Sunday, January 8, 2017

Scots-Irish & The Quaker Proprietors

At the time we were apprehensive of the Northern Indians…. I therefore thought it might be provident to plant a settlement of such men as those who formerly had so bravely defended Londonderry and Enniskillen as a frontier against any disturbance.
—James Logan, provincial secretary of Pennsylvania
Many early Scots-Irish immigrants entered America through the port of Philadelphia and were  compelled by the Quaker government to settle in the western Pennsylvania frontier. As in most of the crown colonies, non-English settlers were encouraged to populate the backcountry. The pacifist Quaker proprietors of Pennsylvania not only wanted keep the influx of immigrants from excessively populating their port city, they also strove to create a defensive human buffer between hostile Indians and the coastal gentry. (This plan, of course, was not used by the proprietors as a selling point to western settlers.) 
The frontier buffer was reminiscent of a similar role lowland Scots played for centuries between England and the, then adversarial, highland Scots. The role was also replayed in the lowlanders’ 17th century deployment to Ireland by King James I of England in his creation of the “Ulster Plantation.” Ulster served, in essence, as a strategic buffer between Anglican England and Catholic Ireland. When Scots-Irish immigrants arrived in American ports, their reputations preceded them. The Pennsylvania proprietors were well aware that the Scots-Irish were not averse to putting up a good fight and were also keen on not having them taint their Quaker lifestyle, yet they were quite happy for them to kill savage Indians on their behalf. Out of sight, out of mind. The tide of Scots-Irish, as well as German, immigrants was kept flowing westward from the moment the multitude disembarked at the Philadelphia docks.

The Quakers concluded that Scotch-Irish immigration ought to be stopped, and in one of their petitions sent to the council of my state, they declared that the Scotch-Irish were “a pernicious and pugnacious people.” They were in perpetual conflict. The truth is, the Scotch-Irish were ever upon the outskirts of civilization. The Quakers lived where they could live in peace. They were a lovely people, and we have the conviction that they founded Pennsylvania in peace. So they did. The truth is, they did every thing to aid warfare, and left the Scotch-Irish to fight it out. They would go amongst the Indians, and trade with them, and give them ammunition and firearms, because they were peaceful brothers, and the Indians would murder the Scotch-Irish, and the Quakers while dwelling in peace did great good in dealing justly with the Indian and getting him to kill the Scotch-Irish. They were in constant conflict.… But the Quaker always protested, always complained, and in every possible way sought to limit Scotch-Irish immigration, or drive it from the state; and they did drive many from the state.
—Colonel Alexander K. McClure of Philadelphia
It was common practice for immigrants to finance their Atlantic crossings with servitude contracts. Scots-Irish and palatinate German settlers that had arrived under such contracts were often commingled in frontier communities. In context of language, ethical, and religious differences, culture clashes ensued. As contracts were fulfilled, many Scots-Irish, outnumbered in population by the Germans, chose to leave Pennsylvania. Their next migration coincided with additional western lands being opened for settlement in the southern colonies. Again, colonial proprietors were hoping for protection from frontier Indians.
By the 1730s, motivators increased for Scots-Irish to consider leaving for points south. These included: rising land prices in Pennsylvania, cash incentives for relocation, competition with German immigrants, and discriminatory practices implemented, or tolerated, by the provincial government.
The proprietaries, in consequence of the frequent disturbances between the governor and Irish settlers, after the organization of York and Cumberland counties, gave orders to their agents to sell no lands in either York or Lancaster counties to the Irish; and also to make advantageous offers of removal to the Irish settlers on Paxton and Swatara, and Donegal townships, to remove to Cumberland county, which offers being liberal, were accepted by many. “Du verfluchter Irischer”* used to be a frequent ejaculation of reproach in former days. 
—John F. Watson**
* Translation: “You cursed Irish”
** John F. Watson, Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, in the Olden Time, 1870, J. B. Lippincott & Co., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania