THE UNION JACK OF THE EMPIRE.
Address by Mr. F. Barlow Cumberland, M.A., of Toronto, before the Empire Club of Canada, on December 20th, 1906.
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Empire Club,--subject upon which I am to speak to you is, " The Union Jack, the Sovereign's Colour and Sign of Imperial Unity." A subject which dates its origin from over a thousand years ago is one which, in the short time of twenty minutes at our disposal, must be taken somewhat rapidly, and, therefore, there are many interesting phases in the progress of our Flag over which I shall have to pass untouched.
The foundation was in the times of Richard L, the " Lion Hearted "-and it would seem almost as though the emblem of our nationality had sprung from the great heart of that great man. The King was leading his Crusaders to the relief of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and, as the leader of a seafaring nation, had advanced his forces in a fleet by the sea, rather than, as the other nationalities were, marching over-land. Sailing toward Bayreuth, he engaged in action with the enemy's fleet, near-by the grotto of the famous St. George, and it was by the winning of that naval victory in the neighbourhood of the spot consecrated to that great saint, into whose renown we have not time to enter, that we obtain for England the sign of St. George, the "Red Cross" upon the white banner. In those Crusades, the various nationalities, in order to distinguish them one from another, wore upon the surcoats, crosses indicating the various nationalities from which they came. The German wore a black cross; the Italian a yellow cross; and after this time the Englishman wore a red cross. The sign of the red cross, then, is the sign of "the English." This sign, this emblem of chivalry, undaunted courage, and of respect and protection for women--was brought to England in,. A.D. 1194, by Richard I. Afterwards, as record of its adoption as the tutelary sign of England, "St. George's Day " was set apart in 1222, to be celebrated as " England's Day."
From the time of Edward I. onwards, awe find plain instances of the use of this sign of St. George as the indication of English association. As an English emblem on seals, on banners and arms, on sepulchral monuments; on the memorial crosses that were erected are found reproduced this sign of the English. It had been worn as the emblem of England in the Crusades; under it the power and title of the King of England, to the "Lordship of the narrow seas," was won. Under this red cross banner the marvellous naval victory at Sluys, the Trafalgar of its day, was gained, and the fields of Cressy, Poictiers, and Agincourt rang to the sound of "England and St. George." Carried across the seas, Cabot discovered Greater Britain; Drake carried our Red Cross flag around the world. Frobisher sought the farthest points of the Northwest Passage-and Raleigh founded under it Virginia, the beginning of the great English colonies in America. The climax glory of all was the carrying of this Red Cross sign of England in the victory by Elizabeth's sailors over the Spanish Armada, a victory which settled the future of the world. (Applause.) With such a glory roll, it is not to be wondered that, as a tribute to its history and to the seamanship of England, the Admiral's flag of a British fleet is today the sign of the Red Cross of St. George upon the white field; that the distinguishing ensign of the British navy, worn at the stern of all His Majesty's ships, is the English Red Cross flag, with its white ground and with a Union Jack in the upper left corner. These are reminders of the great past and a proper recognition of the share that the English people hold in the maintenance of England as the " Mistress of the Seas." Well, then, indeed, has it been sung
Ye mariners of England
That guard our native seas,
Whose flag has braved a thousand years
The battle and the breeze,-
and it is the only flag that floats o'er earth and sea of which this centuries--long honour can be acclaimed.
As our next point, we may take some little history of the " Scottish Jack," that is, the white saltire or diagonal cross upon the Union Jack. It is difficult to find out exactly how St. Andrew came to be adopted as the Patron Saint of Scotland. In the early centuries it is recorded that a vessel coming to Scotland bearing on it some of the relics of the Saint, was wrecked at a place in the County of Fife, still called St. Andrews. This may have been the origin of his adoption as the Saint of the country. At all events, it is found that in A.D. 987 the King of the Scots came to the relief of Hungus, King of the Picts, when being attacked by the West Saxons he was in dire distress and subjected to an overwhelming foe. The story goes that as the Scots men were at night lying out on the ground waiting for the morn and praying for success, they saw in the heavens, set out upon the deep blue sky, a saltire cross formed by white clouds in the form of the cross of St. Andrew. Emboldened by the sight of this emblem of their adopted Saint, they were encouraged in their hearts; and redoubling their energies they won next day the victory.
From that clay onward St. Andrew's Cross is evident in the annals of its people. It was the flag of Robert-the-Bruce, and under it he won in 1314 the Battle of Bannockburn; but it does not seem to have been used by them much sailing far across the seas. The Scotsman kept his ships more closely along his shores, the deep indented fiords or fastnesses being admirably adapted for that system which the Scots men used of making sudden forays upon the passers-by, or those who had anything that was worth while endeavouring to get. This they had done with very considerable effect on land upon, their neighbours in the English lands and in Ireland, and during those raids it was their habit, as we find recorded, to wear upon their blue surcoats the white St. Andrew's cross as a sign and means of identification. Along these indented shores there are stored in the folk-lore of the Scottish people many interesting incidents, and their bold men stand out in striking story. Sir Andrew Wood, of Leith, was one of the foremost of them at the time of Henry VII., of England, and challenged the English fleet to a contest. Three ships of each side were chosen. The Scotsmen won the day and took the three English ships with all their men and all that was on them into Dundee. James IV. of Scotland returned, not the booty, but the ships and the men, saying that the contest had been for honour and not for gain. (Laughter) The last of the "freebooters" was Sir Andrew Barton, who not only took toll from the English people who might be passing his way, but also from all other nationalities that might be sailing those seas, but the rise of the Navy of Henry VIII. and the joining of the thrones on the accession of James VI. of Scotland, or James I. of England, saw the last of the day of the Scotch "freebooter."
The "Irish Jack" was a Saint Patrick's cross; a red cross of the same shape as the saltire cross of Scotland, but on a white ground. St. Patrick was the Christian apostle of the Irish and carried his work throughout the people about A.D. 4m. It is suggested that the selection of this shape of cross was due to the ensign of Constantine the Great, the first Christian Emperor of Rome. On his standard was this cross, being "X," the first letter of the word "Christ," in the same saltire form, and this cross, the sign of the first Christian Emperor of Rome, may have given rise to the adoption of one in that shape as his emblem by St. Patrick. From Henry IL, the Kings of England had been the lords paramount of Ireland, and from Henry VIII. they had been Kings of Ireland. But, during all that period, there does not seem to have been any particular adoption of this cross as the national sign of Ireland. It is, however, found earlier in the arms of the Fitzgeralds, who were dominant Irish leaders at the time of the conquest of Ireland by Henry TI.
These three jacks, then, are the component portions of our Union Jack, the Red Cross on a white ground for England; the White Cross on a blue ground for
Scotland; and the Red Cross on a white ground for Ireland.
The First Joining. In 1603, James I. had succeeded by virtue of his birth to be King of England. In the early years of his reign he had found that there were constant contentions, possibly the remains of the old differences which had been existent between his English and his Scotch peoples. The Englishman carried on his ship the red cross of England on the white ground; the Scotchman carried on his ship the white cross of Scotland on the blue ground, as the sign of his nationality, and as the ships passed there were differences of opinion as to the wearing of these flags. It is possible these differences of opinion gave place to blows, and so the King thought it would be well to prevent these contentions by adopting some method which would show a sign of their union. He therefore devised, in 1606, in the sixth year of his reign, the " King's Jack," which was composed of the Red Cross of England, joined with the White Cross of Scotland upon a blue ground in a single flag. This, being a combination of the two jacks, he ordered to be carried as an additional flag on the main top of each ship of his subjects, but he ordained that his English subjects were still to continue to hoist at the same time on their foretop their national Jack of St. George's Cross, and the Scotch the White Cross. This flag of James I. would appear to be the first "Union Jack," but it should be remembered that there is this distinct difference between that Jack and the one which subsequently came, and whose successor we carry, that it was not a " National Jack," because each nation still continued to carry, as previously, their own National Jack. It was the King's flag, the sign of the unity of the two Kingdoms under one King. The King himself had desired that his title should be changed from "King of England, Scotland, and Ireland," to "King of Great Britain," but the Parliaments would not have it so, and, therefore, his title remained as it had previously been. The emblems of the nations, each retaining their own individuality, remained apart, but the King's Jack was a sign of their unity in loyalty to one sovereign. Further, the Jack, when raised alone, was authorized to be used only on the King's ships. When used on the people's ships they must show both the sign of their nationality and the sign of the King.
The next period of change in the flags, passing over the interval during the Commonwealth when the "King's Jack" disappeared altogether, came in the time of queen Anne.
When Queen Anne came to the throne there was no Union Jack used by the people in existence, because it had been taken from the people in the time of the Commonwealth, and they were then carrying their original national jacks as previously, and also a red ensign with only the red cross of England on a white ground in the upper corner. In 1707, in the sixth year of her reign, the two Parliaments of England and Scotland were united in one, and before their union each Parliament, sitting separately, authorized the Queen to form a new " Union Jack," which should be the sign of both peoples. Thus came about the formation of the first real national Union Jack. Again it was composed of the Red Cross of England and the White saltire cross of Scotland on the blue ground. These two were joined together in the one, the red cross of England and its white ground represented by the broad white band adjoining the red cross; the white cross of Scotland upon the blue ground of its national Jack. This became the national ensign of both, and, as usual, the Scotchman got a very considerable portion of the area of the flag.
Under this flag Plassey was won, and Clive added India. Nova Scotia and Newfoundland were brought under its national aegis. It was raised upon Fort Niagara, across our shores of Lake Ontario, in 1759, when Sir William Johnson tool; that Fort from the French, and, as Kirby says
"The last day came and Bois le Grand
Beheld with misty eyes,
The flag of France run down the staff,
And that of England rise."
that, supporting each other and united by courage, the Nations are building their union on the firm foundations of Purity and Truth. Remember, then, whenever you look at the Union Jack of the present day and type, to see, always, that the broad white is uppermost at the side next the flagstaff, otherwise the flag is reversed, and instead of being a flag of honour, it is a flag of distress. I trust that you all will be watchful that our Flag is displayed in the proper way. I have indicated to you in some degree that it is the Sovereign's flag, but time does not permit of going further into detail. You will remember that it was so under James. I. Charles I. had authorized it to be used only on the ships of the British Navy, describing it to be the " ornament proper for our own ships." Under Charles IL, again under William III., and again under Queen Anne in the beginning of her reign, there had been various regulations issued calling upon the people to recognize it to be used as a " King's Flag " on ships only of the Royal Navy. In those earlier times it was the sign of the Paramount Sovereign, afterwards, with the advancing relations of the Island Parliaments, it became the Union Sign of both King and People, and then with the rise of the Outer Realm it rose to a wider significance. It is the Constitutional Emblem of all the British peoples, and the sign of Imperial Unity, when placed in the larger flags of the National Ensigns.
The Union jack was early placed in the upper corner of the striped Ensign used by the East India Company, as the sign of British power and position in India. It was placed by the thirteen British Colonies in North America in the upper corner of their Colonial ensign composed of the Union Jack and the Thirteen Bars, to show that they were Britons holding to their allegiance and claiming their rights: it was in the flag of the Hawaiian Islands when they came under the care of Great Britain. It was placed in the upper corner of our Canadian ensign at Confederation as our sign of Imperial Unity; and at the formation of the Union of Australia it was put in the upper portion of their Australian Ensign as the emblem of their British union. It is the Flag of the Empire on which the sun never sets.
That it has been taken from its position in the flag of the United States is a matter of regret, but at the same time it is a matter of memorial to us that while they have parted with our old traditions, we in Canada carry the Union Jack in our Canadian ensign as the emblem of the staunchness of our loyalty and the belief that we have in the Realm and unity of the Empire of which we are part. (Applause.) It was in fidelity to it that our United Empire Loyalists crossed the border and came to this country over which our French-Canadians had joined in holding it inviolate. Now, what are we united Canadians going to do for it? Here is a flag which carries such a history as no other flag in the world. Each portion of it tells its own story, voices its own history, speaks of the union by constitutional methods of the British race, tells us how it started out from its old original home and with us and around the world has spread its colonizing power,--the aegis of its liberties.
What are we going to do as our share in the future glory of this flag which we have inherited? There is no people in the world which has such openings before it as has our Canadian people; there is no nation in the world to which is given in greater opportunity the following out the line of the old British race whereby the original people received into their midst persons from all places and from other nationalities and fused them into a united and loyal whole. Today there is no people upon the face of the earth that is receiving such strong-hearted adventurers from other lands as we are in Canada. Shall we, will we, fuse them together so that the spirit of our forefathers shall spread into their hearts and the flag of our Empire will be accepted by them with the same loyalty as we ourselves now hold to it. Shall we sell it for gain? Are we willing to barter it? Are we willing to consider this portion of this continent as being something which belongs solely to ourselves for our own separate advantage?
The flag tells us whence we came; the flag tells us from whom we obtained it; it tells us that we are to keep it not only for those who are living here, but for those who are loyal to it around the world. Well, then, may it fly upon the school-houses of Manitoba; well has that Government taken the foremost step in saying that all those varied nationalities which are coming within their lands shall be taught by the visible emblem which they have placed above their schoolhouses, that they are coming under the influences and under the charge of the Union Jack. So, too, may we have them over all our school-houses in Ontario. "Well done" to those men and to those people who would spread the use of these flags among our Canadian school-houses, for they are the signals not only of our own union; they are the signs of a nationality wider than the country in which we live; they are a sign of brotherhood with our fellow peoples around the world. (Applause.)
This Union Jack, then, is the flag which is the birthright of each British man; this is the flag which should always fly and be held and be esteemed as our own. It heralds loyalty to our forefathers, to King, to country, and to empire. It speaks to us from the past; it tells us of the great heroes; it inspires us to greater deeds.
"It's only a small bit of bunting,
It's only an old coloured rag,
Yet thousands have died for its honour,
And shed their best blood for the flag.
It floats over Cyprus and Malta,
Over Canada, the Indies, Hong Kong,
And Britons where'er their flag's flying,
Claim the rights which to Britons belong.
We hoist it to show our devotion
To our King, to our country, our laws;
It's the outward and visible emblem
Of advancement and liberty's cause.
You may say it's an old bit of bunting,
You may call it an old coloured rag,
But Freedom has made it majestic,
And time has ennobled our flag."