The Scotch-Irish of Colonial Pennsylvania

By Wayland F. Dunaway | Go to book overview

7
Politics, Law, and Government

We apprehend that as freemen and English subjects, we have an indisputable title to the same privileges and immunities with his majesty's other subjects, who reside in the interior counties of Philadelphia, Chester, and Bucks, and therefore ought not to be excluded from an equal share with them in the very important privilege of legislation. SCOTCH-IRISH MEMORIAL OF GRIEVANCES, 1764.

AMONG THE NOTEWORTHY characteristics of the Scotch-Irish is a genius for politics, law, and government. Their political influence has been large in the history of the nation in general, and of Pennsylvania in particular. Firmly rooted in this state as an important element of the population, their aptitude for politics has here had free play and has carried them far in the political life of the commonwealth. Despite their political propensities, however, they found upon their arrival that conditions in Pennsylvania were such as to preclude their becoming an important political factor in the province for a generation or more. They were the last of the major racial groups to arrive, and meanwhile the Quakers, massed in the three original counties of Philadelphia, Chester, and Bucks, had established themselves so firmly in control of the government that it was a practical impossibility to dislodge them, at least not without a long and bitter struggle. Again, the Scotch-Irish, being far out on the frontier, were at first too busily engaged in conquering the wilderness to devote much time to other matters. Furthermore, as the first line of defense against the savages, it fell to their lot to bear the brunt of the Indian wars. So full were their hands in attending to these concerns that they had small opportunity to en

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