In the mind of the average Ulster Unionist the particular point of contrast between himself and the Nationalist of which he is more forcibly conscious than of any other, and in which all other distinguishing traits are merged, is that he is loyal to the British Crown and the British Flag, whereas the other man is loyal to neither. Religious intolerance, so far as the Protestants are concerned, of which so much is heard, is in actual fact mainly traceable to the same sentiment. It is unfortunately true that the lines of political and of religious division coincide; but religious dissensions seldom flare up except at times of political excitement; and, while it is undeniable that the temper of the creeds more resembles what prevailed in England in the seventeenth than in the twentieth century, yet when overt hostility breaks out it is because the creed is taken—and usually taken rightly—as prima facie evidence of political opinion—political opinion meaning “loyalty” or “disloyalty,” as the case may be. The label of “loyalist” is that which the Ulsterman cherishes above all others. It means something definite to him; its special significance is reinforced by the consciousness of its wearers that they are a minority; it sustains the feeling that the division between parties is something deeper and more fundamental than anything that in England is called difference of opinion. This feeling accounts for much that sometimes perplexes even the sympathetic English observer, and moves the hostile partisan to scornful criticism. The ordinary Protestant farmer or artisan of Ulster is by nature as far as possible removed from the being who is derisively nicknamed the “noisy patriot” or the “flag-wagging jingo.” If the National Anthem has become a “party tune” in Ireland, it is not because the loyalist sings it, but because the dis-loyalist shuns it; and its avoidance at gatherings both political and social where Nationalists predominate, naturally makes those who value loyalty the more punctilious in its use. If there is a profuse display of the Union Jack, it is because it is in Ulster not merely “bunting” for decorative purposes as in England, but the symbol of a cherished faith.
There may, perhaps, be some persons, unfamiliar with the Ulster cast of mind, who find it hard to reconcile this profession of passionate loyalty with the methods embarked upon in 1912 by the Ulster people. It is a question upon which there will be something to be said when the narrative reaches the events of that date. Here it need only be stated that, in the eyes of Ulstermen at all events, constitutional orthodoxy is quite a different thing from loyalty, and that true allegiance to the Sovereign is by them sharply differentiated from passive obedience to an Act of Parliament.