Some Interesting History About St. Patrick's Day
In 1736, a young man named George Taylor emigrated from Ireland to Philadelphia. With almost no money, Taylor had little choice but to indenture himself to an ironsmith in order to pay for his passage. In those days, working as an indentured servant meant years of hard labor and little freedom, but it was a course thousands of Irish men and women were forced to take in order to live in the New World.
Forty years later, Taylor signed the Declaration of Independence.
There were 56 signers of the Declaration, but Taylor was one of only eight who had been born in a foreign land. The fact that a poor Irish immigrant could rise to such a stage might seem incredible, but American history is filled with contributions made by Irish immigrants.
This month we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. As you probably know, St. Patrick’s Day can mean many things to many different people. At its heart, the day is to honor the death of Saint Patrick, one of the most important figures in Irish history. Children, of course, see it as a chance to wear green. More recently, though, we’ve come to associate the holiday with a celebration of Irish culture in general. To me, that’s a good thing—because Irish culture has had a profound influence on American culture, too! For that reason, St. Patrick’s Day gives us the opportunity to acknowledge the contributions made by thousands of Irish Americans over the centuries.
Irish immigrants began settling in what would become the United States during the 17th century. By the time of the American Revolution, over 250,000 Irish people had settled here. From the start, many of these brave men and women adopted the cause of Independence and went on to serve under George Washington during the Revolutionary War. In fact, one British general stated that “half the Rebel Continental Army were from Ireland.”
The second great wave of Irish immigrants came during the 1840s during the Great Famine. When a disease struck Ireland’s potato crop, a million people left the island to get away from the mass starvation taking place. Thousands of them came to the United States, where they settled in cities such as Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.
When the Civil War broke out a decade later, many Irishmen formed their own units, such as the famous Irish Brigade, one of the most celebrated units in Army history. Some historians estimate that more than 140,000 soldiers were from Ireland, while many thousands more were of Irish descent.
But Irish immigrants didn’t just distinguish themselves on the battlefield. From religion to music, from law enforcement to literature, and from food and drink to sports, Irish culture has influenced many of the traditions, customs, symbols, and sayings we know so well today.
Perhaps the biggest influence the Irish have had on American history is in the halls of government. Besides George Taylor, two other Declaration-signers were Irish, while five were sons of Irish immigrants. Most significantly, President Andrew Jackson was born to Irish parents, and twenty one other presidents have had Irish blood in their veins.
So as you wear green, count the leaves on a clover, or take in your local parade this St. Patrick’s Day, remember that it’s not just the Emerald Isle we’re celebrating—but the link between those green shores and ours.
From all of us here at Bowers Advisory Group, LLC, we wish you a happy St. Patrick’s Day!