Saturday 23 October 2004

Scots for W

I came across a fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal suggesting that the "Scots-Irish" may be the group that re-elects President Bush:
The Scots-Irish are derived from a mass migration from Northern Ireland in the 1700s, when the Calvinist "Ulster Scots" decided they'd had enough of fighting Anglican England's battles against Irish Catholics. One group settled initially in New Hampshire, spilling over into modern-day Vermont and Maine. The overwhelming majority--95%--migrated to the Appalachians in a series of frontier communities that stretched from Pennsylvania to northern Alabama and Georgia. They eventually became the dominant culture of the South and much of the Midwest.

True American-style democracy had its origins in this culture. Its values emanated from the Scottish Kirk, which had thrown out the top-down hierarchy of the Catholic Church and replaced it with governing councils made up of ordinary citizens. This mix of fundamentalist religion and social populism grew from a people who for 16 centuries had been tested through constant rebellions against centralized authority. The Scots who headed into the feuds of 17th-century Ulster, and then into the backlands of the American frontier, hardened further into a radicalism that proclaimed that no man had a duty to obey a government if its edicts violated his moral conscience.

When will Scots rebel against centralised authority here at home?


David Farrer said...

Comments made on previous template:

Young Fogey
I think that's closer to the mark, David.

25 October 2004, 15:12:38 GMT+01:00
– Like – Reply

David Farrer
Interesting comments gentlemen. 
Probably I should have put a question mark at the end of the title. 
I think that Alastair Ross is correct in saying that "the anti-authoritarian aspect of this group's character may be slightly exaggerated" - as also suggested by David Rossie and Young Fogey. Perhaps the pro-Bush Ulster-Scots see the President as an "outside the beltway" and fellow southern politician compared to Senator Kerry - in other words a populist rather than a libertarian.

25 October 2004, 14:10:07 GMT+01:00
– Like – Reply

Alastair Ross
Remarkable people indeed. However I think the anti-authoritarian aspect of this group's character may be slightly exaggerated. The Scotch-Irish produced many extremely fine soldiers of both the officer class and the other ranks.This would indicate that an amenability to strict discipline was a not uncommon character trait. Generals Ulysses S Grant, Douglas('I shall return') MacArthur as well as the Scottish Rite Masonic brethern Kit Carson, Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett, were of this ethnic provenance.

25 October 2004, 01:01:49 GMT+01:00
– Like – Reply

Young Fogey
As a Norn Iron Catholic, I'm a bit dubious about all this supposedly libertarian, non-interventionist, limited government culture that the Ulster-Scots are supposed to have. A cursory examination of Unionist politics in NI shows it to be utterly statist - in fact the whole political spectrum in Northern Ireland from Sinn Féin through to the DUP is entirely statist. In some ways Catholics have more of a tradition of cocking a snoop at the sillier ideas of government after centuries of not owing much allegiance to it. 
And this in turn might explain why the Ulster-Scots might help Bush win the election - what's so limited about the Patriot Act, Guantanamo Bay, detention without trial for illegal immigrants for years on end, pre-empive War, opposition to gay marriage, the "war on drugs", etc., etc.?

25 October 2004, 00:58:54 GMT+01:00
– Like – Reply

Neil Craig
Magna Carta was very much an a who does what agreement between the king & nobles about how to divide up the common people as so well described by that historical classic 1066 & All That. It is not, in that way, very different from other agreements for Parlements in Europe. The element of rights for commoners was very minor.  
By comparison the Declaration of Arbroath, which says very specifically that the king does not have the right to submit to Edward, very much puts sovereignty in the hands of the populace.  
More important for Britain's political development are the facts that Scotland always had a high level of literacy, compared to England, or indeed Europe, at the time of the Union & a church which was organised bottom up. Clearly this is also exactly the direction of American political development leading to independence. 
By comparison Starkey's history of Englands "1500 year" monarchy is rather trivial.

24 October 2004, 21:57:44 GMT+01:00
– Like – Reply

David Rossie
I'm sorry, David, but clarify something for me. Do you believe there's a relationship between the Scots-Irish belief in personal autonomy from gov't and today's Mid-West/Southern conservative support for Bush?  
Maybe in the most nominal sense. But allow me as a representative of the old-right and classical liberalism who lives in Ohio to challenge the notion that most Bush supporters encourage a healthy disobedience of an unruly gov't. Ever hear the phrases "if you don't like it, leave it" and "support your leaders in war-time"? Those sound scarier than they look when directed at you by some of these voters.

24 October 2004, 02:47:08 GMT+01:00
– Like – Reply

David Farrer said...

David Malloch
You can also find David Starkey claiming that it is Englands Anglo Saxon tradition (with Magna Carta etc)which is the true father of American democracy, and that is the reason for the 'special relationship' 
Furthermore Starkey claims Scotland is essentially European in its political outlook, and hence why we prefer strong top down government to England’s preference for more limited government with power rising from bellow. 
Starkey writes: 
“The continental tradition of power coming down from the top is a legacy of the Romans. Not only was their empire a military despotism, it was also peculiarly distrustful of any form of self-help, much less self-government, on the part of its subjects. “ 
Sound familiar? 
He contrasts this with the Anglo Saxon tradition shared by England and America: 
“In the English tradition, power rises from below. The principle is enshrined in Magna Carta, which is our written constitution in spite of the belief that we don’t have one. It’s simply so old we have forgotten it. This agreement of 1215 was the chief defence against unjust and arbitrary rule in England. It established for the first time that the power of the monarch could be limited by a written compact. There is no such mainstream tradition of negotiated and limited power in Europe. “ 
With our current enthusiasm for socialist politics it does have a ring of truth about it.

23 October 2004, 22:06:15 GMT+01:00