On April 6, 1320, the Declaration of Arbroath was signed in Scotland asserting Scotland's sovereignty over English claims. "...for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself."
That document had an great influence on those who wrote the Declaration of Independence. Patrick Henry of Scottish descent echoed the same sentiments in his quote "Give me Liberty or Give me Death." I often overstate the message, but I have written and believe, that without the Scots there would have been no independence for America. I speak especially of those lowland Scots who lived for awhile in Northern Ireland before making the journey to America. My descendants were among them. They wanted freedom to live, to worship and educate their children. They were mostly Presbyterian in faith and they knew how to fight and were willing to die for their beliefs and freedom.
In 1998, the Senate passed Resolution 155 recognizing April 6 as National Tartan Day. This was followed in the House by Resolution 41 on March 9, 2005. Senator Trent Lott and one of his constituents, JoAnne Phipps, took the lead in preparing for this effort. I had the privilege of standing around the fringe and helping develop this idea. There were many others involved and in fact everyone can now take credit.
It became a grass-roots effort among Scottish people as to how they would celebrate. The larger cities, New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago and San Francisco hold large public demonstrations, especially New York and Washington, D.C. But, in churches, clubs, bars, social gatherings and even in homes, people celebrate.
New York City, because of the involvement of the Scottish government, always has the biggest show and parade. This year, the parade will be held on April 10 and three thousand pipers are expected to march up the Avenue of the Americas. Thousands will follow. There will be an entire week of celebrations in America's largest city. Sean Connery will be there as usual for an event called "Dressed to Kilt."
According to the last census, 13 million Americans claim Scottish ancestry, but the actual number, according to recent research, may be closer to 35 million, or more. This year, I listed my Scottish heritage on the census forms.
All week, I will be writing about Scots and their contribution to America as we celebrate National Tartan Day, April 6, 2010.