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Pilgrims, Benjamin Franklin and the North Atlantic Triangle

By Stephen Bowman

In an effort to inject the early-twentieth century diplomatic British-American rapprochement with a shared meaning, elites on both sides of the Atlantic appropriated and reimagined the Britain’s and America’s pasts. Foremost amongst these elites was the Pilgrims Society, a dining club for politicians, diplomats, businessmen, lawyers and journalists, formed in London and New York in 1902. To solidify the rapprochement, they appealed to a set of English values and ideas which they believed characterised the Anglo-Saxonism that underpinned their conception of a shared British-American identity.

Some of this is best shown by considering a banquet held by the Pilgrims Society for the Governor-General of Canada, Northumberland’s 4th Earl Grey, at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in March 1906. This was part of good-will visit undertaken by Earl Grey as part of an effort to address some outstanding diplomatic differences between Canada and Britain and the United States, including disagreements over fishing rights in the North Atlantic. Earl Grey also used the Pilgrims’ dinner as an opportunity to publicly announce that he was returning a portrait of Benjamin Franklin that had been taken from Franklin’s house in Philadelphia by British forces during the American Revolution, and which Grey had inherited.

Like his fellow Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin has served as a symbol of American national identity in the centuries since his death. By the end of the nineteenth century and the start of the twentieth, American imperialism in places like Cuba and the Philippines, but also on the Western Frontier, meant that Franklin also acted as an icon of America’s expansion and civilising mission. This chimed with Anglo-Saxonist conceptions of imperialism, which was presented as a benign and improving influence upon the world, particularly through the exporting of the apparently unique English propensity for self-government. Earl Grey and the Pilgrims Society certainly subscribed to this notion. In so doing, they neatly forgot about the worst excesses of Anglo-Saxon imperialism, for instance the grubby incident at Chumik Shenko in Tibet in March 1904 when British imperial forces en route to Lhasa massacred 500 Tibetans, the suppression of the 1906 Zulu rebellion in Natal, or America’s brutal defeat of Filipino insurgents at the turn of the century.

Meanwhile, the renewed scholarly and literary interest in Franklin at the start of the twentieth century – which highlighted, for example, the essential Englishness of his writing and its absence of Americanisms – was an attempt by American elites to institutionalise him as a symbol of the supremacy of Anglo-American ideals.  It was this elite aspect of American national identity, and its affinity with Benjamin Franklin, to which Earl Grey appealed in an effort to foster British-American friendship.

Unlike some American newspapers, the Pilgrims Society ignored the fact that Earl Grey was simply returning a piece of loot which had been taken from America during a period of British-American acrimony. These difficult historical realities were circumnavigated by Anglo-Saxonism and by an appeal to a shared English identity. Indeed, even though official histories of the Pilgrims Society suggest that the club did not take its name from the Pilgrim Fathers, the society would occasionally evoke the spirit of America’s early modern English and European settlers.  The tables at the Earl Grey dinner in March 1906, for example, were decorated with ‘sprays of trailing arbutus’, chosen because that species of plant had purportedly been the first flower encountered by the Pilgrim Fathers when they landed at Plymouth Rock in the seventeenth century (Boston Daily Globe, 1 April 1906). Likewise, at the Pilgrims’ twenty-fifth anniversary dinner in 1928, James Sheffield – the US Ambassador to Mexico – spoke of the ‘fundamental principles of government’ which the Pilgrim Fathers had brought to America from England and that the ‘spirit’ of that pilgrimage ‘rests with us tonight’. Such sentiments concerning the Pilgrim Fathers were consistent with what Joseph Conforti, in his book Imagining New England: Explorations of Regional Identity from the Pilgrims to the Mid-Twentieth Century (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000), has termed a ‘new, politicized meaning’ to the word ‘Pilgrim’, which emerged in the early-nineteenth century. Largely distinct from religious connotations, ‘Pilgrim’, and the Pilgrim Fathers, ‘connoted the pioneering status of New England’s founders; the old comers were now imagined as the pioneers of civil and religious liberty in America.’

Thus the Anglo-Saxonism of the early-twentieth century – characterised by appeals to a shared British-American identity based on English ideas –  helped circumnavigate difficult historical and contemporary realities, including the memory of the Revolution, right up to recent British-American disagreements relating to Canada and Newfoundland. It also obscured some inconvenient truths about British and American imperial activity in Tibet, South Africa and the Philippines.

Distributing Christmas Cheer

By Tanja Bueltmann and Don MacRaild

Benevolence was at the heart of the activities of St George’s societies in both the United States and Canada. Typically, the founding statutes of Philadelphia’s Society of the Sons of St George declared that it existed ‘for the ADVICE and ASSISTANCE of ENGLISHMEN in DISTRESS’. More than a century later, the New York St George’s Society stressed similar principles, with the added espousal of sociability. The society ‘arose from the congenial feelings of some native English settled here, who felt, that though this was to be their permanent residence, they could not restrain the gratifying recollections of their native land, or be unmindful of the condition of any who might resort to their vicinity in a state of indigence or distress’. Through such efforts, the English became successful in accumulating ‘endowments and annually dispensed several thousand dollars among hundreds of persons’. Charity remained a constant throughout, but it was with mass migration in the nineteenth century that it became a more persistent issue and English associations in North America began offering practical support for immigrants.

St. Georges Society, group preparing baskets, Toronto Globe and Mail, 23 December 1928

One particular activity pursued by a number of English clubs and societies was the dispensation of ‘Christmas cheer’. The offering of such seasonal offerings to the English poor was a common pursuit of the  Toronto St George’s Society. In 1859, for instance, members made a ‘gratuitous distribution of meat, bread, potatoes, and wood on the day before Christmas’, thereby carrying ‘warmth and gladness to many a darkened home’. In 1884, goods were distributed from a store on Yonge Street. First was a little boy who carried a basket bigger than himself to take home as many goods as possible. ‘Beaming with smiles at the prospect of the feast in store for him’, the boy left the store. Goods were available for those who had been given tickets by the St George’s Society, with these being handed out on the recommendation of clergymen or Society members. During the 1884 ‘Christmas cheer’ distribution, a total of 750 families received goods, which, in total, were comprised of 8,000 lbs. of beef, 1,200 loaves of bread, 750 lbs. of sugar, and 175 lbs. of tea. These goods, as the Toronto Daily Mail concluded, made many ‘homes in Toronto happier, brighter and merrier today.’

It is in this spirit of dispensing ‘Christmas cheer’ that we wish you a merry Christmas and all the best for 2014 – our final project year!

Uncovering the Origins of ‘English-Style’ Hunting and Equestrianism in Rural Virginia

By Dean Allen

Middleburg, Virginia, lies some 40 miles from the American capital Washington D.C. yet there is something quintessentially ‘English’ about the town and its surrounding areas. The National Sporting Library and Museum is also located here and houses one of North America’s most impressive collections of historic hunting and equestrian related material. Washington - Fox HunterAs a recipient of the John H. Daniels Research Fellowship, I was given access to both this collection and life in this unique part of the United States during the summer of 2013. Several months of living and working in rural Virginia gave me a privileged insight into the culture and identity of this region at the centre of which lies a rich history of English-style hunting and equestrianism.

Further investigation reveals that while forms of modern sport became entrenched within American society during the mid to late 19th Century, equestrian sports and hunting with hounds (in the traditional English manner) were established much earlier in Colonial Virginia. Arriving with the first colonists, these English upper-class pastimes became a vital part of English identity in Virginia and were used by many to recreate a sense of ‘Englishness’ throughout the new territory. Nowhere more so than in the region around Middleburg where records show that organised fox hunts had taken place as early as the mid 1660s.[1] A century later, a young George Washington (pictured) would lead his own pack on his Estate at Mount Vernon and continue a legacy of equestrianism and field sports that defines the ‘English’ of Virginia to this day.

By the end of the 17th century the wide-scale production of Tobacco had transformed both Virginia’s landscape and economy and the use of horses for both business and recreation became a feature of this boom. “Fine houses, carriages, racehorses and foxhunting were the most obvious signs of wealth”[2] and for the growing bourgeoisie, upper-class English-pursuits were considered essential to establish one’s status within the new Colony. Following the founding of Williamsburg as the Virginian capital at the dawn of the eighteenth century, the colony expanded taking on the motto En dat Virginia Quintum (Behold, Virginia gives the fifth [Kingdom]) – ranking herself with the king’s other claimed dominions, England, Scotland, Ireland, and France.[3]

Despite eventually leaving the British Empire, Virginians would continue to share the aristocratic leisure pursuits of their counterparts across the Atlantic. With its cultural lead coming from England, hunting with hounds in particular became “the principal field sport of the landed gentry”[4] throughout the new State. Dress, behavior, even imported foxes and hounds from the ‘Old Country’ ensured that huntsmen from Virginia and neighbouring Maryland could “secure the same sport that many of them had enjoyed in England.”[5] Horse racing and polo too became entrenched in re-affirming the cultural links with Englishness and both sports, alongside fox hunting, remain, as I discovered, an integral part of Virginia’s social landscape to this day.

 


[1] See R. Longrigg (1975) The History of Foxhunting. New York: Potter

[2] Ibid., 169.

[3] P. Rouse (1975) Virginia. A Pictorial History. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. P.5.

[4] A. Mackay-Smith (1968) The American Foxhound 1747-1967. Virginia: American Foxhound Club, p 1.

[5] J. Blan. van Urk (1941) The Story of American Foxhunting. New York: Derrydale, p.1.

English and Scottish Ethnic Associations in North America: A Comparison

By Tanja Bueltmann

In 1901 their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York embarked on Royal tours of both Australia and Canada, visiting locations throughout the two countries. At the end of September 1901 their journey brought them to the Canadian capital, Ottawa. Pavilions had been erected in the city, special Reception Committees were at hand to welcome the Royal couple, and there was a procession to the Parliament grounds. Four thousand school children flanked the main route, singing the national anthem and waving ‘their flags with great heartiness’. ‘On reaching the pavilion the Mayor … read the civic welcome. [And] then followed the presentation of addresses’ from several cities and organisations. Among the latter were presentations from both the Ottawa St Andrew’s and St George’s Society – the two associations united in dispensing a cordial welcome to the heir apparent, his wife and entourage. ‘As Scots and descendants of Scottish men, from his Majesty’s ancient kingdom of Scotland’, wrote the President of the St Andrew’s Society, ‘we rejoice that this Crown still unites Canada and ourselves with the country of our birth and origin, as well as with the kingdoms and possessions of the British Empire.’ – thus following, it seems, the motto of the Ottawa visit (see photo). Similar sentiments were expressed by the members of the St George’s Society, who stressed that ‘the national societies of Canada, although nominally separate, are … heartily united in devotion to the crown’.

The Royal Tour provides, of course, a very specific context for these expressions of loyalty to the old world, the crown and Empire. The St Andrew’s and St George’s societies’ involvement in the proceedings nonetheless highlights the important role ethnic associations played not only for their members, but also in wider social life.

Emigrants carried a rich array of associations with them to the new worlds in which the settled, often coming together along ethnic lines shortly after first foot fall. Yet while a key aspect of expatriate community life, two of the richest examples of this formal sociability, that of the English and Scots, have received only patchy attention. While Scottish associationalism, though understudied, has at least been an acknowledged feature of the Scots’ ethnic behaviour abroad—kilted lads and bagpipes providing a suitable iconography here—English associations have not been viewed in the same light: they have largely been dismissed, for instance by Charlotte Erickson, as elitist and out of touch with the larger immigrant community. More broadly, this view also reflects the frequent dismissal of ethnic associations as harbourers of nostalgia and romantic sentiments, their activities being perceived by many to simply replicate old world traditions for the purpose of keeping alive the memory of the native land. This view has been challenged recently by scholars like those of the English Diaspora project who recognise that ethnic associations serve much more varied purposes, providing a unique means to capture the experiences of migrants, their activities and networks. A comparison of the evolution of English associations and their activities with those of the Scots,  will help us better undestand the importance of English ethnic associations.

The first Scottish society in North America was the Charitable Society of Boston, which was set up in 1657 to provide relief for local ‘needy Scotch people, after proper investigation’.  One of the Society’s main roles in the eighteenth century became the provision of relief for the aged on a long-term basis—essentially a type of pension. The Society also maintained the Scots Temporary Home and a plot on the Mount Auburn Cemetery, setting the scene for the dispensation of Scottish charity through ethnic associations.

By the mid-eighteenth century St Andrew’s Societies had then been established in Charleston, South Carolina in 1729, in Philadelphia in 1747 and in New York in 1756.  What makes this establishment pattern of Scottish ethnic societies along the eastern seaboard of what were then still the original 13 colonies of the British Empire of particular interest is that the English followed very much the same pattern: Charleston’s St George’s Society was founded in 1733, New York’s in 1770 and Philadelphia’s Sons of St George’s Society in 1772. Perhaps an element of competitive ethnicity at play?

The first step towards the organization of the Charleston St Andrew’s Society was taken at a meeting of gentlemen ‘chiefly natives of Scotland’, who had come together on 30 November 1729 for the purpose of celebrating St Andrew’s Day. As the preamble of the Society’s rules highlights, it was founded on wide-ranging philanthropic principles designed to aid newly arrived Scottish migrants in distress. This focus on benevolence is a key characteristic of both Scottish and English associationalism in North America. Typically, for instance, the founding statutes of the Philadelphia’s Society of the Sons of St George declared it existed ‘for the ADVICE and ASSISTANCE of ENGLISHMEN in DISTRESS’. The Scottish and English associations’ most practical application was the provision of support for immigrants,  and one often underpinned by a patrician sense of benevolence felt by the societies’ leading members.

But such characteristics and development patterns were not uniform throughout the English and Scottish diasporas. In Canada, for instance, ethnic associations were slower to emerge—this being a direct result of migration trends: Canada was not one of the principal destinations migrants until after the American Revolution.  The first recorded Scottish ethnic association in Canada appeared in 1768, when the North British Society (originally called the North British Society, or Scots Club),  was founded in Halifax Nova Scotia.  Apart from the St. Andrew’s Society of St. John, New Brunswick, established in 1798, other Scottish ethnic associations only emerged in Canada during the early nineteenth century, with their establishment often coinciding with the incorporation of major urban centres, such as Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa, all of which had St. Andrew’s Societies by the 1840s.  Similar patterns are again traceable for the English. During the first-half of the nineteenth century, St George’s societies also spread with mass migration. In Canada, equivalents of the early American societies thus appeared in Toronto (1834), Quebec (1836) and Ottawa (1844).

For both groups sociability was a key factor for the establishment of ethnic associations, and one shaped by the class of participants. This explains, too, why activities differed. While the middle classes enjoyed lavish, civic dinners, working men organised earthier pursuits. Canada’s Sons of England in the prairie towns of the mid-west, for example, organized coyote hunts,  while the Sons of Scotland could be found enjoying picnics and football matches.

The English, like the Scots and many other ethnic groups, developed a lively scene of ethnic clubs and societies – and one that deserves to be fully recognised.

The Anglo-American Rapprochement

By Stephen Bowman

Reflecting upon the reasons for the level of Anglophobia in the United States during the early-twentieth century, Walter Hines Page, the US ambassador in Britain from 1913 to 1918, observed in 1916 that American dislike for the British was partly caused by the insensitive behaviour of some English travellers and was perhaps also due to some foolish British foreign policy decisions. While admitting that many Americans were jealous of British power, Page – a committed Anglo-Saxonist – was nevertheless strikingly critical of his blood brothers.

It is, of course, difficult to establish clearly the extent to which Page conflated England with Britain. Yet, singling out the behaviour of English travellers on the one hand and British policy on the other, would suggest he made some differentiation between the two. Indeed, Anglophobia in America generally was just that: Anglophobia. England was the scapegoat of the American Revolution and of the War of 1812 and was criticised for inept diplomacy during the American Civil War. The Scots, the Irish and the Welsh were largely able to avoid coming under the Anglo bracket if they didn’t want to and could disown their association with the English-dominated British state by highlighting their own historical traditions of standing against English tyranny.

The apparent unpopularity of the English in America makes all the more striking the appeals to a shared Englishness that so marked the rapprochement that occurred between Britain and the United States from the late-1890s. This improvement in official relations between the two states has been typically observed in British support for America during the latter’s war with Spain in 1898 – a favour largely reciprocated during Britain’s war in South Africa – and in the gradual resolution of outstanding disputes between the US and the UK in the early years of the twentieth century. The rapprochement, partly motivated by a realisation in Britain that the ever-more powerful USA was worth placating, was underpinned by the Anglo-Saxonism of groups like the Pilgrims Society, the Anglo-American League, the Sulgrave Institute and the International Magna Charta Day Association (IMCDA). While non-English, white, English-speakers were included as part of Anglo-Saxondom, English cultural references sustained the Anglo-Saxonism of the British-American rapprochement.

This was demonstrated by the appeals to notions of liberty and freedom, manifest in the rights handed down by the English Magna Charta, and which Don MacRaild has already discussed in an earlier post with reference to the IMCDA. The Pilgrims Society – an elite dining club founded in London in 1902 and in New York in 1903 – also utilised this rhetoric. Chauncey Depew, the Pilgrims president in New York, whilst speaking at an event on ‘Britain’s Day’, held on the 7th December 1918 to mark the British contribution to victory in the First World War, described the improvement in British-American relations as the ‘fruitage in the centuries of Magna Charta, the Bill of Rights, and the American Declaration of Independence, in common principles and ideals’ (New York Times, 8 December 1918).

Themes of English liberalism were also evoked by groups like the Pilgrims Society. To them, liberalism connoted vague notions of Anglo-Saxon, English-speaking freedoms symbolised in large part by grand institutions and principles such as parliamentary democracy, Magna Charta and habeas corpus. Liberalism was seen as an inherent characteristic of Anglo-Saxondom, though nobody took too much time to ask what was meant by either term. Nor did liberalism necessarily mean the same thing in Britain as it did in America. In Britain, it was more closely associated with the Liberal party, while the Civil War and Reconstruction periods in the US increasingly witnessed liberalism connoting ideas about pro-Union ‘progressivism’. Moreover, painting transatlantic liberalism in broad brush-strokes has the effect of obscuring the discourse that exists in American political thought between the liberal and republican ‘traditions’. This discourse centres on whether the eighteenth-century Founding Fathers were motivated by Lockean liberalism or classical republicanism. It is a debate that questions the extent to which men like Thomas Jefferson were influenced in their constitutional decisions by a desire to protect the rights of property and of the individual, or whether they were instead driven by concepts of civic virtue and duty. Arguably, however, it was the Jeffersonian heritage of American liberalism – partly influenced by English Lockean ideals, but also borne of the American struggle for independence from Britain – that ensured that appeals to Anglo-American solidarity based on a shared liberalism remained both inexact and intact.

Dancing up the Sun

By Mike Sutton

It’s an hour before dawn on the first of May, and Roger is chatting cheerily while driving through Berkeley’s empty streets.  Although he’s lived in California since the 1980s, his accent (and sense of humour) still proclaim his English origins.  In the 1960s, while studying electrical engineering, he joined Hammersmith Morris Men.  Now, after retiring from a senior post with Bay Area Rapid Transit (the local Metro), Roger remains an active member of the Berkeley Morris side.

The Berkeley dancers, knowing about my research into the transmission of Morris dancing from England to America, have invited me to join their May Day celebration.  Consequently, Roger (in Berkeley’s red and white kit) and I (in Hexham’s blue and white) are heading for Inspiration Point – a local park with a view of the eastern horizon.  As we join the crowd there, the skyline already has a rosy tinge.

The proceedings start with a re-enactment of the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, which has been performed for centuries in one Staffordshire village.  The earliest report of it dates from 1532, though the reindeer horns still used there have been carbon-dated to the eleventh century.  The Berkeley dancers have newer antlers, but display them in the traditional manner – mounted on short staves, and held proudly upright as they weave a serpentine path through the crowd.

Modern scholars dismiss any suggestions that the custom might derive from a prehistoric pagan ritual.  Yet the sight of horns twisting and turning in the half-light still generates a visceral response, daring us to hope that the absence of archival evidence may not be conclusive.  As the sky brightens, the dancers put their horns aside and tread the homelier figures of the Cotswold Morris.  When the edge of the sun’s disk appears, the dancing stops. Everyone faces east, singing the old Cornish May carol.

We were up long before the day oh!
To welcome in the summer, to welcome in the May oh!
For summer is a-comin’ in, and winter’s gone away oh!

Once the sun clears the horizon the Cotswold dances resume, and I’m encouraged to join in a couple.  Finally, participation becomes universal.  The musicians form the hub of a big circle, as everyone links hands in a simple ring dance to affirm that summer has truly arrived.   Afterwards, spectators disperse in the brilliant Californian sunshine while the Berkeley crew trek home with Josh, their lead musician.  English and American traditions mingle on his breakfast table, where bacon and eggs meet bagels laden with cream cheese and smoked salmon.

Later we dance at a local junior school, where Robin (the side’s official Fool) and Lucy (Berkeley’s own pantomime bear, substituting for the traditional hobby-horse) generate much hilarity with their comic routines.   We also entertain appreciative (though quieter) audiences outside several café-bars, before ending the tour with lunch at a local brew-pub.  We’ve danced up the sun, danced in the summer, and danced all around our neighbourhood, as Morris folk have done for centuries. Now, we eat and drink in convivial fellowship before returning to everyday life.

People often ask Morris dancers “Why do you do it?”  For some it’s all about exercise, and the ‘righteous high’ they get when endorphins start flowing.  For others, it’s an enjoyable pub-crawl in fancy dress – similar to a stag night, hen party or carnival procession.   A few talk about preserving our cultural heritage – others shrug and say: “we just do it”.  But how inclusive is this “we”?  Can anyone join in?

In a few English villages, Morris dancing survived the Puritan hate-campaigns, agricultural depressions and global wars that killed it off everywhere else.  It is these communities alone who truly own the dances.   We enthusiasts of the Morris revival – which now includes around a hundred North American sides – are playing a different game, in a different league.   The dances do not belong to us, though we are privileged to borrow them temporarily.

Some early revivalists argued (despite historical evidence to the contrary) that the Morris dance originally ‘belonged’ to men only.  Today there are still thriving all-male sides – Hammersmith and Great Western, for example.  And there are twinned sides like Hexham Morrismen and Hexhamshire Lasses, who tour together but dance separately.   But there are also women-only sides like Windsor and Rivington whose zest and technical skills rival those of the best male dancers.   And Berkeley is one among many mixed sides who can deliver a first-rate performance.

Clearly, Morris has become more inclusive as regards gender – but what about ethnicity?  On America’s West Coast, the revival has certainly attracted recruits whose ancestral links with England are remote or non-existent, some of whom are already making their own contributions.  Although most dances in the Berkeley repertoire replicate faithfully what English folklorists collected long ago, one recent addition to it fits steps and figures that are recognisably Cotswold to a Jewish Klezmer tune from Eastern Europe.

Berkeley learned Klezmorris from its creators, Mossy Backs Morris of Seattle.  On first hearing, it might sound alien to English ears.  But it’s worth remembering that in the early 1500s Morris dancing was often called “Moorish dancing”, and there is some evidence that it may have come to England during the period when the Moors were being expelled from Spain.  If the Morris does have overseas origins, then it is one of many examples of our national culture’s integrative capacity.

Christmas pantomimes blend fragments of English folk drama with borrowings from the Italian Commedia del’ Arte and the French Harlequinade, along with tall tales from the Arabian Nights.  And like the pantomime, Morris survives by refreshing itself periodically.  America has already contributed to it – several Morris tunes logged as ‘traditional’ by pioneer collectors were actually borrowed (by some unknown village fiddler) from the Minstrel shows that toured Britain in the nineteenth century.

The Berkeley dancers, in their turn, have borrowed elements from various traditions to create a synthesis that works for them (and their audiences).    After teaching Klezmorris to me, they invited me to dance it with them on May Day, and it was so captivating that I immediately resolved to take it home and share it with other English dancers.  Whether it will take root here remains to be seen.  But it may yet become another item in the trans-Atlantic cultural traffic which our Diaspora project is highlighting.

 

‘Off to Old England’: The Sons of England and roots-tourism

By Tanja Bueltmann

In July 1910, several Winnipeg members of the Sons of England left that city to join fellow society members in Montreal to embark on a month-long ‘home trip’ to England. ‘A more enthusiastic body of excursionists’, observed a reporter in a local newspaper, ‘could hardly be conceived, the east joining hands with the extreme west.’ A reported 700 people thus left Canada on the steamer Royal George eagerly anticipating the specially arranged programme of coach tours and cultural activities awaiting them in England. This instance of express loyalty extended to England by those Canadians of English descent travelling ‘home’ provides clear evidence of the pervasiveness of English ethnicity in North America. The organised excursions by the Sons of England society, an exclusive, English and Protestant association found only in Canada and South Africa, provide a particularly interesting prism in this respect: the society was only one of several associations formed by the English; it quickly spread across Canada and could boast a significant membership, counting 30,000 members on the eve of the Great War. So what were the Sons doing on their return trip to England?

Organised by a Mr Robert Verity, the Sons’ 1910 trip commenced in early July, when ‘five hundred sons and daughters of England gathered from various parts of Canada, [and] left by special train for Montreal’. An additional 200 excursionists joined the group in Montreal, making it ‘the biggest excursion party ever taken out of Canada’, going off to ‘visit the chief cities and interesting districts in the British Isles’. As one reporter observed, travellers were ‘all full of expectation of a delightful trip, and the renewal of old time associations. Long years have separated many from their friends and relatives, but the affection for the land of their birth still remains firmly rooted, not withstanding [sic] their loyalty to the land of their adoption. … a well known Winnipeg merchant, who has been absent 43 years, and who is now retuning for his first visit, but with a return ticket in his pocket. So far as can be learned, this is the case with all the voyagers, whose principal desire is to cement the ties which bind Canada to the motherland.’

To facilitate the maintenance of these ties, a special programme had been arranged for the entertainment of the Sons of England party in England, and the party travelled in special cars and coaching and motor tours were organised to get the most out of the tight itinerary. The tour commenced in Bristol, where the city’s Lord Mayor gave the Sons a cordial reception. With stops being made in Cheddar and Bath, the party then made its way to London, spending five days in the capital. A large portion of the Sons went to visit the House of Commons, where, as was reported in the Edmonton Capital, ‘the members of Parliament were genuinely interested in them.’ The Ottawa Citizen added that the travellers were ‘delighted with the metropolis and have seen all the sights that are historic and picturesque.’ After their visit to London, the Sons left for provincial cities, visiting, among other places, Oxford, Warwick, Chester, Liverpool, as well as Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Some of the Winnipeg members travelling home with the Sons were Mrs and Mrs John Eddy, J.S. Nicholas, W. Walpole and Mr and Mrs Jacob Freeman – all of whom had long since lived in Winnipeg and were well-known in the city and among the Sons of England. Jacob Freeman, for instance, had been the society’s District Deputy for the Winnipeg District. It was in that role that, in 1895, Freeman helped set up a new Winnipeg branch of the Sons to promote, as the local paper put it, benevolence and patriotism. The return home in 1910 was Mr Freeman’s first trip to England after 27 years in Canada, and may well have been a long-awaited culmination of this partriotism. Freeman certainly provided his local paper with an enthusiastic account of the trip. What his account also reveals, however, is that the Sons’ trip was not simply serving the purpose of revisiting the homeland: it was an active attempt to entice new migrants to Canada. As the Times reported, in fact, ‘each member of the party will try to induce one resident of Great Britain to come to Canada’.