The Scotchman in America
HERBERT N. CASSON IN MUNSEY’S MAGAZINE
Pre-eminent in all the higher walks of American life is the Scot. The characteristics of the race have made themselves felt in every epoch of the nation’s career. To-day the Scot occupies a high place in science, in statesmanship, in finance, in medicine, in law, in journalism, in literature, in education and in the church.
THERE are not so many men and women of Scottish birth in the United States—not more than three hundred thousand. But every Scot counts. Probably no other nation has sent us so many men of mark and so few deadheads, in proportion to the number of its immigrants. As the following pages will show, there has never been any other body of citizens,, of equal number, that has stamped its record and its traditions so indelibly upon our national life and character as have the sons of Scotland.
Of course, it is practically impossible to draw a precise line between the Scottish-Americans and the other Americans In the making of every State in the Union there has always been some Scottish raw material. And the Scot has invariably figured in all social and public affairs. He has never lived apart, nor felt himself bound to marry one of his own race. The average American, consequently, has become Scottified, as we might say, to a greater degree than he imagines. No doubt his bones are larger, his will is stronger, and his conscience speaks with more decision and authority, because of the Scottish corpuscles that have filtered into the blood of his ancestors,.
The problem of disentangling the Scots is still further complicated by the fact that so many have come to the United States by way of Canada, England, or Ireland. Being gifted with an instinct for globe-trotting, tht nave arrived from all directions. To stinguish between the Irish and
the Seottish-Irish, after two centuries of mixing and blending, has become the most difficult task of all. The Scottish-Irish were originally Scots, but they have become practically a distinct nationality—one that is neither Scottish nor Irish. They have their own traditions, their own heroes, their own fraternal societies. Five of our Presidents have had in their veins the blood of these sturdy people— Jackson, Polk, Buchanan, Arthur, and McKinley. But to avoid confusion, this article will be confined, as strictly as possible, to the men and women of Scottish birth.
There are a few Caledonian institutions for which Americans have never shown any fancy. It is difficult for us to believe, for instance, that haggis is food, that kilts are clothes, and that the noise of the bagpipes is music. Not to appreciate these is the misfortune of those who are born outside of the Land o’ Cakes. But Scottish songs, on the other hand, make the whole world kin. They seem to be almost as much a product of nature as the ripple and splash of the burns that plunge down the heathery sides of Ben Lomond. Who needs to be a Scot to join in singing “Annie Laurie” or “Cornin’ Through the Rye”? The birthday of Burns was celebrated last month in more than sixty American cities. Trust the Scots to remember the 25th of January!
Taking up the directory of New York, I find thirty-three pages of “Macs.” Probably not one in fifty
of the owners of these names was born in Scotland, but the Scottish strain is undeniably there. Mayor George B. McClellan, for instance, was born in Germany, and his father in Philadelphia; but if you dig down to the roots of his family tree, you will find the Clan McClellan, of Galloway. Besides the five Scottish-Irish Presidents, three more — Monroe, Grant, and Hayes—were of Scottish ancestry; and so is President Roosevelt on his mother’s side.
Within the limits of this article it would be impossible to call the roll of the host of Scots who have figured in American public life. To name some of the living men, Governor McLane, of New Hampshire, is a Scot; and New York has a Bruce as Lieutenant-Governor. When Massachusetts astonished the whole country, two years ago, by the election of a Democratic Governor, it was found to be a Douglas that had worked the miracle in the old Bay State. The new mayor of Buffalo is a Peebles man who bears the oldest of Scotch names—J. N. Adam. In New York, a Glasgow man, John Kennedy Tod, holds the purse for the Citizens’ Union, and carries worthily the honor of being one of the most vigilant foes of municipal corruption in the metropolis.
Among our statesmen of national prominence, the leading Scot is James Wilson, Secretary of Agriculture, who was seventeen years old before he had seen any other place than Ayrshire, the home of Burns. The Scots have always been unusually skilful farmers and gardeners, and they have good reason to pride themselves, on the fact that a Scottish farmer is now presiding over the vast agricultural interests of the United States —the most responsible position of the kind in the
world. Ex-Speaker David B. Henderson, too, was six years old before he left the land of the heather; and Congressman James McLachlan, of ¡California, is a native of Scotia who has climbed to prominence upon the ladder of self-help.
The solid handiwork of the Scot is especially conspicuous when we turn to our system of education. No race, not even the Jews* has a greater reverence for learning. If John Knox could have had his way, there would have been a grammar-school in every Scottish parish, a high school in every town, and a university in every city. The second American college—preceded only by Harvard—was founded by a Scot, James Blair. In fact, tms historic college of William and Mary, as ¿t is, still called, is several years older than Harvard, if we reckon from the date upon which it received its grant of land.
The Presbyterian Church, which, with its two million members in the United States, is mainly a product of Scotland and Scottish influences, has established not only Princeton University, but forty-eight colleges as well. Looking down the long list of its eminent ministers, we might select George A. Gordon, of the famous Old South Church, Boston, as the one who best represents botn Scottish birth and American self-help. Arriving from Aberdeen thirty-five years ago, a penniless boy, Dr. Gordon has, risen to the most historic pulpit in New England.
Lindlay Murray, a Scottish-American, gave us our first English grammar, and Henry Ivison our first American series of school readers. Thomas Hutchins was, our pioneer geographer. Samuel Mitchell founded the earliest scientific magazine. William McLuce has been called the
“father of American geology.” Fanny Wright, of Dundee, was our first woman lecturer. Ormsby McKnight Mitchel, a Scottish-American of the most varied accomplishments and amazing energy, was the first to popularize astronomy. Two of our most eminent naturalis,ts have been Alexander Wilson and Spencer F. Baird. An Ayrshire man, James McCosh, was for a quarter of a century one of our most famous philosophers and educators. Under his presidency, Princeton rose to a first-rate place among the universities of the world. Dr. McCosh was one of the few of his generation who foresaw the scientific discoveries of to-day, and labored like a Titan to prepare the way for them.
Among the Scottish-born educators of the present day, there is none, perhaps, so widely known as Dr. McCosh. But there is John Muir, of California, whose name will be perpetuated in the great Muir Glacier, which he discovered, in Alaska. He might fitly be called the American Livingstone because of his explorations, and for the work he has done to preserve our forests and establish national parks. Other Scottish-Americans well known in the educational world are Dr. William Keiller, of the University of Texas; Duncan Black Macdonald, of Hartford Theological Seminary; Robert Edgar Allardice, of Stanford University; James K. Patterson, president of the Kentucky State College; John S. Reid, of Cornell; Alexander Smith, of the University of Chicago; and James Cameron Mackenzie, formerly head-master of Lawrenceville.
Arriving at the field of literature, the first Scottish-American name is that of Washington Irving, wihose father was born and bred in Orkney. When European writers remarked
upon the fact that the young American republic had continued for more than forty years Without producing an eminent man of letters, it was Irving who removed the stigma. Edgar Allan Poe was also of Scottish ancestry.
The founder of modern American Journalism—the man who broke away from European traditions and originated the system of giving as much of the news as possible to as many people as possible —was a thorough Scot, James Gordon Bennett. Seventy years ago he printed his first issue of the Herald in a Wall Street cellar. It was an insignificant little penny sheet, which the great editors of the day contemptuously ignored. It made enemies of the few and friends of the many. It was written like a conversation, not like a book of philosophy. And—here was an absolutely new idea in the newspaper world—it as published, not to gratify the literary vanity of its editor, but to please the people by obeying their wishes and expressing their opinions.
The late John Swinton, friend and associate of Charles A. Dana on the New York Sun, was nineteen before he set sail from Scotia. Among other journalists of Scottish ancestry but American birth, the best known are the redoubtable Watterson, of the Louisville Courier-Journal; Whitelaw Reid, now ambassador to Great Britain; the learned Patterson, of the Chicago Tribune; the masterful McLean, of the Cincinnati Enquirer; and the brilliant Arthur Brisbane, of the New York Journal. Four weekly papers are published for the sole benefit of Americanized Scots, one of them, the Scottish American, having had Dr. A. M. Stewart as its editor for nearly half a century.
Of the Scottish-American doctors
there have always been several at the top, from Dr. James Craik, the family doctor of George Washington, to Charles McBurney, who is to-day a leader of his profession in New York, and S. Weir Mitchell, the eminent author and nerve specialist, of Philadelphia. Among the actors, the veteran of the American stage is James H. Stoddart, who was; born in England of Scottish parents when John Quincy Adams was the President of the United States. And a well-known younger player is Robert Bruce Manteli. Our first great portrait painter belonged to the noble family of Stuarts —Gilbert Charles Stuart, who painted Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and scores of their famous contemporaries. He was born in Rhode Island, but both his art and his ancestry were Scottish. Another Scottish-American is the sculptor, Frederick MacMonnies, whose work was described in an article published in this magazine last month.
But it is when we come to the realm of commerce that we find the Caledonian names scattered most thickly. Business, after all, is the Scot’s delight. It may be fairly said that in the activities of legitimate business, he has never had a superior. He is a born trafficker. He can buy low and sell high. He wants “gear and siller.” The joys of poverty and the simple life he may appreciate, but not until the day’s work is over and the cash is in the bank. Yet he does not want money for money’s sake. Very seldom is he a gambler or a schemer of the get-rich-quick species. To him, the main charm of business is the business itself, though his eye is ever fixed keenly upon the profits. John D. Rockefeller, for example, is a man of the true Scots type. He does not
claim Caledonian descent, but there must surely be a strong infusion of Scottish blood in his veins.
It is this rare blending of sentiment and shrewdness which gives so much interest to the Scottish national character. It i§ hard to tell which has done the most to mold it, the Shorter Catechism or the multiplication table. From his ledger and his Burns, the Scot takes equal pleasure. From the stubborn soil of Caledonia he has learned to be thrifty. Every bawbee has meant a spadeful of earth —perhaps a dozen spadefuls. To waste anything, however trifling, is a crime. And yet, on the other hand, his nature has been indellibly influenced by the picturesque beauty of his native land. The heathery hills, embroidered by foaming rivulets; the tranquil lakes that reflect the rugged crags above them; the little gray cottages that nestle sociably in groups beside the winding road, and the long, hazy twilight that follows the busy day—these are the things that make the Scot romantic and sentimental.
Ever since our earliest fur-trading days, the success of the Scots in business has been phenomenal. Among the cities they have founded are Paterson, Pittsburg, and Chicago. Henry Chisfiolm might appropriately be called the Father of Cleveland, for the reason that it was he who established its steel manufactures. Until recently, Charles Lockhart, Robert Pitcairn, and Andrew Carnegie were the “big three” of Pittsburg, representing the three chief industries of oil, railroading, and steel.
The Pennsylvania Railroad, from Col. Thomas A. Scott to Alexander Johnston Cassatt, has been mainly built up by men who were either Scots or of Scottish descent. Among the shoemaking towns of New Eng-
land, no name is better known than that of Gordon McKay, the Scot who invented the sole-stitching machine and revolutionized the shoe trade. In Chicago the first banker, George Scott, was a highly respected Scot who piled up a fifty million fortune. And one of the leading western bankers at the present time is James Berwick Forgan, a thorough Scot by both birth and training, who succeeded Lyman J. Gage as president of the First National Bank of Chicago when Mr. Gage became Secretary of the United States Treasury.
Besides James Wilson, the city of Washington has at least two other well-known Scots—Alexander Graham Bell, of telephone fame, and James, Duncan, first vice-president of the American Federation of Labor. In New York there has always been an influential Scottish element since the days of Philip Livingstone. Robert Lenox, founder of the Presbyterian Hospital and the Lenox Library, was one of the five wealthiest New Yorkers for years before his^ death in 1840. Henry Burden, inventor of the horseshoe machine, and founder of the Burden fortunes, was born in Dunblane. Robert L. Stuart and Archibald Russell have had high rank among philanthropists, as John Stewart Kennedy has to-day. The handsome United Charities Building was a gift from Mr. Kennedy to the various societies which it houses.
And what shall be said of Andrew Carnegie, the richest and most freehanded Scot who ever lived? Never in the whole length of her heroic history has “Auld Scotia” produced a son who has wielded so wide an influence, or worked so mightily to shape the destiny of the human race. Sixty years ago he was a wee barefooted laddie in the streets of Al-
legheny, the son of a poor weaver, who had been driven from his home in Scotland by lack of work. Five years ago lie retired from business the second richest man in the world. To climb from the cobblestones of poverty to the throne of dominion over a vast industry—to abdicate this throne at the height of his power and become a sort of human Providence—such, in a sentence, has been the story of Andrew Carnegie.
But the “star-spangled Scot,” as the British call Carnegie, did more than make three hundred millions for himself. In addition to this, he made about two hundred millions for his friends and partners, and a large proportion of these fortunate men are of Scottish birth or descent. George Lauder, Carnegie ’s cousin and a typical Scot,, is now living in quiet retirement in Pittsburg, with at least a score of millions at his disposal. Thomas Morrison, also a distant relation, and Alexander R. Peacock, another son of Dunfermline, are two of the Carnegian lieutenants who awoke one morning to find themselves wealthy beyond their dreams. Other partners of Carnegie with names that are undeniably Scottish, are Blackburn, McLeod, Kerr, Lindsay, Galley, Ramsay, and James Scott. And among his earlier associates were David McCandless and David A. Stewart.
Such are the Scots—a few of them — who have wrought well both for themselves and for the United States. They are said to be clannish, and the charge is true. A Scot will always help a Scot. Centuries of struggle and hardship have taught the¡ Scottish people to be “in all changes of fortune, and down to the gates of death, loyal and loving one to another,” to use the beautiful phrase of Robert
Louis Stevenson. No amount of world-wandering can make them forget their national traditions. Even if their little home-land were to be rolled out flat, it would be smaller than Indiana; yet to Scottish eyes there is no land like it.
“Of course, Heaven maun be verra like the Hielands,” said a Highlander of whose patriotism Carnegie loves to tell.
But however much the Scot may
sing of his native heath and its heroes, the non-Seots, notice that when once he is established in America he seldom goes back. Of all the Scots who have won fame in the United States, only four have returned to Scotland with their laurels. “Few of us really care to go home again,” said W. Butler Duncan, president of the New York St. Andrew’s Society, himself born in Scotland of Scottish-American parents.