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The Scotch-Irish

Perhaps the most aggressive immigrants to carve out the frontier for farms were the Scotch-Irish. The United States has had 12 presidents with a Scotch-Irish background. These English-speaking people were originally from the Scottish lowlands (not the more picturesque Scottish highlands). The only thing high about the lowlands was the land rents charged by greedy Scottish lords. Many of the Scotch-Irish moved to Northern Ireland, where their Protestant descendants still make up the majority of the population. Some kept going to America.

With little money, the Scotch-Irish didn't stop traveling until they found cheap land on the frontiers of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland. Having been pushed around plenty themselves, they tended to solve potential American Indian problems by shooting first and asking questions

later. By 1750, the Scotch-Irish had spread out along the Great Wagon Road, a path for immigration they helped build through mountain passes from Philadelphia to Georgia. By the Revolution, they represented 7 percent of the population of the colonies.

Having moved more than once, the Scotch-Irish didn't originally build to stay. They threw up rough log cabins, chopped down trees, and planted crops between the stumps. As they gained title to their lands and confidence that no lords would boot them off, the Scotch-Irish built Presbyterian churches.

The rough-and-tumble Scotch-Irish caused heartache for the original Quaker settlers of Pennsylvania (see Chapter 7) when they killed peaceful American Indians and led the Paxton Boys' (1764) march on Philadelphia to protest lenient treatment of the natives. The Paxton Boys wanted to punish American Indians in general, regardless of whether they'd actually done wrong; luckily, Ben Franklin and the Philadelphia militia stood up to the Paxton Boys and protected the friendly American Indians. The Scotch-Irish also shook things up with the Regulators' Uprising (1764) against aristocratic domination of their rural settlements in North Carolina. Many of the Regulator hotheads, including a young Andrew Jackson, later joined the move toward revolution.

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