Billeder på siden

sign" is the common everyday name for the national flag:—and the word "flag" may be considered the generic term for all descriptions; and, in fine, it is the household word for those remarkable objects composed of wool, silk, cotton, linen, dyed of various colours, and with various devices, which, hoisted on masts or poles, stream out in the wind.

It is not necessary to be precise in the classification of the 306 maritime flags, and it would not be practicable to be so, as some states and cities have two or three flags without distinctive names. They are the representatives of empires, kingdoms, nations, states, provinces, cities, corporations, colonies; the flags of official persons, of collectors of revenue, of boards of health. Another division is of flags and ensigns used on board of ships, distinguishing vessels of peace, and vessels of war, and the ranks of the various officers in command of the divisions of a fleet. Mere signal flags for communicating information are conventional, and may be changed or varied according to circumstances. There is a language universally understood by means of the national ensign on board of ships. In war, a vessel that pulls down or strikes her flag in the presence of an enemy, by the very action surrenders to that enemy. An ensign hoisted half-mast high expresses mourning: one displayed in a reversed position, with the upper side lowermost, denotes distress and danger on board. The white flag is the universal sign of peace. The yellow flag is the sign of plague or pestilence. The plain red flag proclaims war and blood. The black banner gives no quarter, and denotes death. The 306 flags may be classified as under :

Of national independence and political power-
In Europe, 30. In Asia, about 19. In Africa, about 6.
In America, 22. Total of independent powers in the
four quarters of the globe

[ocr errors]



[ocr errors]

Great maritime cities, provinces, and small indepen-
dent states in Europe, Corporations and Colonies of
European countries, recognised flags, about
Maritime cities and small states in Asia and Africa
Great Britain has flags representing her colonial
dependencies, and military strongholds, and Ire-
land, the Isle of Man, and the Cinque Ports
The three cities of London, Edinburgh, and

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Flags of Revenue, of Public Boards, Lighthouses, and official persons

[ocr errors]




Peace Flags for Foreign Merchant Ships of various
nations, Pilot Flags, about

War Flags of Foreign Ships of War, Official Flags of
Commanders, about

93 9





The foregoing may be considered as the geographical classification of the flags of all nations. It is not possible to discover by the various emblems on flags, their ethnographical origin, or, more properly speaking, the origin of the race that displays them, unless the white elephant on the flag of Siam, and the peacock with the spread tail on the flag of Burmah, may denote the true Asiatic quality of the people. The symbols of idolatry and war, unfortunately, are very general on banners. We assume the figures of the sun, moon, and stars, as having originated in an age of idolatry; and modern nations, especially the American nations, have copied them without curiously inquiring into the matter. Next to the celestial bodies come lions and eagles in all sorts of shapes and attitudes, and nondescript monsters which have very much the appearance of the descendants of ancient idols. The lions of Persia and the lions of England are in the same attitudes, with the difference, that the former look straight forward, while the latter have their faces staring at one

side. Eagles have been tortured into extraordinary attitudes, and the most extravagant looking monsters have been made out of that bird. But there appears to be in those animals, as represented on the standards of great nations, something significant, and may be prophetical. The North American eagle is a strong, healthy-like bird, flying at full stretch of wing with the branch of a tree in his right talon, and a bundle of arrows tied up in its left. The European eagles are unnatural monsters, generally with two heads, or placed in strained attitudes, with outstretched wings. The bayonet-wearing nations-the Austrian, Russian, and Prussian — have the black eagle holding the crosscrowned globe, the sceptre, and the sword. Russia and Austria have double-headed black eagles on a yellow field. The standards are so much alike as at first glance not to be distinguished from each other, but there is, however, a marked difference between them. The Russian eagle holds the sceptre in its right talon, and the globe in its left. The Austrian eagle is reversed—namely, the globe in its right talon, and a sceptre and a sword in its left. The Austrian bird is in a perilous position; the sword and the sceptre in the left talon are held out at an elevation of about fortyfive degrees, and are manifestly too heavy for the strength of the animal, and those emblems of imperial and military power are pictorially falling from its grasp! We are describing accurately a heraldic representation of the Austrian power, and it would be consolatory to suffering humanity were the hieroglyphical expression to be realised by the fact!

Eagles with swords, and sceptres, and globes are the favourite emblems of the northern potentates.

The standards of the southern monarchs, such as Sardinia, Tuscany, Naples, Portugal, and Spain, are

worn out, like the dynasties of those nations. The Italian and Spanish standards look like large covers or shawls of mixed colours, with a confused jumble of symbols. One of the most amusing ensigns is that of no less a personage than the Emperor of Morocco. It consists of a red field, with a white triangular pattern and border, and in the middle of the flag is a tailor's large shears, opened at the same angle as the papal cross keys. We have already used the freedom. to comment on the papal standard, and here we have only to describe it as a commercial ensign for the Roman merchant. The commercial flag of the bishop of Rome is yellow and white vertical, the white outside, and onth is are inscribed the cross keys, the mitre, and its cross.

Strictly speaking, there can be no commercial or naval enterprise under the flag of the bishop of Rome. Beads, bones, amulets, and crucifixes, and pictorial representations of the saints in any quantity, would never serve for cargoes; and bales of cruzadoes, however closely packed, would not do to ballast a vessel; nor can there be great circle sailing under the papal banner, which is the symbol of a power that denies the earth's rotundity, and therefore makes it an article of faith, that the sun moves round the earth. A navigator, under the flag of the bishop of Rome, must either become a heretic and follow the creed of Galileo, or be a papist, and perish at sea.

An Episode on the Double-Headed Eagle of the Russian Standard.

The Russian standard of the double-headed eagle is a banner of Pretence, and this fact is very important

to be remembered in the present war between Russia and Turkey. It is a dynastic and hereditary policy of Russia to get possession of Constantinople, and establish in that great city the seat of imperial power. The Russian double-headed eagle was the armorial bearing of the Greek Emperors, and was assumed by John Vasilovich in 1467, fourteen years after the capture of Constantinople by the Turks, on his marriage with Sophia, the heiress of the Greek Emperors. This remarkable circumstance we learn from a treatise on the Eastern or Greek Church, published by the Religious Tract Society. Besides the double-headed eagle, the Russian banners are also inscribed with the figure of the Cross Saltier, so that in the present conflict between the Russians and Turks, the Cross and the Crescent are in terrible collision.

« ForrigeFortsæt »