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Ronald McNeill, 1st Baron Cushendun
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 329 pages of information about Ulster's Stand For Union.
of a silver key, symbolic of Ulster as “the key of the situation,” and a silver pen wherewith to sign the Covenant on the morrow, by Captain James Craig.  “The two incidents,” continued the Correspondent of The Times, “were followed by the audience with breathless excitement, and made a remarkably effective prelude to Sir Edward Carson’s speech.  Premeditated, no doubt, that incident of the banner—­yet entirely graceful, entirely fitting to the spirit of the occasion—­a plan carried through with the sense of ceremony which Ulstermen seem to have always at their command in moments of emotion.”

And if ever there was a “moment of emotion” for the Loyalists of Ulster—­those descendants of the Plantation men who had been deliberately sent to Ireland with a commission from the first sovereign of a united Britain to uphold British interests, British honour, and the Reformed Faith across the narrow sea—­Loyalists who were conscious that throughout the generations they had honestly striven to be faithful to their mission—­if ever in their long and stormy history they experienced a “moment of emotion,” it was assuredly on this evening before the signing of their Covenant.

The speeches delivered by their leader and others were merely a vent for that emotion.  There was nothing that could be said about their cause that they did not know already; but all felt that the heart of the matter was touched—­the whole situation, so far as they were concerned, summed up in a single sentence of Carson’s speech:  “We will take deliberately a step forward, not in defiance but in defence; and the Covenant which we will most willingly sign to-morrow will be a great step forward, in no spirit of aggression, in no spirit of ascendancy, but with a full knowledge that, if necessary, you and I—­you trusting me, and I trusting you—­will follow out everything that this Covenant means to the very end, whatever the consequences.”  Every man and woman who heard these words was filled with an exalted sense of the solemnity of the occasion.  The mental atmosphere was not that of a political meeting, but of a religious service—­and, in fact, the proceedings had been opened by prayer, as had become the invariable custom on such occasions in Ulster.  It was felt to be a time of individual preparation for the Sacramentum of the following day, which Protestant Ulster had set apart as a day of self-dedication to a cause for which they were willing to make any sacrifice.

FOOTNOTES: 

[28] The Scotsman, November 2nd, 1911.

[29] See Sir B. Carson’s speech in Belfast Newsletter, September 24th, 1912.

[30] See ante, p. 53.

[31] See p. 106.

[32] See p. 248.

[33] The Times, September 23rd, 1912.

[34] The Daily Telegraph, September 25th, 1912.

[35] Belfast Newsletter, September 24th, 1912.

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