If the Scots-Irish migrants had somewhat unrealistic expectations of the ‘New World’, their prospective hosts were similarly over optimistic. Cotton Mather hoped that ‘much may be done for the Kingdom of God in these Parts of the World by this Transportation.’31 Mather welcomed the Scots-Irish because they swelled the Calvinist community in New England. ‘We are comforted’, he wrote to a friend, ‘with great numbers of our oppressed brethren coming over from the North of Ireland unto us’. He added that they ‘sit down with us, and we embrace them as our own most united brethren, and we are likely to be very happy in one another.’32 At the beginning of August 1718 MacGregor dined with Mather and William Boyd (who was still in Boston). However, a second reason why Mather welcomed the Scots-Irish colonists was because he wished to see them settled on the insecure frontiers of Maine and Massachusetts. Governor Shute was of the same mind, as was Thomas Lechmere, the surveyor-general of customs in Boston, who hoped the Scots-Irish would ‘settle our frontiers as a barrier against the Indians’.33
Up until 1675 westerly population expansion from the coastal sites running from Massachusetts Bay to the Connecticut Estuary had been steady. But towards the end of the century, fighting with Native Americans slowed this process so that even in 1700 the frontier was only 40 miles from Boston. Between 1701 and 1713 there was renewed fighting between the British and the French.34 As a consequence land was cheap and the colonial authorities were anxious to repopulate the frontier.
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31 Cotton Matther, ‘Diary of Cotton Mather, 1709–1724’, Massachusetts Historical Society Collections, 7th ser., 8 (Boston, 1912), p. 549, qu. in Bolton (1967), p. 136.
32 Griffin (2001), p. 90.
33 Henry J. Ford, The Scotch-Irish in America (Princeton, 1915), p. 222.
34 McCourt (1999), p. 312.