Windham Life and Times – July 2, 2015

Canonbie, Canobie, Cannobie

How the Ethos of the Border Clans and Reivers Impacted America

The Border Reivers Spirit of Independence

The Border Reivers Spirit of Independence

So you may be wondering what in the world does the history of the border clans and reivers have to do with the history of both Windham and America. The border clans and families moved from the “debatable lands,” first to Northern Ireland and then to America. Many came to this area of New Hampshire. Independence Day, might just be a good time to appreciate how much the Scots-Irish influenced the ethos of America. It all comes down to this; the border Scotch held honor above all, loyalty to family above all, and had an ingrained sense of individualism that made them rebel against centralized authority. The men of the borders prized their independence above all things, including the inconvenient laws issued by the “mere kings” of Scotland and England. For the most part they became small “d” democrats supporting the rebellion against King George III and backing presidents like Andrew Jackson who fought the power of the eastern elites.

“In many ways, their culture became American culture. The Scots-Irish (sometimes called the Scotch-Irish) are all around you, even though you probably don’t know it. They are a force that shapes our culture, more in the abstract power of emotion than through the argumentative force of law. In their insistent individualism, they are not likely to put an ethnic label on themselves when they debate societal issues. Some of them don’t even know their ethnic label, and some who do don’t particularly care. They don’t go for group-identity politics any more than they like to join a union. Two hundred years ago the mountains built a fierce and uncomplaining self-reliance into an already hardened people. To them, joining a group and putting themselves at the mercy of someone else’s collective judgment makes as much sense as letting the government take their guns. And nobody is going to get their guns. Quote from “Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America” written by James Webb.

Many fought for the South, but most gained no advantage from slavery and were not a part of the planter class, yet they fought tenaciously for “states rights.” Many more fought for the North. The hero of World War One, Alvin York was a pacifist from the hills of Tennessee, of Scotch-Irish and English extraction. And of course, the hero of the race to the moon, Neil Armstrong, was a direct descendant of the independent spirited reiver clans. It really is sad, that this county is so ignorant of its history, and that American public opinion is so easily swayed by the persuaders. The border reivers and the Scots-Irish immigrants would be appalled if they could see the strong hand that now rules America from above and the dependence on the government that personifies so many American lives. Happy Fourth of July.

Neil Armstrong on the Moon.

Neil Armstrong on the Moon.

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