Duncan Bruce in his book the “Mark of the Scots” says “At least twenty-one of the fifty-six men who risked their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor in signing the Declaration of Independence were of Scottish ancestry, including two native Scots: John Witherspoon and James Wilson.”
James Thomson, creator of the Scottish American Hall of Fame lists only ten because that was the number the plaque would hold. His plan was to have a second plaque listing the remaining Americans of Scottish descent who signed the Declaration.
Here are the 21 names:
John Witherspoon, Thomas Jefferson, James Wilson, George Read, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas McKean, George Ross, James Smith, George Walton, Stephen Hopkins, Edward Rutledge, Josiah Bartlett, Thomas Nelson, Jr., George Taylor, Joseph Hewes, William Hooper, Philip Livingston, Matthew Thornton, Lewis Morris, John Hart, and Abraham Clark.
Here is a short summary of ten who signed, perhaps we can get the remainder next year.
1. Edward Rutledge was the youngest signer at age 26; Graduate of Oxford; Lawyer; Fought in several important battles during the war; Died in 1800 at the age of 50.
2. John Witherspoon, born in Yester, Scotland; President of Princeton University; Lost a son in the battle of Germantown; 12 children; Lineally descended from John Knox.
3. Philip Livingston was the grandson of David Livingston born in Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, Scotland, the pioneer medical missionary to Africa; Promoter and fund raiser for the revolutionary army.
4. George Ross, a Scottish-American whose nephew’s wife, Betsy Ross, made the first national flag.
5. Matthew Thornton; Ulster Scot; Noted physician; Elected to Congress from New Hampshire; Appointed surgeon to the New Hampshire Militia troops; Married Hannah Jack; Five children.
6. Thomas McKean; Great-grandfather was from Argyllshire, Scotland; Governor of Delaware; 11 children. During the war, he wrote, “hunted like a fox by the enemy, compelled to remove my family five times in three months....”
7. George Read; Lawyer; elected to the first Continental Congress; Elected twice as Delaware State Senator under the new Constitution.
8. James Wilson; Born in St. Andrew’s; Delegate from Pennsylvania; Associate Justice of the Supreme Court; Strongly advocated for independence.
9. George Taylor; son of a clergyman; Ulster Scot; Delegate from Pennsylvania; Ironmaster and a working man (may be the only working man who signed;) Secured the first munitions contract for the continental army.
10. Thomas Jefferson; Educated by Scots; American of Scottish heritage on his mother’s side; Duncan A. Bruce states that he was a descendant of a sister of King Robert I of Scotland; Died on the Fourth of July 1826.
The Declaration of Independence was printed by John Dunlap and was first read in public by Colonel John Nixon - both American Scots. Twenty-five generals and perhaps half the revolutionary army were Americans of Scottish descent.
Uncle Sam is the national personification of the United States. It is based on a real man, Samuel Wilson, whose parents sailed to America from Greenock, Scotland, and who has been officially recognized as the original Uncle Sam. In the War of 1812, he provided the army with beef and pork in barrels all prominently labeled “U.S.” “But it was jokingly said that the letters stood for “Uncle Sam.” Soon, Uncle Sam was used as shorthand for the federal government.”
(I have often used the following the statement in speeches but never have been sure of the actual source. This quotation is taken from an article by Sarah Powell and published on the web site of Burke’s Peerage and Gentry. If anyone can find the original source, please let me know.)
“If all else fails, I will retreat up the valley of Virginia, plant my flag on the Blue Ridge, rally around the Scotch-Irish (Ulster Scots) of that region and make my last stand for liberty amongst a people who will never submit to British tyranny whilst there is a man left to draw a trigger.”
George Washington at Valley Forge
On this July 4th, let us be thankful for our freedoms and appreciate those who have sacrificed to make it all possible.
Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus