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April 5, 2005

Born Fighting

(How the Scots-Irish shaped America)
James Webb – ISBN 0767916883

This is another fascinating, instructive and well written book. Webb is an author, filmmaker, journalist, professor, decorated Marine, former Ass’t Sec’y of Defense . . . and as you might surmise, a Scots-Irishman.

As much as I think I know about history, from Albion’s Seed to How the Irish Saved Civilization, I was unaware of just how much the Scots-Irish have defined what we all (or most all) think of ourselves as we pronounce ourselves “Americans.”

Beginning as “barbaric” Celts, driven from Europe by the Romans into what is now Scotland, then being driven about by the English--and finally out--to Ireland from whence they immigrated to what now is the U.S., they authored and represent a lot of what we honor in America—at least those of us who still love and honor America: dedication to the obligations of duty, an unforgiving code of honor and loyalty to country, all wrought within their native Celtic culture and refined by their acquired Christian beliefs.

These noble folk were encouraged to immigrate first into Northern Ireland, where they were detested by the Catholics (authoring the still raging conundrum there), and thereafter into the hills bordering the coastal settlements of “English civilization” in America. They claimed lands no Englishman wanted, and served as a buffer between the original settlers and the (understandably hostile) Indian population. Fiercely independent and deeply religious, they bent their knee and bowed their head to no one but their God. Unacceptable to settled America--the elites had and wanted little contact with this culture--they preferred to be isolated amongst their own kind (think Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett—and whilst thinking thus “remember the Alamo!”)

With a broad brush, often exquisitely detailing with one containing but a single hair, Webb paints the picture of the defining attitudes and values of the military and, more, of working-class America, including the “peculiarly populist form of American democracy itself.” It’s all here, elaborately spelled out, including brief discussions of the dozen or so presidents from this stock: notably Andrew Jackson, U.S. Grant and Ronald Reagan; and fierce warriors of the same breed: William Wallace (the “Braveheart” of history) and George Patton for those of us aware of the 20th century. Wallace, Jackson, Grant and Patton all earned renown by winning the allegiance of their countrymen thru their insistence upon unquestioned equality, loyalty and their leadership and performance on the battlefield.

The Abbot of Arbroath, Robert the Bruce’s chancellor, once wrote:
“For so long as one hundred of us shall remain alive we shall never in any wise consent to submit to the rule of the English. For it is not for glory we fight, for riches, or for honors, but for freedom alone, which no good man loses but with his life.”

No review can do this book justice. To be sure there are and have been other notable personages, including Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, etal; Lincoln and FDR as well . . . and then there are those magnificent Celts who have done so much to forge the nobility and the steel that is America. Read it and you will better understand the origins of the humility of our seriously religious population, and the fierce American independence we cherish. It is a riveting and exciting book to read; one well worth the time. I have reread it already!

Posted by respeto at April 5, 2005 10:59 AM