People of Celtic
(Scots, Irish and Welsh) played a huge part in shaping the United States of America. Some say
that Celtic American influence has wielded too much power. However this was not always so – there was a time when the
Scottish Americans and fellow Celts were
considered by the English elite as outcasts, with the native Indians and African slaves.
A series on Scottish Television in 2003
explored the history of Celts in
America. The story begins in the first half of the 18th century when thousands fled the Hanoverian regime
, and when Scottish, Irish and Welsh prisoners of war were sent across the
Atlantic to an American destiny.
Many Highland Scots – with names like Ross and Macdonald – became part and parcel of the Indian nations of the southeast. For generations the principal chiefs of the Creek were called either MacIntosh or McGillivray. However, it is a sad irony that the Native Americans also had no more bitter enemies than the Scots-Irish and lowland Scots.
Highland Jacobites were some of King George’s most loyal Americans. Even Flora Macdonald,
saviour of "Bonnie Prince Charlie" turned loyalist when she immigrated to the Carolinas.
The great names of the western frontier –
Davie Crockett, Jim Bowie, Daniel Boone, Jeremiah Johnston – were of Scots-Irish stock.
The Scots-Irish, the Lowland Scots and the Welsh were the
backbone of George Washington’s army. The Scots almost exclusively fought one of the key battles in the War of Independence – on both sides.
Many of the signatories to the Declaration of Independence of 1776 were Welsh, Scots and Irish-Scots.
Those of Celtic
descent played a significant role in expanding the boundaries of the USA. The Welsh largely built up America’s iron and steel industry.
The mass emigration of the (mainly) Catholic Irish during the potato famine
in the early 19th century became one of the defining moments of American history.
Modern historians calculate that when the civil war broke out about 75% of the South’s population was Celtic. The Confederate flag was a transatlantic version of the saltires of St. Andrew and St. Patrick, celebrated as ‘the bonnie blue flag’.
The end of the civil war saw the manifestation of the most unpleasant Celtic institution, the Ku Klux Klan, and of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the forerunner to the IRA.
The economic plight of post-war USA presented big opportunities for Scots businessmen – investment trusts were set up which ploughed a huge amount of Scots money into railways, cattle ranches, mines, forestry and land.
The Scots-Irish provided the USA with an extraordinary number of presidents – Andrew Jackson, James Polk, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses Grant, Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, Woodrow Wilson, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter.
As well as providing fine politicians, inventors and businessmen, the darker side of the Celtic Americans was never far away. There was a revival in the Ku Klux Klan in 1915 and the Welsh, for some reason, proved adept urban gangsters.
In the 50 years between 1880 and 1930 around 760,000 Scots, Irish and Welsh immigrated to the USA. Those of Celtic
descent continue to make a massive contribution to the USA, and more and more they like to express something of their culture – with Highland Games and St. Patrick’s Day parades
popular across the country.
there are more people of Celtic descent in North America than in all the European based Celtic countries put together.
Television (STV) series began on 12th June and ended on 17th July 2003