A Short History of the English Colonies in America

by Henry Cabot Lodge

Published by Harper and Brothers, Washingon, 1881

Extracts involving Irish settlers in American colonies during the early eighteenth century

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German and Irish Immigrants in Pennsylvania

The two foreign elements, however, which together outnumbered the English, and gave to Pennsylvania a character wholly different from that of any other colony, were the Germans and the Irish. The former began to come immediately upon the foundation of the colony, and settled at Germantown. These first-comers were drawn thither on account of religion, and included Quakers and Palatines, and, later, Ridge Hermits, Dunkards, Mennonists, and Pietists. Afterwards the immigration thus started grew from natural causes, until, at the time of the Revolution, they formed nearly a third of the population, and occupied exclusively large districts of western Pennsylvania. They were chiefly farmers, thrifty, saving, and industrious, but stubborn, ignorant, and unreliable in times of war. Their numerical importance is shown by the effect they had upon the language, producing a well-defined dialect known familiarly as Pennsylvania Dutch. The Irish immigration began in the year 1719, and assumed such large proportions as to demand legislation ten years later. A large part of these settlers were Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, valuable and good colonists; but there were almost many others of Irish race, who were, as a rule, a very undesirable addition at that period. Scarcely more than a third of the latter succeeded as farmers; and they were a hard-drinking, idle, quarrelsome, and disorderly class, always at odds with the government, and did much to give to that government and to politics the character for weakness and turbulence, which, beginning before the Revolution, has broken out at intervals down to the present day.
(p 228)


Indentured white servants

The indentured white servants in Pennsylvania formed a much larger and more important portion of the population than the slaves, whom they assisted in driving out by their own greater cheapness. They were chiefly Irish and German redemptionists, who sold themselves to pay their passage, and transported convicts… The condition of indentured servants was unenviable enough; but it was better in Pennsylvania than in the southern colonies. They were more humanely treated, and better fed and clothed, and the laws did not leave them utterly at their master’s mercy. They could not be sold out of the province without their own consent; and they could not be sold at all except before a justice of the peace. The term of servitude was four years; and if they had been faithful they were entitled not only to a full discharge, but to a snit of clothes and some agricultural tools. They received five days additional servitude for every day’s absence by flight, and were whipped for theft at the cart-tail. There was a severe penalty inflicted if they married without their master’s consent; and women having bastard children were punished by additional servitude. Any one who concealed a runaway servant, or who traded with them, was liable to a heavy fine. Many of them turned out well after emancipation, owing to the mildness of their treatment.
(pp 242 – 243)

Crime and Rioting

At the time of the Revolution, while, as compared with England, the amount of crime was trifling, it was as compared with the other colonies very considerable; and although infrequent, there was much variety. About the middle of the century there was a good deal of hanging for house-breaking, horse-stealing, and counterfeiting. Highway robbery was not unknown, and informers were tarred and feathered in the back counties by a population loyal to the cause of untaxed liquors. In Philadelphia the disorders inaugurated by a young [William] Penn broke out at short intervals, assuming not infrequently the proportions of dangerous riot. After the French war the town was thrown into a state of alarm by assaults with knives upon women who ventured out after dark. The habit of rioting spread to the other towns, and the brutal massacre by the Scotch-Irish ‘Paxton boys’ of the Indians at Conestoga was the most notorious result of this turbulent disposition. The rioters and the criminals were almost wholly Irish. Not one native or Englishman was found in any ten of the inmates of jails, and the unfortunate prominence of Pennsylvania in this respect was attributable to the character of a large portion of her immigrants.
(pp 244 – 245).

Conflict between the Irish and the Germans

At all public meetings there was a good deal of pretty savage fighting, and the border conflicts between the Irish and Germans make a dark chapter in the colonial annals of Pennsylvania. At one time the former, under the lead of Cresap, endeavoured systematically to drive their more thrifty and industrious rivals from the western country; and another bloody struggle, extending over twenty years, was caused by the efforts of Connecticut men to settle in Wyoming. This came at times to open and regular war with the government, and resulted in the victory of the hardy intruders, and of the establishment of the democratic government of the New England township.

Passing from the rude outposts of civilisation toward the east, we come upon the great farming class which, in all its varieties, formed the bulk and the strength of the Pennsylvanian population. The farms near the border partook to a certain extent of the character of backwoods clearings, and their occupants were rather rough in life and habits. This was the region where the continual contest went on with the ‘accursed Irish,’ as their German opponents styled them. Here, too, the Irish brought on themselves the hostility of the government, which forbade them to settle in York or Lancaster, and attempted to remove them to the west. From this field they carried their quarrels to the Assembly, and divided the legislature into two parties – on one side the Quakers and Germans, on the other the rest of the English and the Irish, who succeeded, usually, in obtaining the upperhand.
(pp 248 – 249)

Politics in Pennsylvania

The political habits and modes of thought differed widely in some respects from those of the southern and eastern groups, and were typical of the middle provinces; for narrow as were the domestic politics of all the colonies, they were especially contracted in Pennsylvania, which was due principally to the Quakers, who as a sect struggled hard to retain their supremacy. The usual quarrels with the governors, always pushed far in the stress of war, were carried to great extremes when fortified by the peaceful principles of the Friends. In the French war the selfish supineness and indifference of Pennsylvania seem almost inconceivable when we remember the savage warfare which raged upon the borders, and how the other colonies fought their own and England’s battles. The Quakers, who were mainly responsible, retained their power by playing off the Germans, with whom they were allied, against the rest of the English and the Scotch and the Irish, who furnished a turbulent element, which formed a strong contrast to the peaceable politics of their opponents. Election riots were by no means uncommon, and in the disposal of offices there appears to have been a good deal of intrigue and corruption of the sort then familiar in England.
(pp 261 – 262)


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