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What The Twelfth means to me

If it wasn't for the Glorious Revolution of 1688, there may have been no American Revolution of 1776!

Stephen Jackson lives in the Orange heartland of Portadown, Co. Armagh. In July he celebrates both the Williamite victory of 1690 – and the American Declaration of Independence in 1776! He believes that if it wasn’t for the Glorious Revolution of 1690, there may have been no American Revolution of 1776. Stephen would like to see more emphasis on the link between Ulster and America – as around twenty million Americans are of Ulster-Scots/Scotch-Irish blood. He feels that the Ulster-Scots are a "remarkable people" who have played a crucial role "in the fight for freedom against imperialism, oppression and tyranny".

I ENJOY the colour, noise and banter of the 12th July celebrations. The Twelfth is a very exciting period. I regard it as celebrating freedom and definitely not a an act of provocation.

However, things can get very tense in Portadown during this period. This is because the Parades Commission (PC) has repeatedly chosen to ban Portadown District LOL No 1’s annual pre-Twelfth church parade from returning home by way of the Garvaghy Road. The PC is a dictatorial body, which exercises the ‘right’ to prevent God-fearing Christian men from peacefully walking home from Sunday worship. No wonder the Orange Order refuses to talk to the PC!

I’m very interested in Ulster-Scots history, heritage and culture. As such, I see important parallels between the Glorious Revolution of 1690, the American Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the Orange Order’s rejection of the Parades Commission.

I regard the Glorious Revolution as a freedom struggle. James Stuart believed in dictatorship - ‘the Divine Right of Kings’. Thankfully, King William of Orange defeated King James II at the Boyne in 1690. The Americans’ war against King George III was also a freedom struggle. Here the British State acted as an imperial aggressor. And I think many people will see the Orange Order’s stand at Drumcree as part of a freedom struggle. On these three occasions, people have stood up to tyranny and oppression.


Whilst we celebrate the freedom struggle of 1690, I think it’s also important to celebrate the American freedom struggle of 1776. Many folks know about the events leading up to 1690, but how many know about the events leading up to the American Declaration of Independence?


What’s important to remember here is the role played by a remarkable people – the Ulster-Scots. The Ulster-Scots fled these shores because of anti-Presbyterian bigotry and oppression. They sailed to America, where they became known as the Scotch-Irish. They mainly settled in the Southern States – an area later known as the Confederate States of America. Ironically, years after fleeing religious oppression here, the Ulster-Scots - Scotch-Irish settlers were faced by an imperial oppressor in the form of King George. No wonder they formed the backbone of resistance to this royal tyranny!

The Ulster-Scots played a very active role in America’s War for Independence, both in the making of the Declaration and in fighting to make it a reality.

Out of the 56 signatories on the Declaration of Independence on 4th July 1776, eight of them were of Ulster-Scots descent. They were: John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, Thomas McKean, Thomas Nelson, William Whipple, Robert Paine, Matthew Thornton, George Taylor and Edward Rutledge.

The great honour of printing the first copies of the Declaration went to John Dunlap, who had moved to America from a printing firm in Strabane, Co. Tyrone. The Great Seal of America was designed by Charles Thompson, from Maghera, Co. Londonderry. It was General George Washington who remarked, "If defeated everywhere else I will make my last stand for Liberty among the Scotch-Irish of my native Virginia." No truer words did George Washington speak – as he knew that about 40% of his army was made up of people of Scotch-Irish descent. Men like General Henry Knox, the Second in Command of the Continental Army, Brigadier William Irvine, Richard Montgomery, John McKinley, General Andrew Lewis and General William Maxwell. All played an important role in America’s fight for freedom.

We also must not forget the ordinary soldiers, both regular and militiamen, who helped make the Declaration a reality by giving up life and limb for their freedom struggle. These men showed great bravery and resolve, in the face of one of Europe’s greatest armies.

Yes, I enjoy the 12th July Celebrations, but whilst celebrating 1690 I’m also thinking of the events that led to the 4th July 1776. Above all, I’m thinking of the crucial role the Ulster-Scots played in the fight for freedom against imperialism, oppression and tyranny. 

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