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nationalism stamp

This is a postage stamp designed by Wendy Wood, who was founder and leader of the Scottish Patriots. She affixed them to her letters, but as the Post Office did not recognise them British stamps had to be used as well.

The illustration is of Arbroath Abbey, which was founded in 1178 by King William the Lion. Its greatest fame came in 1320 when it was the venue for signing the Declaration of Arbroath, the clear reiteration of Scotland’s national sovereignty, and the sovereignty of the people over that of mere institutions. The Declaration was probably drafted by Bernard Linton, Abbot of Arbroath and Chancellor of Scotland, and it bears the seals of eight Scottish earls and forty-five barons.

An important aspect of the Declaration was its definition of the King; there was a “King of Scots” rather than a “King of Scotland”, and the Nation had every right to replace a King should he prove unsatisfactory. In subsequent history, the title “Mary Queen of Scots” was more precise than most people realise!

It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom — for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself. Words from the Declaration of Arbroath

Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun, a leading Scottish opponent of the Treaty of Union with England in 1707, provided us with a most perceptive definition of nationalism:

Show me a true patriot, and I will show you a lover not merely of his own country, but of all mankind. Show me a spurious patriot, a bombastic fire-eater, and I will show you a rascal. Show me a man who loves other countries equally with his own and I will show you a man entirely deficient in a sense of proportion. But show me a man who respects the rights of all nations, while ready to defend the rights of his own against them all, and I will show you a man who is both a nationalist and an internationalist.

From that, it is easy enough to see where the confusion has arisen today between “patriotism” and “nationalism”. The saying about patriotism being the last refuge of the scoundrel is often indeed the truth, by the latter-day definition of patriotism as being loyalty to the existing State (in whatever form) and its institutions… Thus “patriotism” on its own is really just a commitment to the maintenance of the status quo. We have seen too many profiteering wars, too many acts against the interests of the nations and their people disguised and justified in fervent flag-waving, to doubt the accuracy of the statement. A good nationalist will reject the institutions of the State and the system, if they no longer serve the interests of the Nation. Yet nowadays it is “nationalism” which is the vilified concept, smeared in negative connotations, despite its true definition being that given by Fletcher of Saltoun; while “patriotism” is of course permissable…. since it effectively endorses the existing power structure, economic system, and Establishment.


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