4th July marks the day the Second Continental Congress signed and adopted the Declaration of Independence in 1776, severing ties with Great Britain. As millions of Americans celebrate Independence Day, discover our top 5 Irish contributions to the creation of the land of the free and the home of the brave!

A New World

In 1492, Christopher Columbus set sail from the South of Spain with just three ships. He was in search of lands to the west under the sponsorship of King Ferdinand. After just over two months of sailing, Columbus and his crew saw lights and land in the distance.

Landing took place on 13 October 1492 on what is now known as The Bahamas. As part of the crew, Irish born Patrick Maguire jumped to secure the boat and was believed to be the first to actually set foot on what is now American soil.

Star Spangled Banner

The Star Spangled Banner is familiar throughout the world. While Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics to the National Anthem of the United States of America, the tune came from the other side of the Atlantic!

Credit for the tune lies with John Stafford Smith of London, who added it to the words of a drinking song in his social club known as the Anacreontic Society. It appears he may have ‘borrowed’ the air from blind Irish harpist, Turlough O’Carolan. The bard from County Meath would wander the isle and he is still a celebrated musician today. It would not be the first time his music was spirited away to Britain, as his Carolan Concerto was adapted as a march for the British Army Foot Guards during the Trooping of the Colour!

The White House

Did you know the architect for The White House was Irish? James Hoban was born in County Kilkenny and studied under some of Dublin’s finest architects. He did not immigrate to America until he was 32, landing in South Carolina.

President George Washington was a fan of Hoban’s architecture in the South, particularly the Charleston County Courthouse. James Hoban was selected design The White House and relocated to Washington D.C. The design was based on Dublin’s Leinster House, the home of the Oireachtas, the parliament of Ireland. The two remain twinned to this day.

United States Declaration of Independence – Printing

John Dunlap was born in Strabane, County Tyrone. At the age of ten, he was sent overseas to apprentice with his uncle as a printer in Philadelphia. After taking over the business, he served under George Washington as an officer.

This connection brought him a lucrative printing contract with the Continental Congress, which in turn lead to the Irishman printing the first copies of the Declaration of Independence. These 200 prints became known as the Dunlap Broadsides where created at the order of John Hancock.

From here Dunlap went on to print the Constitution of the United States for the Constitutional Convention, before printing it in his own newspaper, The Pennsylvania Packet.

United States Declaration of Independence – Signing

Of the 56 signatories to the Declaration of Independence, 3 of them were Irish!

James Smith was born in Ulster (although some accounts say Dublin) in 1719 before immigrating with his family to Pennsylvania at the age of 10. He studied law and became a lawyer. James joined the Continental Congress and became a signatory of the Declaration of Independence.

George Taylor was also born in Ulster, the north of Ireland. He immigrated to America as the age of 20, settling in Philadelphia. By trade, he was a fully trained Ironsmith. Despite his manual working background, Taylor was a smart man and worked his way up in politics. He started as a Justice of the Peace and through his connections; George earned the valuable munitions contracts and a commission as a colonel in the Continental Army.

From here, George Taylor was voted to the Continental Congress as a replacement delegate, which led to him becoming a signatory of the Declaration of Independence.

Matthew Thornton immigrated to America at the age of 3, from his native Lisburn in County Derry (although some accounts say he was from Limerick) to the East Coast.  Thornton studied medicine before entering politics, rising to the post of Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

As Washington D.C. was still under construction, Philadelphia was the nation’s capital. Thornton did not reach Philadelphia until November of 1776, four months after the official signing of the Declaration of Independence. Matthew Thornton received dispensation to add his signature to the 55 already on the document.

The Belfast Newsletter in the north of Ireland became the first newspaper outside of the United States to print the newly signed Declaration of Independence in August of 1776.

Mr President

There have been no less than 23 American Presidents with Irish heritage!

Andrew Jackson, 7th President of the United States was born in the Carolinas soon after his parents left County Antrim in Northern Ireland. 15th President, James Buchanan was born of immigrants from the Counties of Donegal and Tyrone!

Many more had grandparents who had left Ireland for a new life in America, with many hailing from County Antrim.

The most famous Irish American President, John F. Kennedy, was very proud of his Irish roots, visiting Ireland four times in total. Family ties include Bruff in County Limerick and New Ross in County Wexford.

Other notables include Richard Nixon with County Kildare connections and Gerald Ford with ties to Armagh and County Down. Ronald Reagan’s great-grandparents hailed from County Antrim and County Tipperary and he made his visit home as President, whereas the Bush dynasty have ancestors from County Down.

Barack Obama of course, visited his ancestral home of Moneygall in County Offaly and poured his own pint of Guinness! The most recent presidential visit to his ancestral home was Joe Biden, with family ties in County Louth and County Mayo.

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