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The American Mongrel?
An Amateur Ethnographer’s Understanding of the European Condition in the New World


I am flattered that the man that wrote this sent it only here and does not seem to have any ambition as a writer. I would like to include this paper as part of the 2020 American Spartacus project, which has already run to two volumes. If I am granted permission, I will write contextual commentary as an addendum in that volume. For now, I would rather not deface it with my sour perspective. Thank you.

My family line has lived in Appalachia for over 200 years. My great-great-great-great-great grandfather Heinrich, a gunsmith from Hannover, crossed the Atlantic with his young wife in the late 1700’s and saw his first son born in the then Southwest Territory, soon to become the state of Tennessee, before the turn of the century. I still have a copy of that son’s land deed for almost 200 acres along the banks of Little River, a tributary of the Tennessee, signed by John Sevier the first Governor of Tennessee and a Militia Colonel that fought at the Battle of King’s Mountain. He paid less than ten dollars for it.

The first question one might ask at this point before I go any further probably pertains in some way to the Scotch-Irish. Everyone knows that this rough and ready people poured into the mountains in the early years of this American nation fighting Indians, each other, and periodically even the government, as they tamed the wilderness of the Eastern Woodlands and to some extent that’s right. In most cases this group of people made up at least a slim majority of those early pioneers though they were often accompanied by various other groups out of the British Isles, French Huguenot Protestants out of the south and east fleeing Catholic persecution, Palatines or Germans from the Middle Rhine tired of war, both groups from holdings of the British crown past and present namely Normandy and Hannover, and a small enclave of Portuguese who had settled in North Carolina about a century early.

You’d be forgiven for thinking the question is answered there but what matters is culture. What group amongst this disparate but distantly related peoples defined the way of life in these old mountains and valleys? From their music and dance to their clannish kin system it was the Scotch-Irish and that’s why we remember them. But who were they?

The name given to them is something of a misnomer that obscures a much older and deeper truth. Yes they came out Northern Ireland after having been transplanted there a century before out of the Scottish Lowlands and Northern England. But why? After the union of the English and Scottish crowns under James I at the turn of the 17th century attention was turned to the pacification of Ireland, namely amongst the northern lands of Ulster. Luckily the crown found itself in possession of a large force of experienced fighting men no longer in a position to ply their trade, the Border Reivers of the Scotch-English border.

So then the Scotch-Irish are themselves a mongrel population made up of Scotch, Irish, and English ancestry and the search ends there? Not quite. While certainly the north of Ireland was not fully divested of its native population and therefore at least some admixture of the Scotch-Irish owes its ultimate source to the Emerald Isle the important component lies in a fundamental misunderstanding of just who the Border Reivers were and the artificial boundary placed between them by the kingdoms of Scotland and England.

These two kingdoms did not spring from the ground fully formed but were cobbled together over a millennium so we have to go back to who founded them and how they were built. England as everyone probably already knows was formed from a collection of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms who were Germanic invaders from the mainland in the 5th century. Less well known is that the core of the Kingdom of the Scots, namely the Isles and Highlands, is itself a land of foreign invaders in the form of the Irish of Ulster who came over in the 6th century. In both cases as these invading forces landed and then expanded, sometimes intermarrying with the existing population other times driving them out, the kingdoms of the old Britons began to shrink.

In the far north and south of Britain the conquests and integration were swiftest with the areas of the Scottish Highlands and Southeastern England still bearing their genetic mark. But not all fell so quickly. Most think of the Welsh these days when they call back to the ancient Britons before the coming of the Saxon and the Gael but there was also Cornwall at the extreme Southwest of England, the Pictish kingdoms of Northeastern Scotland, and the Hen Ogledd, the Old North, that would form a bulwark against the ambitions of both foreign born kingdoms for centuries. My people.

Yr Hen Ogledd, the name the Welsh remembered their cousins by, was a collection of kingdoms that ran from the Antonine to the Hadrian Wall, the Scottish Lowlands, and into the northern marches of modern day England. Never fully conquered by the Romans like their more southerly kin, nor as wild as the Picts of the northern reaches, they spoke a dialect of Brythonic known today as Cumbric, similar to Old Welsh, and that survived into the 14th century even after their subjugation by the English and Scots. Recent testing in the United Kingdom discovered genetic clustering that still reflects the boundaries of those old kingdoms to this day.

In short who are the Scotch-Irish? They are a people who for two millennia have fought to survive trapped between warring powers. Used as a buffer state against their uncivilized cousins by the Romans when they were abandoned north of Hadrian’s Wall, waging war on two fronts as Saxons and Gaels encroached, pitted against each other for centuries after their conquest by Scotland and England, turned out into Northern Ireland when they were no longer useful to fight another border war, pushed into the backcountry of the New World to fight Indians, and finally caught between the North and South in a war that wasn’t theirs to give more blood than either side was willing to spend themselves.

So you can say what you will but I’m no mongrel. And I doubt the rest of you are either. For me I’m a son of Appalachia, a man of the Cumber, a scion of the Old North far from home.

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John Paul BarberNovember 6, 2019 1:03 PM UTC

Dagda,

Very well written and great analysis of a people who’ve found themselves between warring factions even while on two different continents. Despite some of our problems, we do live in a special place full of unique people.

When I travel to urban and suburban areas in other parts of the country I’m always shocked at the multitudes of small-souled bugmen. I’m just not used to seeing that many effeminate men. Historically, living in the hills produced less outbreeding and kept foreigners out. Not so much nowadays due to modern modes of easy travel but I still think there’s remnants of it left which keeps us a decade or two behind the rest of the country in a lot of ways. What’s caused us to be the object of ridicule for our “backward” ways has also been what’s saved us from becoming pussies like the men of so many other regions of the country.

We should enjoy it while it lasts though. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed it where you live yet, but I get new people in my shop every week who’ve moved here from other areas. I’ve really seen an uptick in this trend over the last couple years. So it’s just a matter of time before these carpetbaggers ruin our beautiful homeland like they’ve ruined so many before. I hate to see it happen but at least there’s the gallows humor of knowing these people have spent their whole lives laughing at us hillbilly rubes and now they’re force to flee to these hills for safety because we’re one of the few areas left that have maintained any semblance of legacy America.
responds:November 8, 2019 9:41 AM UTC

I have seen high levels of cultural carpetbagging everywhere I have traveled.
AmericanDagdaOctober 31, 2019 9:06 PM UTC

If John Paul Barber is still around I'd appreciate his thoughts.