himself alone, and oppression and wrong for those who oppose
his lawless sway.

Thomas Dongan, the Irishman, was the best Governor ever
sent to these shores, and the charter which he granted the people
was so just that it lasts to this day, and is still the basis on which
the rights of citizens rest.

We think therefore that the influence of this Irishman largely
entered into the civilization of this Republic.

Owing to the bitter religious prejudice which was planted in
New York by the early Dutch and afterward encouraged by the
English, few Irish Catholics came to New York before the Revo-
lution.

The first Catholic missionary who penetrated the colony of
New York was Father Jogues, the Jesuit. In a letter dated
August 30, 1643, he records the fact that he heard the confessions
of a young Irishman and a Portuguese woman on Manhattan
Island.

Nearly all what is now Orange and Sullivan Counties, New
York, was originally settled by the Irish. No less than eight
Irish families are set forth in Eager's "History of Orange County"
as the first settlers of Newburgh, N. Y.



40 THE IRISH IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION.

Year after year broug-ht new accessions to these settlers until
they spread northward as far as Albany and westward to the Dela-
ware River.

Among the Irish Protestants who came to New York were
many men of bright intellect and liberal mind who exercised great
power over the events which led up to the Revolution.

In this class of emigrants was Charles Clinton, who was born
in the County Longford, Ireland, in 1690. His grandfather, Wil-
liam Clinton, settled in Ireland on the death of Charles I, in 1649,
and died there, leaving one son. This son, James Clinton, lived
all his life in Ireland, and was the father of Charles Clinton, who
emigrated to New York, in his fortieth year, in 1729, and became
the founder of the patriot Clinton family in America.

Being a man of influence in Longford, Charles Clinton pre-
vailed upon a large number of his neighbors and friends to corne
to the New World with him, a receipt still preserved among_ his
papers evidencing the fact that he paid the passages of ninety-four
persons.

They sailed from Dublin in a vessel called the George and
Anne on May 20, 1729. Their captain proved a violent and
unprincipled villain. They were poorly supplied with stores and
suffered from disease and famine, many of the passengers, includ-
ing a son and daughter of Mr. Clinton, dying on the long voyage.
They were finally landed en the coast of Massachusetts on Octo-
ber 4, 1729, the captain refusing to go to New York or Philadel-
phia, the latter 'port having been Clinton's original place of desti-
nation. The whole party remained in Massachusetts until the
spring of 1731, when they removed to the province of New York,
and settled at a place called Little Britain, just north of the Hud-
son Highlands, afterward a part of Ulster and now a part of
Orange County. Here, with the virgin wilderness around him,
Charles Clinton made his home, and followed his occupation of
farmer and land surveyor.

He was afterward justice of the peace, county judge and lieu-
tenant-colonel of the Ulster County Militia. He took an active
part in the Indian and French wars, and was in command of a
regiment at the capture of Fort Frontenac. He was a man of
pure and elevated character, of dignified manners and exerted
great influence in the district where he lived. Charles Clinton
was married In Ireland to Elizabeth Denniston, an intelligent and
accomplished Irishwoman, who shared largely in the patriotic
ardor of her husband and her sons.

Charles Clinton died on the 19th of November, 1773, at his
own residence, in the eighty-third year of his age, and in full view
of that Revolution in which his sons wert destined to act such



THE IRISH IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION. 4I

noble and distinguished parts. His wife survived him six years
and died at the residence of her son, General James Clinton, on
Christmas day, 1779, in the seventy-fifth year of her age.

This was the worthy couple who founded the Clinton family
in America. They left four sons — Alexander, Charles, James, and
George. The two fonner were distinguished physicians, but it is
with the two latter that we have principally to deal. From his
youth up, James was a soldier, and rose to the rank of major-
general m the patriot army. He was married to Mary De Witt,
a lady of great respectabHity and of Holland ancestry. He had
four sons — Alexander, Charles, and George being prominent
lawyers, and De Witt, Governor of the State of New York, and
projector of the Erie Canal.

George, the youngest son of Charles Clinton the founder, was
a soldier and a statesman. He was a member of the Provincial
Assembly just before the Revolution, and was a fearless advocate
of his country's liberty. He was the first Governor of the State
of New York and for twenty-one years was continued in that
high and responsible office, where he exerted a larger influence
than any other man over the future destinies of the Empire State,
closing his eventful life while Vice-President of the United States.

Later on we will speak more at length of the achievements
of these Clintons and of the other distinguished Irishmen who
settled in New York, but before temporarily parting with them
we must state that they were thoroughly Irish as well as Amer-
ican. Their actions in 1804 on the arrival of Thomas Addis
Emmet in this country proved the kind of Irish they were. When
an effort was made to prevent the Irish patriot from joining the
bar of New York he had no warmer friends than George Clinton,
Governor of the State, and De Witt Clinton, his nephew, then
Mayor of the city of New York. They espoused his cause so
thoroughly that Emmet had no difficulty in defeating his enemies
and becoming a member of the New York bar.

No matter where the Clintons originally sprang from, they
were over eighty years in Ireland and were of the same class of
Irishmen as the Emmets and Wolf Tone, whose patriotic course in
Ireland they sincerely and ardently endorsed.

The names of Dongan, Clinton, and Montgomery, without
mentioning any others, are sufficient in themselves to show what
a deep influence the Irish character had in the formation of the
Empire State.

An instance of how widespread was the influence of Irish-
men just before the American Revolution may be cited in the case
of Alexander Hamilton, one of New York's foremost patriots and
leaders, whose early education was given him by an Irishman, the



42 THE IRISH IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION.

Rev. Dr. Hugh Knox, a Presbyterian clergyman, who emigrated
to America in 1751. Doctor Knox Hved in America for many
years, but finally went as pastor to the Island of Nevis, West
Indies, where Alexander Hamilton was born, and where he was
thrown on the world at a tender age owing to the failure of his
father in business. The warm-hearted Irishman took a deep inter-
est in the boy. He not only personally educated him, but was the
means of sending him to New York, and of procuring for him
entrance to a school in Elizabeth, N. J., and to the Kings College
(now Columbia Uniyersity), New York, where he speedily made
his mark. > t *iA, >' r'WV'.i.i:. itift-W^' ■>M^J>,

Doctor Knox kept up an affectionate correspondence with
him in after years when Hamilton was on his way to greatness,
and in 1777 he wrote to him that he must be the annalist and biog-
rapher, as well as the aid-de-camp of General Washington, and
the historian of the American war of Independence. Thus an
Irishman was instrumental in giving America one of her greatest
men in the person of Alexander Hamilton.

At the annual meeting of the American-Irish Historical Soci-
ety held in New York City on January 19, 1903, the Hon. Frank-
lin M. Danaher, for many years Judge of the City Court of
Albany, N. Y., read a most valuable paper on "The Early Irish
in Old Albany," which has since been published in pamphlet form
by this Society.

Judge Danaher deserves high credit for this publication.
Though it is only a small volume, it represents a vast amount of
research and painstaking labor. All his facts are acquired from
unpublished records which have lain for years unnoticed in the
State Library and would never have seen the light but for his
loving hand.

In the last paragraph of his paper he says his "purpose in
writing it was to do for his locality what each and every member
of the society should do for his own. It was a duty, and we
have accomplished it, in the hope that it may induce others to fol-
low and to delve for richer treasures in more abundant fields of
Irish endeavor in the aid of our national development."

Well has he accomplished the duty which he set himself. If
his example were followed by our leading men all over the coun-
try, an array of historical facts, which now, through carelessness
or prejudice, remain a closed book, would be speedily presented to
the public which would add luster to the Irish race and confound
those who seek to ignore its achievements.

In his paper Judge Danaher gives a list of ninety-seven Irish-
men who figured in Albany society between the years of 1645 ^^'^



THE IRISH IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION. 43

1773, the first of whom, "Jan Andriessen (John Anderson), the
Irishman," Hved alone among the Dutch for many years. Com-
ing down to the Revokition Judge Danaher writes : "At the out-
break of the Revolution, Albany was an essentially Dutch city.
Its people retained all the cold, phlegmatic characteristics of their
seventeenth century ancestors and their jealousy of the foreigner,
so it need not cause us grief if we found no Irish names among
those who in the city in 1776 furnished the usual committee of
safety and proceeded with the business of organizing resistance
to the tyranny of England, each with his neck in a halter.

"But the unpublished manuscript records of their meetings,
on file in New York State Library, disclose the constant presence
and untiring activity in the cause of American liberty of James
Magee, James Dennison, Tyrannis Collins, Hugh Michael, Robert
Meaher, David McCarty, and John Dennis as members, and the
appointment of Patrick Campbell, ensign, and Michael Jackson,
lieutenant, in the fighting regiments. It was no different on the
firing line. In that most valuable publication, 'New York in the
Revolution,' editions of 1897, 1898, 1902, compiled by the Comp-
troller of the State of New York, we find the muster rolls of the
troops enlisted by the State of New York during the Revolution-
ary War. There were a few regiments of 'The Line,' the so-called
regulars or Continentals, but the bulk was militia, raised in the
counties, and sent wherever duty called them. Among the troops
credited to Albany County we find, as officers, the following with
Irish names : As captains, Jarvan Hogan, James Dennison, George
Hogan, Michael Horton, Tyrannis Collins, Michael Dunning, Cor-
nelius Doty, George Gilmore ; among the lieutenants, Henry Ho-
gan, Jacob Sullivan, John Thornton, Jurian Hogan, John Riley,



Online LibraryJames HaltiganThe Irish in the American revolution, and their early influence in the colonies → online text (page 4 of 67)