Tartan Day and the Declaration of Arbroath
"Every line of strength in American history is a line colored with Scottish blood." -- Woodrow Wilson
On April 6, 1320, Scots nobles and barons wrote a letter to Pope John XXII that is said to have provided the inspiration for America’s Declaration of Independence. Previously, the Pope had excommunicated Robert the Bruce, and thrown his support to British King Edward II. This letter, the Declaration of Arbroath, expressed the nobles’ allegiance to Robert, and their oath to resist English rule, come what may, even unto death. The letter also asked the Pope to urge Edward II to cease hostilities toward Scotland.
Today, Tartan Day, a commemoration of the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath, is celebrated worldwide on April 6. Many countries, starting with Canada, which first celebrated Tartan Day in 1992, have designated April 6 as the official day for citizens to honor their Scottish heritage.
Following Canada’s lead, the United States took up the issue of Tartan Day in the halls of the United States Senate in 1998. Senate Resolution 155 passed unanimously on March 20, 1998.
The latest U.S. Census counted some 13 million Americans of Scottish descent, and many historical Scottish Americans have made significant contributions to the country. Among these are Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Graham Bell, Neil Armstrong, and Andrew Carnegie, to name but a few.
The most lavish celebrations on American soil take place in the Washington, D.C., metro area and in New York City. In New York, it’s not just Tartan Day, but a full-on Tartan Week: seven days jam-packed with Scottish-themed events, including the Dressed to Kilt fashion show, Whisky Live at the Tavern on the Green, and a full slate of special fine art and film exhibitions, not to mention the 10k Scottish Run in Central Park.
Talk about a Guinness World Record! In 2002, New York’s Tunes of Glory Parade featured 10,000 pipers and drummers marching and playing down Manhattan's 6th Avenue. Some doubters feel this mind-boggling feat may never be surpassed, but history has shown time and time again that betting against the Scots is a task for fools.
- The Declaration of Arbroath: Complete Text
- Senate Resolution 155, Passed March 28, 1998: Complete Text
- Celtic Events: Tartan Day