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Scottish Colonialism 2004-04-03

Posted by clype in Articles of Interest, Scotland.

Viking expeditions from Orkney and Shetland headed west 500 years before Columbus. According to the Norse sagas, the first native Scots to set foot in America were Hake and his wife Hekja. Sent ashore to scout, they reported back to the expedition captain, Thorfin Karlsefni, that the land was bountiful with wheat and grapes. As a result, Thorfin called the new land Vinland, the Land of Wine – present-day New England.

  • Scots were among the earliest explorers of the North American continent. One, Thomas Blake, accompanied the Spanish conquistador Vasquez de Coronado in 1540, to become the first European to see the Grand Canyon.
  • Robert Barclay from Aberdeenshire founded the Scottish colony of New Jersey. It remained untypically slave-free, largely thanks to the efforts of another Scot, the Quaker, George Keith.
  • In 1688, the merchants of Glasgow paid for a new, deep harbour at Port Glasgow and the way was open for the rise of a Scottish-American transatlantic trading empire based on tobacco, cotton, hundreds of thousands of Scottish migrants, and eventually a massive Clydeside shipbuilding industry.
  • Two of the 56 men who signed the American Declaration of Independence in 1776 were born in Scotland, and 19 had direct Scots ancestry. One of the Scots signatories, John Whitherspoon, founded Princeton University.
  • The first Scottish USA president was James Monroe, the great-grandson of a Scots Covenanter who had arrived in the USA in chains. Monroe threw the Spanish out of Florida and established the famous “Monroe Doctrine”, excluding the European powers from the Americas.
  • A majority of USA presidents could claim some Scots blood, including Andrew Jackson, James Knox Polk (who nabbed California from Mexico), Andrew Johnson (who succeeded the assassinated Abraham Lincoln), General Ulysses S Grant (who effectively won the American Civil War), and Woodrow Wilson (who led the USA into the First World War).
  • In modern times, the Scottish-Texas connection has loomed large. Lyndon Johnson’s family came from Annandale, while the two Bush presidents have long had close oil business links with Edinburgh. George Bush jr spent youthful holidays on the braes of Angus, befriending Bill Gammell, the former Scottish rugby internationalist and now Chief Executive of Edinburgh’s Cairn Energy.
  • Scots played a key part in the expansion of the USA during the 19th century. The wilderness was tamed by adventurers such as Davy Crockett before, later in the century, John Muir headed west from East Lothian and invented the concept of environmentalism.
  • Displaced Scottish farmers such as Jesse James took to robbing trains, building infamous outlaw reputations, only to have to deal with tough lawmen such as Alan Pinkerton, from Govan, who founded the world’s first private detective agency
  • America’s growing industrial and scientific might was the work of educated but poor Scots immigrants with a flair for enterprise, such as Andrew Carnegie and Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone. Bell would later use the profits from his phone business to fund the invention of the aeroplane.
  • Scots Americans such as Donald Douglas and Allan and Malcolm Loughhead would later create the modern aerospace industry. Five of the men who have walked on the moon were of Scottish blood – Neil Armstrong, Alan Shephard, Alan Bean, James Irwin and David Scott. Nor should we forget the contribution to the information technology age – Thomas Watson built IBM, while the mother of Microsoft millionaire Bill Gates is a Maxwell.

Top Stories, The Scotsman 2004-04-03 Sa


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