Scots-Irish Project: John C. Calhoun’s Family Background

South Carolina

Here’s an excerpt from Karen McCarthy’s The Other Irish: The Scots-Irish Rascals Who Made America:

“Like Rankin, John Caldwell Calhoun was descended from the same plain stock of Presbyterian immigrants from the north of Ireland. He had a brilliant mind and a fervid nature, but lacked Rankin’s humility. He was a Yale-educated, South Carolina farmer determined to rise above his class. He was ambitious, aristocratic, and consumed by burning desire to be the country’s most powerful politician.

Nine years after the Rankins set sail out of Belfast Harbor, Patrick Calhoun, Sr. and his wife  Catherine followed suit, all the way across the ocean and down the beaten path from Pennsylvania into a Virginia farming community. When Grandpa Patrick died eight years later, his wife Catherine and her children undertook a fateful move to a Scots-Irish settlement in Long Cane, South Carolina – the heart of Cherokee country.

For a decade the Calhouns worked hard in the Carolina backcountry, but by the 1750s tensions between the colonists and the Cherokee were mounting. By 1759 the Cherokee declared war. In 1760 word reached Long Cane that the Cherokee were attacked isolated farms in the area, stealing, and slaying any settlers they found.

Two-hundred fifty Scots-Irishmen packed their wagons and left for nearby Fort Tobus in Augusta, Georgia. They hadn’t gone far when they were surrounded by the terrifying sound of Indian war whoops. Seventy-six-year-old Catherine Calhoun, her son, and granddaughter were scalped. Two other granddaughters aged five and three were captured and raised as Indians. Calhoun’s Uncle William cut a horse loose from a wagon and sent his pregnant wife and five-year-old son to Fort Tobus, Augusta. It was the last time she saw her husband alive. Calhoun’s father Patrick Jr. was left alone to watch the Cherokee burn and massacre the settlement. The horror of his seeing his mother, brother, and niece scalped and discarded in the dirt only made him tougher and combative – it was a trait his children would inherit.

When John C. Calhoun was born in 1782, his father had become a respected landowner, member of the legislature, and anti-government activist. He was also an Indian fighter of some renown. His hat, which became a family treasure, had four bullets in it from riding out after war parties. In the South Carolina legislature he fought for settlers’ right to vote. He was among those who organized the church and school and tried to civilize the place at a time when the Regulators were rampantly meting out their own kind of justice. Patrick Calhoun was a giant of a man in his son’s eyes.

One evening the young John Calhoun watched his father ride home from a legislative session in Charleston much like he always did, but this night Patrick Jr. was leading a slave straddled on a horse behind him. It was unusual to find slaves among humble log cabins of backcountry farmers. With Adam’s arrival, John Calhoun’s whole life changed; his future was woven into the system of slavery that became a normal part of life.

The Calhoun’s weren’t idle or wealthy. The sons all worked long, hard days, playing fields in the “brillin’ sun” like every other poor Scots-Irish farmer in the backcountry. There was only one difference – they worked alongside their slave. As Patrick Jr. prospered, the Calhouns acquired almost a hundred slaves.”

Note: In 2013, OD will be exploring in depth the cultural origins of the Scots-Irish diaspora in the Upper South in Ireland, Scotland, and northern England. I always wrote about the Caribbean origins of the culture of the Lower South with the intention of framing how the two Southern cultures clashed and blended together in places like the South Carolina Upcountry.

This entry was posted in American South, Culture, Dixie, History, Slavery, South Carolina, Whiteness. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Scots-Irish Project: John C. Calhoun’s Family Background

  1. Snowhitey says:

    I boil when I see the term “Scotch-Irish” as in the title of the YouTube video. Anyway, Hunter, looking forward to the series which I am sure will educate all.

  2. Denise says:

    Excellent news, Hunter. We must be as vigilant about our heritage, as any other Race.

  3. crowley says:

    Snowhitey, The reason you boil is because of the use of the term “Scotch Irish” for the proper “Scots-Irish”? Samuel Johnson used the term Scotch Irish and he wrote the first English dictionary I do believe.

  4. Denise says:

    By the way – I’m starting a new blog. My blog will be open for business on New Year’s Day.

  5. Wayne says:

    Denise: cant’ t wait to see it. I wish we could genetically photocopy you about a million times. You are the 21st century Boudicca!

  6. Snowhitey says:

    Yes, Crowley. Scotch, as they say, is just for drinking.

  7. Dixiegirl says:

    So many Americans (Generational Americans, over six generations) have lost their “Scotch-Irish” heritage, and some actually believe they are Irish. Part of this seems to have to do with their more recent displacement into the large Northeast cities after WBTS and 1965 (due to their local economies being wiped out by Federal Centralists, and also that their population is so under attack; the code words used: “hillbilly bible belters” which means them). Once displaced in the cities, they try to identify with the whites in those places; so they wind up trying to “fit in” with Irish-irish, since at least they sort of look like them, then realize they are HATED by the irish-irish.

    Had an Scotch-Irish friend who came to America in the 1700s, and brushed up against anti-protestant irish in the 1980s by accident; the anti-protestants would often get shipped over to places like chicago, ny, etc., like in the 1980s, if they got in trouble over there). He came to realize that Ulster signifies something very different to those people, and they will hurt Americans who came from the five counties, even if it was in the 1700s. In other words: “They look like us but have no loyalty to us.”

    Despite the American Revolution, their hatred of the English is just not shared, something the Irish-irish recently come to America have never understood. The Ulster-Scots Presbyterians who fought at King’s Mountain WERE NOT fighting the Irish-Irish battle.

    The Ulster-Scots have a much different relation with the English than the Irish and the English. They are a different people, with a different relationship. (And in fact the English and Ulster-scots have created many things together).

    The Irish-Irish role in America was very different. They’ve allowed themselves to be used by catholic power, (which has nothing to do with “whiteness,” lol) to Romanize the u.S. (keep south border open to co-religionists, take majority over the supreme court, establish full diplomatic ties with the pope as in the 1980s under Reagan, introduce Vatican II, etc., and “change” the demographic of U.S. to their kind of country, which it is now)—

    America wound up undergoing Irish-ification, the choice of rome over england— and without understanding what they were going to have to live in (“BRA”), the ‘ethnic conflict model’ of a sort of hybrid neo-fuedalism).

    —- The Ulster-scots, scotch-irish, are more like the Boers. And all the colonial populations share a very deep bond, throughout the world.

    The ones who came later do not share their experiential reality.

  8. Dixiegirl says:

    —- The reason I don’t mind “Scotch-Irish” is that it often demarcates WHEN the “Ulster-scot” got here. The Scotch-Irish seems an older word, and references the 1650-1750 people. Ulster is used more like “Scottish-Americans” sometimes.

    But it’s like the recent immigrant English. They are not really in the same group as the English colonials. 400 years of lived experience separates them. And to call those Americans “anglo americans” or something is disrespectful. Wiping out the whole colonial experience (which is what it’s used for). To erase history.

  9. That is a true story of American heroism from a time when this land was populated by a hardy stock with real capabilities. Men could advance in the society, not drop out of society and revolt against their betters like proto-Lutheran peasants.

    Dixiegirl,

    I’ve said it before: I’ve only ever considered Episcopalians to be “WASPs”. And disestablishment is down the road if the Gay Marriage law passes in 2015. The law would forbid the CofE from officiating such ‘marriages’ but that means one law for the Queen’s country and another for her church. That’s separation of church and state and in such an event the Anglican church should enter full communion with Rome and anti-Catholic laws such as those found in the laws of succession must be corrected.

    Perhaps Catholicism turned rotten for a time on the Isles and by extension, America because the pious Englishman was taken out of that – hierarchical and classically European – system.

  10. *If pressed I’d quickly call Presbyterians WASPs too.

  11. Dixiegirl says:

    Idk— it’s over my head. Being raised Episcopalian, all I can tell you is that the Episcopal church is just a gay rights organization, and the catholics really hate us, (at least the about 10,000 I met.) When I turned up for the 2009 conversion class, they were very clear about their goal in breaking wasp power, and how great their open border policies, and how “natural selection” has put them on Fox Five, controlling media, and how they have the only true path to God and are born to rule, etc., how much they have turned America into a great majority catholic nation, (brown btw, which they enjoy), etc, etc.

    Presbyterians are wasps by me. There is often a distinctly North-west European Anglo- flavor to their groups, and really, in Southern Baptists, too—- just in terms of the people who show up there. More colonial and confederate people.

  12. Dixiegirl says:

    —- the ‘anglo-saxon’ put-down-word took on a life of its own, and now you hear people use it to describe any American in the country before 1850.

    The references to the anglos and saxons is less important to most people than using “wasps” as a generalized cut-down word for anyone tending toward a general physical NW Euro type. At this point, it means ‘flyover country’ people, too.

    Heard a story of a holiday meal, where someone in from graduate school (liberal arts) said, apropos of nothing, “Are we wasps?” It was an Episcopal family, and the person asking was about 25— They had a mental lapse, due to all the hate literature they were reading at school, and were seeking to dis-identify themselves as a wasp. Or to marry up the reality of the family with the “wasp” myths in the school books (killed all the indians, enslaved all blacks, reneged on all treaties, gassed all youknowwhos, etc, etc,).

    It was the moment that made my friend interested in the whole issue of ‘cognitive dissonance.’ —How wasps deal with being wasps and living in a culture where they exist only as public scapegoat, for others society.

  13. When I turned up for the 2009 conversion class, they were very clear about their goal in breaking wasp power, and how great their open border policies, and how “natural selection” has put them on Fox Five,

    They mention media power and the longlegged Catholic ladies on Fox Five at their conversion classes? Did they have tequila too?

    It was the moment that made my friend interested in the whole issue of ‘cognitive dissonance.’ —How wasps deal with being wasps and living in a culture where they exist only as public scapegoat, for others society.

    Basically you either drop out of anything political completely and resign yourself to admiring the ermine on your coat of arms or become a radical racist. I needn’t say which is the more popular choice.

  14. Apuleius says:

    Scotch-Irish is the older, less PC term used more widely in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries before the fastidious cultural Marxist practice of renaming everything to disorient their opponents and delegitimize previous traditional culture.

    Which is why it was very important to rename “Indians” to “Native Americans.”
    If you’re not a “native American,” you don’t belong here, right?
    That means you, gringo.
    Never mind the fact that you were born here and others weren’t…

    Where does WASP self-loathing come from? Sadly, from WASPs themselves.
    High-minded and self-righteous ones at that.
    Don’t want to defend your own? Don’t expect anyone else to defend it on your behalf.
    There is nothing “noble” in seeing your people annihilated. No matter how superior it makes you feel.

    We take for granted just how tough the early settlers had to be. They really knew what it was to take care of their own. There was clearly no room for liberal guilt or “conservative” hand-wringing in their world.

    Hunter, in addition to your upcoming expose on the Scotch-Irish, I would also like to see you highlight the French Huguenot influence which was particularly notable in low country South Carolina in earlier times. Was there a lasting Huguenot influence in Southern culture? I always thought the nineteenth century comparisons of Southern to Norman culture were something of an appeal to those of Huguenot descent.

    Calhoun was a giant. We need a true statesman of his ilk now.

    Deo Vindice

  15. Dixiegirl says:

    Wow… I really am pissed.

    Sorry. I’d like to hear about the Huguenots, too. Alexander Hamilton was one, however, his mother, anyway. (Speaking of leaving a mark.) Tupper Saussy. I read two million left after revocation of the Edict of Nantes, many to america.

    A French influence in the south to be sure.

  16. Billy says:

    Reading through the comments on all of the links it seems to me Dixie Girl that you are the nearest to actually understanding the Ulster-Scots (Scotch-Irish) position.

  17. Ian Paisley says:

    Dixiegirl, you whine like a kicked puppy.

    No wonder the Irish don’t like you.

    It’s not because you pretend to be Scots. It’s because you’re a pathetic whining little trollop, peeking your your bed for Papist agents and always trying to find someone else to blame for the sad sordid mess you’ve made of your life.

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