Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dateline: New York, 1792 - Scots Vote in Kilts

While I was doing my dissertation, I encountered, with great regularity, the fact that Scottish immigrants and those of Scottish ancestry were almost universally Loyalist during the American Revolution and thus reviled they abandoned the newly created country. While, I do not doubt that it is true in many cases, as even contemporaries estimated that up to one-third of those in America were Loyal to the British Crown, my research provided tantalizing evidence that perhaps Scots weren't as loyal as previously believed. Furthermore, even if they were Loyal, it doesn't necessarily mean they returned to the United Kingdom.

Since today is Election Day in the United States, I thought the following two paragraphs from my dissertation would be appropriate. The anecdote is from Patrick Campbell's work, Travels in the Interior Inhabited Parts of North America in the Years 1791 and 1792:

  • There was still a sizable Highland population at Albany Bush near Johnstown, Montgomery County, New York in the early 1790s.[1]  Patrick Campbell, who visited the region in 1792, wrote an account of meeting people whom he had known in Breadalbane. During Campbell’s visit local elections were held and fifty or sixty Highlanders, some wearing kilts, went into Johnstown to vote. That many of them voted in kilts, a form of dress uniquely identified with Highlanders and Highland regiments is suggestive. Those who stayed in this region of New York apparently felt no need to conceal their heritage. Furthermore, the mere fact that they were voting indicates that they had a stake in the community at-large. This in turn suggests, that community residents were able to differentiate between the Highlanders who supported the crown and those who did not. It was not Highlanders or Scots in general they disdained, but only certain ones. In fact, Campbell makes no mention that his compatriots were ever mistreated and since his publication was aimed at a British audience one would think such descriptions would potentially have had a receptive audience.[2] 
  • The Highlanders whom Campbell met in Albany Bush affirmed that they were glad to have left Scotland and had no desire to return. When it was suggested that they might be happier living under British government in Canada and that the land was better there, some of the people replied that they had heard that and “had a mind to go and see it as they could dispose of their lands in New York easily.”[3] Graham, in his work, Colonists from Scotland, uses this exchange to imply that these people did eventually go to Canada, although there is no concrete reason to suspect that they did, in fact, depart.[4]  

Montgomery County, NY was the location of the settlement of a sizable group of people from Glen Garry. These Highland emigrants were Loyalist and removed to Canada after the war. For more on this community read, The People of Glengarry: Highlanders in Transition, 1745-1820 by Marianne McLean 

[1] Tyron County was renamed Montgomery after the Revolution.
[2] Patrick Campbell, Travels in the Interior Inhabited Parts of North America in the Years1791 and 1792, H.H. Langton trans. (Toronto: The Champlain Society, 1937), pp. 221-232.
[3] Campbell, Travels in the Interior, p. 232.
[4] Graham, Colonists from Scotland, Emigration to North America 1707-1783 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1956), pp. 176-7.

1 comment:

mens kilts said...

Thanks a lot! Had a great time reading this. I hope you can share more of your wonderful contents soon.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...