In this same speech he showed that there was no slackening of determination to pursue to the end the policy of the Covenant. There had been rumours that the Government were making secret inquiries with a view to taking legal proceedings, and in allusion to them Carson moved his audience to one of the most wonderful demonstrations of personal devotion that even he ever evoked, by saying: “If they want to test the legality of anything we are doing, let them not attack humble men—I am responsible for everything, and they know where to find me.”
The Bill was running its course for the second time through Parliament, a course that was now farcically perfunctory, and Carson returned to London to repeat in the House of Commons on the 10th of June his defiant acceptance of responsibility for the Ulster preparations. He was back in Belfast for the 12th of July celebrations, when 150,000 Orangemen assembled at Craigavon to hear another speech from their leader full of confident challenge, and to receive another message of encouragement from Mr. Bonar Law, who assured them that “whatever steps they might feel compelled to take, whether they were constitutional, or whether in the long run they were unconstitutional, they had the whole of the Unionist Party under his leadership behind them.”
The leader of the Unionist Party had good reason to know that his message to Ulster was endorsed by his followers. That had been demonstrated beyond all possibility of doubt during the preceding month. The Ulster Unionist Members of the House of Commons, with Carson at their head, had during June made a tour of some of the principal towns of Scotland and the North of England, receiving a resounding welcome wherever they went. The usual custom of political meetings, where one or two prominent speakers have the platform to themselves, was departed from; the whole parliamentary contingent kept together throughout the tour as a deputation from Ulster to the constituencies visited, taking in turn the duty of supporting Carson, who was everywhere the principal speaker.
There were wonderful demonstrations at Glasgow and Edinburgh, both in the streets and the principal halls, proving, as was aptly said by The Yorkshire Post, that “the cry of the new Covenanters is not unheeded by the descendants of the old”; and thence they went south, drawing great cheering crowds to welcome them and to present encouraging addresses at the railway stations at Berwick, Newcastle, Darlington, and York, to Leeds, where the two largest buildings in the city were packed to overflowing with Yorkshiremen eager to see and hear the Ulster leader, and to show their sympathy with the loyalist cause. Similar scenes were witnessed at Norwich and Bristol, and the tour left no doubt in the minds of those who followed it, and who studied the comments of the Press upon it, that not only was the whole Unionist Party in Great Britain solidly behind the Ulstermen in their resolve to resist being subjected to a Parliament in Dublin, but that the general drift of opinion detached from party was increasingly on the same side.