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An Historical Account of the Settlements of Scotch Highlanders in America

The following is from An Historical Account of the Settlements of Scotch Highlanders in America by J.P. MacLean, Ph.D.:

Major General D. McLeod, of the Patriot Army, Upper Canada, in his "Brief Review of the Settlement of Upper Canada," published in 1841, adds the following interesting statements: "Gen. Howe, the then commander in chief of the British forces in North America, on hearing that the Scots in Virginia had joined the continentals, and were among the most active of the opposers of British domination, despatched Sir John Johnstone to the Scots settlement on the Mohawk--Captain James Craig, afterwards Governor of Lower Canada, and Lieut. Donald Cameron of the Regulars, to other parts, to induce the Highlanders to join the Royal Standard, and to convince them, that their interest and safety depended on their doing so.

They persuaded the uninstructed Highlanders, that the rebels had neither money, means, nor allies; that it was impossible they could for any length of time, withstand the mighty power and means of Great Britain; that their property would be confiscated, and apportioned to the royalists who should volunteer to reduce them to subjection. The Highlanders having duly weighed these circumstances, came to the conclusion, that the Americans would, like the Scots, in 1746 be ultimately overpowered;--that it was therefore to their interest, as they would not be permitted to remain neutral, to join the British standard.

The greater part of them volunteered under the command of Sir. J. Johnstone, and served faithfully with him until the peace of 1783. On the exchange of the ratification of peace, these unfortunate Highlanders, saw themselves once more bereft of house and home. The reward of their loyalty, and attachment to British supremacy, after fighting the battles of England for seven long and doubtful years, and sacrificing their all, was finally, an ungenerous abandonment by the British government of their interests, in not securing their property and personal safety in the treaty of peace. The object for which their services were required, not being accomplished, they were unceremoniously left to shift for themselves in the lower Province, among a race of people, whose language they did not understand, and whose manners and habits of life were quite dissimilar to their own. Col. McDonald, a near kinsman of the chief of that name, and who had, also, taken an active part in the royal army, during the revolution, commiserating their unfortunate condition, collected them together, and in a friendly manner, in their own native language, informed them, that if it were agreeable to their wishes, he would forthwith apply to the governor for a tract of land in the upper Province, where they might settle down in a body; and where, as they spoke a language different to that of the natives, they might enjoy their own society, and be better able to assist each other.

This, above all things, was what they wished for, and they therefore received the proposal with gratitude. Without much further delay, the Colonel proceeded to the Upper Province, pitched upon the eastern part of the eastern District; and after choosing a location for himself, directed his course to head quarters--informed the Governor of his plans and intentions, praying him to confirm the request of his countrymen, and prevent their return to the United States. The governor approved of his design, and promised every assistance. Satisfied that all was done, that could be reasonably expected, the Colonel lost no time, in communicating the result of his mission to his expectant countrymen; and they, in a short time afterwards, removed with him to their new location. The Highlanders, not long after, proposed to the Colonel as a mark of their approbation for his services, to call the settlement Glengarry, in honor of the chief of his clan, by which name it is distinguished to this day. It may be proper, to remember, in this place, that many of these were the immediate descendants of the proscribed Highlanders of 1715, and not a few the descendants of the relatives of the treacherously murdered clans of Glencoe (for their faithful and incorruptible adherence to the royal family of Stuart,) by king William the 3d, of Bloody memory, the Dutch defender of the English Christian tory faith. But by far the major part, were the patriots of 1745,--the gallant supporters of the deeply lamented prince Charles Edward, and who, as before stated, had sought refuge in the colonies, from the British dungeons and bloody scaffolds.

It was not, therefore, their attachment to the British crown, nor their love of British institutions, that induced them to take up arms against the Americans; but their fears that the insurrection, would prove as disastrous to the sons of Liberty, as the Rebellion and the fatal field of Culloden had been to themselves; and that if any of them were found in the ranks of the discontented, they would be more severely dealt with in consequence of their former rebellion. Their chagrin was great indeed, especially, when they compared their former comfortable circumstances, in the state of New York, with their present miserable condition; and particularly, when they reflected how foolishly they had permitted themselves to be duped, out of their once happy homes by the promises of a government, which they knew from former experience, to be as false and treacherous, as it was cruel and over-bearing. They settled down, but with no very friendly feelings towards a government which had allured them to their ruin, and which at last, left them to their own resources, after fighting their battles for eight sanguinary years. Nor are their descendants, at this day, remarkable for either their loyalty, or attachment, to the reigning family. These were the first settlers of Glengarry. It is a singular circumstance, that, nearly all the Highlanders, who fought for liberty and independence, and who remained in the U.S., afterwards became rich and independent, while on the other hand, with a very few exceptions, every individual, whether American or European, who took up arms against the revolution, became blighted in his prospects," (pp. 33-36).

Having mentioned in particular Butler's Rangers the following from Lossing's "Pictorial Field-Book of the War of 1812," may be of some interest: "Some of Butler's Rangers, those bitter Tory marauders in Central New York during the Revolution, who in cruelty often shamed Brant and his braves, settled in Toronto, and were mostly men of savage character, who met death by violence. Mr. John Ross knew a Mr. D----, one of these Rangers, who, when intoxicated, once told him that 'the sweetest steak he ever ate was the breast of a woman, which he cut off and broiled,'" (p. 592).

Note to Chapter VIII


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