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Scottish American Governors

Of the colonial Governors sent from Britain to the American Colonies before the Revolution and of Provincial Governors from that time to 1789, a large number were of Scottish birth or descent. Among them may be mentioned the following:

NEW YORK. Robert Hunter, Governor (1710-19), previously Governor of Virginia, was a descendant of the Hunters of Hunterston, Ayrshire. He died Governor of Jamaica (1734). He was described as one of the ablest of the men sent over from Britain to fill public positions. William Burnet (1688-1729), Governor in 1720, was also Governor of Massachusetts (1720-1729). He was the eldest son of Gilbert Burnet, Bishop of Sarum. Smith, the historian of New York, calls him "a man of sense and polite breeding, a well bred scholar." John Montgomerie, Governor of New York and New Jersey (1728-31), was born in Scotland. John Hamilton, Governor (1736). Cadwallader Golden (1688-1776), Lieutenant-Governor (1761-1776), born in Duns, Berwickshire, was distinguished as physician, botanist, mathematician, and did much to develop the resources of the state. O'Callaghan in his "Documentary History of the State of New York," says: "Posterity will not fail to accord justice to the character and memory of a man to whom this country is most deeply indebted for much of its science and for many of its most important institutions, and of whom the State of New York may well be proud." John Murray, fourth Earl of Dunmore, Governor (1770-71), afterwards Governor of Virginia. James Robertson (1710-1788), born in Fifeshire, was Governor in 1780. Andrew Elliot, born in Scotland in 1728, was Lieutenant-Governor and administered the royalist government from 1781 to November, 1783.

NEW JERSEY. Robert Barclay of the Quaker family of Barclay of Ury was appointed Governor of East New Jersey in 1682, but never visited his territory. Lord Neil Campbell, son of the ninth Earl of Argyll, was appointed Governor in 1687, but meddled little in the affairs of the colony. Andrew Hamilton (c. 1627-1703), his deputy, born in Edinburgh, on Lord Neil Campbell's departure, became Acting Governor. He was an active, energetic officer, who rendered good service to the state, and organized the first postal service in the colonies. John Hamilton, son of Andrew, was Acting Governor for a time and died at Perth Amboy in 1746. William Livingston (1723-90), the "Don Quixote of New Jersey," grandson of Robert Livingston of Ancrum, Scotland, founder of the Livingston family in America, so famous in the history of New York State, was Governor from 1776 to 1790. William Paterson (1745-1806), of Ulster Scot birth, studied at Princeton, admitted to the New Jersey bar in November, 1767, Attorney-General in 1776, first Senator from New Jersey to first Congress (1789), succeeded Livingston as Governor (1790-92), and in 1793 became Justice of the Supreme Court. The city of Paterson is named after him.

PENNSYLVANIA. Andrew Hamilton, Governor (1701-03), was previously Governor of East and West Jersey. Sir William Keith (1680-1751), born in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, Deputy Governor from 1717 to 1726. Patrick Gordon (1644-1736), Governor (1726-28). James Logan (1674-1751), born in County Armagh, son of Patrick Logan, of Scottish parentage, was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania from 1731 to 1739, and President of the Council (1736-38). He bequeathed his library of over two thousand volumes to Philadelphia, and they now form the "Loganian Library" in the Philadelphia Public Library. James Hamilton (c. 1710-1783), son of Andrew Hamilton, champion of the liberty of the press, was elected Member of the Provincial Assembly when but twenty years of age, and was re-elected five times. He was Deputy Governor 1748-54 and 1759-63. Robert Hunter Morris, of the famous New Jersey family of that name, Deputy Governor (1745-56). Joseph Reed, of Ulster Scot descent, Governor (1778-81). John Dickinson was President from 1782 to 1785.

DELAWARE. Dr. John McKinly (1721-96), first Governor of the state (1777), was of Ulster Scot birth. (All the above Governors of Pennsylvania except Reed also held the governorship of Delaware along with that of Pennsylvania.)

VIRGINIA. Robert Hunter (1707). (See above under New York.) Alexander Spotswood, Lieutenant-Governor (1710-22), a scion of the Spotswood of that Ilk. He was one of the ablest and most popular representatives of the crown authority in the Colonies and was the principal encourager of the growth of tobacco which laid the foundation of Virginia's wealth. Hugh Drysdale, Lieutenant-Governor (1722-26), was strongly opposed to the introduction of slavery into the colony. Commissary James Blair (1655-1743), President of Council (1740-41), was born in Scotland. Robert Dinwiddie, born in Glasgow in 1693, was Governor from 1751 to 1758. He recommended the annexation of the Ohio Valley and so secured that great territory to the United States. To him is also due the credit of calling George Washington to the service of his country. Dinwiddie county is named after him. John Campbell, Earl of Loudon (1705-82), Governor (1756-58), does not appear to have come to this colony. John Blair, Governor (1768), son of Dr. Archibald Blair and nephew of Rev. James Blair, the Commissary. Many of his descendants have distinguished themselves in the annals of Virginia. John Murray, fourth Earl of Dunmore, Governor (1771-75), was previously Governor of New York. Patrick Henry (1736-99), Governor (1776-79, 1784-86), was born in Hanover County, Virginia, of Scottish parentage, his father being a native of Aberdeen, his grandmother a cousin of William Robertson the historian. He became a lawyer in 1760 and in 1763 found his opportunity, when having been employed to plead against an unpopular tax, his great eloquence seemed suddenly to develop itself. This defence placed him at once in the front rank of American orators, and in 1765 he entered the Virginia House of Burgesses, immediately thereafter becoming leader in Virginia of the political agitation which preceded the Declaration of Independence. On the passage of the Stamp Act his voice was the first that rose in a clear, bold call to resistance, and in May, 1773, he assisted in procuring the passage of the resolution establishing a Committee of Correspondence for intercourse with the other colonies. In the Continental Congress which met in Philadelphia in 1774 he delivered a fiery and eloquent speech worthy of so momentous a meeting. In 1776 he carried the vote of the Virginia Convention for independence. He was an able administrator, a wise and far-seeing legislator, but it is as an orator that he will forever live in American history. William Fleming (1729-95), surgeon, soldier, and statesman, Councillor and Acting-Governor (1781), was born in Jedburgh, Roxburghshire.

NORTH CAROLINA. William Drummond, Governor of "Albemarle County Colony" (i.e., North Carolina), was a native of Perthshire, a strenuous upholder of the rights of the people, and ranks as one of the earliest of American patriots. He took a prominent part in "Bacon's Rebellion" in 1676, "an insurrection that was brought about by the insolence and pig-headedness of Sir William Berkeley, then Governor of Virginia," and was executed the same year. Gabriel Johnston (1699-1752), Governor (1734-52), was born in Scotland, and held the Professorship of Oriental Languages in St. Andrews University before coming to the colonies. Johnston County is named after him. Matthew Rowan was President of Council and Acting Governor in 1753. Alexander Martin (1740-1807), was fourth and Acting Governor, 1782-84, and from 1789 to 1792. Samuel Johnston (1733-1816), sixth Governor (1788-89), four years Senator, and Justice of the Supreme Court from 1800-1803. Bancroft says the movement for freedom was assisted by "the calm wisdom of Samuel Johnston, a native of Dundee, in Scotland, a man revered for his integrity, thoroughly opposed to disorder and revolution, if revolution could be avoided without yielding to oppression."

SOUTH CAROLINA. Richard Kirk, Governor (1684). James Glen, born in Linlithgow in 1701, Governor (1743-56). Lord William Campbell, third brother of the fifth Duke of Argyll, Governor (1775). John Rutledge (1739-1800), brother of Edward Rutledge the Signer, was President of South Carolina (1776-78) and first Governor (1779-82). He was later a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court (1789-91), Chief Justice of South Carolina (1791-95), and in 1795 appointed Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

GEORGIA. William Erwin or Ewen, born in England in 1775. John Houston, son of Sir Patrick Houston, one of the prime instigators and organizers of the Sons of Liberty (1774), was Governor in 1774-76, 1778. His portrait was destroyed by fire during the Civil War. Houston County was named in his honor. Edward Telfair, born in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright in 1735 and died at Savannah in 1807. When the revolutionary troubles commenced he earnestly espoused the side of the colonies, and became known locally as an ardent advocate of liberty. He was regarded as the foremost citizen of his adopted state, and his death was deeply mourned throughout the state.

FLORIDA. George Johnstone, a member of the family of Johnstone of Westerhall, was nominal Governor of Florida when that colony was ceded by Spain to Great Britain in 1763. He was one of the Commissioners appointed by the British government to try and restore peace in America in 1778.

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