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Shore Cottage
short break iona
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The links between the Scottish and American Enlightenments have also attracted considerable attention. Scots historian Archie Turnbull has suggested that Scotland’s Declaration of Arbroath (1320) formed the "model" for Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence (1776). Similarly, George Shepperson has argued that the writings of William Duncan, Professor of Natural Philosophy at Marischal College, Aberdeen, and author of Elementc of Logick, may have contributed to the phrasing of the Declaration of Independence by his use of the term self evident. The boldest statement along these lines came from Garry Wills’s Inventing America (1978), which suggested that Jefferson owed more to Scottish thinkers such as Thomas Reid than he did to English essayist John Locke. The essays in Scotus Amencanus: A Survey of the Sources forLinks between Scotland and America in the Eighteenth Century (1982) and Scotland and America in the Age of Enlightenment (1980) explore in detail the numerous theological, political, economic, medical, educational, and evangelical debts that Colonial America owed to Scotland. If a historian includes folkways culture, and music in the list, he or she could almost argue that the Scots and Scotch-Irish had more influence on molding early American institutions and lifeways than any other European group, not excluding the English, Irish, Dutch, Swiss, Germans, French, or Spanish.

The pervasive impact of Scotland upon America continues to fascinate up to the present day. In 1976, the American bicentennial yeas, Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, established an institute of Scottish Studies. Their scholarly journal, Scotia, dedicated to exploring such links, first appeared in 1977. Similarly, James McLeod began a program in Scottish Studies at the College of Northern Idaho in Coeur d’ Alene, an area of the state that boasted numerous Scottish settlers.

Most of the renewed interest in Scottish-American scholarship, however, has concentrated on the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Indeed, the brunt of the American documents held by the Scottish Record Office in Edinburgh falls into that time frame. But, led by C. Duncan Rice’s study of Scots abolitionists, a few scholars have attempted to carry the story into the Victorian era.

By far the most controversial analyses have come from southern historians Forrest McDonald, Ellen Shapiro McDonald, and Grady McWhiney. They have combined forces in a number of articles (and McWhiney has gone solo in Cracker Culture [1988]) to suggest that a pervasive "Celtic" (very broadly defined) influence has been the central feature in shaping southern life. Although Roland Berthoff denounced the descent of a "Celtic mist" over southern history, the McDonalds and McWhiney have had the best of the argument to date. Even skeptics have acknowledged the persistence of Scotch-Irish cultural traits and physiognomy on the southern frontier, a theme explored in detail by Ulster folklorist E. Estyn Evans and Ulster television producer Rory Fitzpatrick. The Museum of American Frontier Culture near Taunton, Virginia, also makes this a central theme of its exhibits. In 1989 historian David Hackett Fischer joined their campaign with his section in Albion‘s Seed on the links between the English/Scottish Borders region and the American frontier. From farming practices to frontier folklore, from mournful Appalachian ballads to the "rebel yell," these historians argue, the Scots/Scotch-Irish/Celtic influence lay just below the surface of antebellum southern society. After all, Margaret Mitchell did name her heroine in Gone with the Wind "Scarlett O’Hara."

Except for these studies of the antebellum South, scholars have paid scant attention to the impact of Scots immigration on the rest of nineteenth-century America. After the Revolution, the argument goes, the Scotch-Irish and Scots largely left their communal identity behind. Thus, the Scots and Scotch Irish who moved into the Ohio River Valley and Mississippi Delta in the early nineteenth century lost their distinctive "Scottish" connections.