The Ulster Covenant was signed by just under half a million of men and women from Ulster
Ulster is one of the four provinces of Ireland, located in the north of the island. In ancient Ireland, it was one of the fifths ruled by a "king of over-kings" . Following the Norman invasion of Ireland, the ancient kingdoms were shired into a number of counties for administrative and judicial...
, on and before September 28, 1912, in protest against the Third Home Rule Bill, introduced by the Government in that same year. Sir Edward Carson was the first person to sign the Covenant at the Belfast City Hall
Belfast City Hall
Belfast City Hall is the civic building of the Belfast City Council. Located in Donegall Square, Belfast, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, it faces north and effectively divides the commercial and business areas of the city centre.-History:...
with a silver pen destined for immortality followed by Lord Londonderry
Charles Vane-Tempest-Stewart, 7th Marquess of Londonderry
Charles Stewart Henry Vane-Tempest-Stewart, 7th Marquess of Londonderry, KG, MVO, PC, PC , styled Lord Stewart until 1884 and Viscount Castlereagh between 1884 and 1915, was an Anglo-Irish peer and had careers in both Irish and British politics...
, representatives of the Protestant Churches, and then by Sir James Craig. The signatories, 471,414 in all, were all against the establishment of a Home Rule parliament in Dublin. The Ulster Covenant is immortalised in Rudyard Kipling
Joseph Rudyard Kipling was an English poet, short-story writer, and novelist chiefly remembered for his celebration of British imperialism, tales and poems of British soldiers in India, and his tales for children. Kipling received the 1907 Nobel Prize for Literature...
's poem "Ulster 1912".
The Covenant had two basic parts: the Covenant itself, which was signed by men, and the Declaration, which was signed by women. In total, the Covenant was signed by 237,368 men, and the Declaration by 234,046 women, with the most passionate signatories signing in their own blood.
A British Covenant
The British Covenant was a protest organised in 1914 against the Third Home Rule Bill for Ireland. It largely mirrored the Ulster Covenant of 1912....
, similar to the Ulster Covenant in opposition to the Home Rule Bill, received two million signatures in 1914.
The Covenant (for men)
BEING CONVINCED in our consciences that Home Rule would be disastrous to the material well-being of Ulster as well as of the whole of Ireland, subversive of our civil and religious freedomFreedom (political)Political freedom is a central philosophy in Western history and political thought, and one of the most important features of democratic societies...
, destructive of our citizenshipCitizenshipCitizenship is the state of being a citizen of a particular social, political, national, or human resource community. Citizenship status, under social contract theory, carries with it both rights and responsibilities...
, and perilous to the unity of the EmpireBritish EmpireThe British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...
, we, whose names are underwritten, men of Ulster, loyal subjects of His Gracious Majesty King George V.George V of the United KingdomGeorge V was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 through the First World War until his death in 1936....
, humbly relying on the God whom our fathers in days of stress and trial confidently trusted, do hereby pledge ourselves in solemn CovenantCovenant (historical)In a historical context, a covenant applies to formal promises that were made under oath, or in less remote history, agreements in which the name actually uses the term 'covenant', implying that they were binding for all time...
, throughout this our time of threatened calamity, to stand by one another in defending, for ourselves and our children, our cherished position of equal citizenship in the United KingdomUnited Kingdom of Great Britain and IrelandThe United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....
, and in using all means which may be found necessary to defeat the present conspiracyConspiracy (political)In a political sense, conspiracy refers to a group of persons united in the goal of usurping or overthrowing an established political power. Typically, the final goal is to gain power through a revolutionary coup d'état or through assassination....
to set up a Home RuleHome ruleHome rule is the power of a constituent part of a state to exercise such of the state's powers of governance within its own administrative area that have been devolved to it by the central government....
Parliament in Ireland. And in the event of such a Parliament being forced upon us, we further solemnly and mutually pledge ourselves to refuse to recognize its authority. In sure confidence that God will defend the right, we hereto subscribe our names.
And further, we individually declare that we have not already signed this Covenant.
The Declaration (for women)
We, whose names are underwritten, women of Ulster, and loyal subjectBritish subjectIn British nationality law, the term British subject has at different times had different meanings. The current definition of the term British subject is contained in the British Nationality Act 1981.- Prior to 1949 :...
s of our gracious KingGeorge V of the United KingdomGeorge V was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 through the First World War until his death in 1936....
, being firmly persuaded that Home Rule would be disastrous to our CountryCountryA country is a region legally identified as a distinct entity in political geography. A country may be an independent sovereign state or one that is occupied by another state, as a non-sovereign or formerly sovereign political division, or a geographic region associated with a previously...
, desire to associate ourselves with the men of Ulster in their uncompromising opposition to the Home Rule Bill now before Parliament, whereby it is proposed to drive Ulster out of her cherished place in the Constitution of the United KingdomConstitution of the United KingdomThe constitution of the United Kingdom is the set of laws and principles under which the United Kingdom is governed.Unlike many other nations, the UK has no single core constitutional document. In this sense, it is said not to have a written constitution but an uncodified one...
, and to place her under the domination and control of a Parliament in Ireland.
Praying that from this calamity God will save Ireland, we here to subscribe our names.
Kipling's "Ulster 1912"Their webs shall not become garments,
neither shall they cover themselves with their works:
their works are works of iniquity
and the act of violence is in their hands
(Isaiah lix. 6).
- The dark eleventh hour
- Draws on and sees us sold
- To every evil power
- We fought against of old.
- Rebellion, rapine, hate,
- Oppression, wrong and greed
- Are loosed to rule our fate,
- By England’s act and deed.
- The Faith in which we stand,
- The laws we made and guard,
- Our honour, lives, and land
- Are given for reward
- To Murder done by night,
- To Treason taught by day,
- To folly, sloth, and spite,
- And we are thrust away.
- The blood our fathers spilt,
- Our love, our toils, our pains,
- Are counted us for guilt,
- And only bind our chains.
- Before an Empire’s eyes
- The traitor claims his price.
- What need of further lies?
- We are the sacrifice.
- We asked no more than leave
- To reap where we had sown,
- Through good and ill to cleave
- To our own flag and throne.
- Now England’s shot and steel
- Beneath that flag must show
- How loyal hearts should kneel
- To England’s oldest foe.
- We know the war prepared
- On every peaceful home,
- We know the hells declared
- For such as serve not Rome—
- The terror, threats, and bread
- In market, hearth, and field—
- We know, when all is said.
- We perish if we yield.
- Believe, we dare not boast,
- Believe, we dare not fear
- We stand to pay the cost
- In all that men hold dear.
- What answer from the North?
- One Law, one Land, one Throne
- If England drive us forth
- We shall not fall alone!
Solemn League and CovenantAs well "Ulster Covenant" the term "Solemn League and Covenant
Solemn League and Covenant
The Solemn League and Covenant was an agreement between the Scottish Covenanters and the leaders of the English Parliamentarians. It was agreed to in 1643, during the First English Civil War....
" was occasionally used. This recalled a key historic document signed in 1643, by which the Scottish
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...
The Covenanters were a Scottish Presbyterian movement that played an important part in the history of Scotland, and to a lesser extent in that of England and Ireland, during the 17th century...
s at that time made a political and military alliance with the leaders of the English
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...
"Roundhead" was the nickname given to the supporters of the Parliament during the English Civil War. Also known as Parliamentarians, they fought against King Charles I and his supporters, the Cavaliers , who claimed absolute power and the divine right of kings...
during the First English Civil War
First English Civil War
The First English Civil War began the series of three wars known as the English Civil War . "The English Civil War" was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations that took place between Parliamentarians and Royalists from 1642 until 1651, and includes the Second English Civil War and...
Natal CovenantAs highlighted in Ulster resistance and loyalist rebellion in the Empire, an essay by Donal Lowry, the Ulster Covenant was used as a template for the 'Natal Covenant', signed in 1955 by 33,000 British-descended Natalians
Natal, meaning "Christmas" in Portuguese, was a province of South Africa from 1910 until 1994. Its capital was Pietermaritzburg. The Natal Province included the bantustan of KwaZulu...
against the nationalist
Afrikaner nationalism is a political ideology that was born in the late 19th century around the idea that Afrikaners in South Africa were a "chosen people"; it was also strongly influenced by anti-British sentiments that grew strong among the Afrikaners, especially because of the Boer Wars...
Union of South Africa
The Union of South Africa is the historic predecessor to the present-day Republic of South Africa. It came into being on 31 May 1910 with the unification of the previously separate colonies of the Cape, Natal, Transvaal and the Orange Free State...
government's intention of declaring the union a republic. It was signed in Durban City Hall—itself loosely based on Belfast's, so that the Ulster scene was almost exactly reproduced.