Our friendly and excellent guides are available as Step On Guides for any visiting tour or coach operators who may like a unique, entertaining and educational tour of Irish History and the events of Easter Week 1916.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Irish Statesmen Abroad - The Series

  The 1916 Easter Rising generated a generation of Irish leaders and statesmen but as a small 
island we have punched well above our weight providing statesmen for nations across the world.                       This series published everyday over the next two weeks looks at their stories.

Episode Two - The U.S.A.
There have been six US Presidential visits to Ireland, Obama, Clinton, Kennedy, Nixon, Reagan and Bush but the only US President to have direct connections with Ireland was Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States of America. His father Andrew senior was born in Carrickfergus, County Antrim and his mother Elizabeth was also born in Northern Ireland both of Presbyterian Scots origin. In 1765 Andrew, Elizabeth and two older sons Hugh and Robert immigrated to the United States arriving in Philadelphia. The future President Jackson was born on March 15th 1767 just fourteen days after the death of his father in a logging accident. His now widowed mother raised the three boys in Waxhaws, South Carolina. He was elected President in 1829 serving two terms and he is considered as the founder of the present day Democratic Party. He died in Nashville, Tennessee in June 1845.

Before the thirteen colonies of the original United States of America gathered together under one President, George Washington many of these colonies had their own Presidents and some of them were Irish born.


George Bryan was born in Henry Street, Dublin in August 1731 to Samuel and Elizabeth Bryan. George was a middle child of five, two older sisters Elizabeth and Amy, two younger brothers Arthur and Samuel. Samuel Bryan was a well known merchant in Dublin whose trade also included exports to continental America. Young George who would eventually earn the nickname ‘The Dublin Boy’ attended Trinity College before accepting an offer in 1752 from a partner of his father to cross the Atlantic to learn business management in Philadelphia. He quickly settled into life in Pennsylvania becoming a well known and wealthy merchant and in 1757 he married Elizabeth Smith with the couple going on to have ten children. With the onset of the American war of Independence he became quickly involved in the politics of the day especially in the colony of Pennsylvania. When the first President of Pennsylvania Thomas Wharton died in office he was replaced by George Byran who served as President from May 23rd 1778 to December 1st 1778. When the Pennsylvania Assembly head a formal meeting to replace their first President Byran lost the vote to Joseph Reed but was appointed Vice President, a position he held for two years. During his tenure as President one of his achievements was on June 28th 1778 the Assembly returned from exile in Lancaster to the colony capital Philadelphia, the exile had been forced on this by the British occupation of Philadelphia.

Another Irish born colony President was John McKinly who was President of Delaware from February 12th 1777 to September 22nd 1779. He was born in Northern Ireland in February 1721 and moved to Wilmington Delaware in 1742. He became involved in the local militia and was a Lieutenant during the French and Indian war. Described as Federalist he married Jane Richardson. In 1776 he was involved in some of the battles as the new colonies sought independence from Britain. He was elected to the Delaware Assembly in 1776 and the following year was elected President of Delaware. The colony due to the on going was in turmoil politically, militarily an economically. The British raided the President home and arrested him imprisoning his on board a warship. He was replaced in September 1777 by Thomas McKean. He was freed in August 1778 but left politics to concentrate on his medical profession founding the Delaware Medical Society in 1779. He died in August 1796. 


In 1776, the United States continental congress signed the declaration of Independence. The Continental Congress was the then rebel Government of the United States’ then thirteen colonies. On October 28th 1777, the President of the then United States John Hancock unexpectedly resigned as being denied permission to take a leave of absence. As the Congress debated his successor in these turbulent revolutionary times the position was temporary taken by Charles Thomson who served as President from October 29th to November 1st 1777 when Henry Laurens was elected President.

Thomson was born near Maghera, Derry in November 1729. Following the death of his mother in 1739, his father decided to emigrate with Thomson’s younger brothers to America. Their father died as they crossed the Atlantic and the penniless brothers were separated upon their landing. He married the sister of Benjamin Harrison whose son and grandson both became Presidents of the United States of America.
He became secretary of the Continental Congress and his name appears on the first published edition of the Declaration of Independence. His diligence of recording all the debates is now a valuable historical resource as the United States struggled militarily to free themselves from British dominance.

He is also credited with designing the Great Seal of the United States along with William Barton. He resigned his position as the new constitution gave life to the present United States and the election of George Washington in 1789. In his retirement he worked on a translation of the bible and developed a passion for beekeeping. He died in Pennsylvania in 1824 at the ripe old age of ninety four.  

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