The Flag of Freedom....The Gadsden Flag
By Susan Steffen-Kraft
When it comes to symbolizing the spirit of freedom in my opinion, there is a better flag then the stars and stripes known as Old Glory! This flag has the symbol of a snake on it with the words Don't Tread on Me! The history behind this fascinating flag is very interesting and intertwined with one of our forefathers; Benjamin Franklin.
In the year 1751 he designed and published the picture of a snake cut in eight sections representing the colonies and the curve was the coastline. This was a plea for unity during the French and Indian War. It was also a satirical writing by Franklin about how the British were sending convicted criminals to this country and Franklin in turn felt we should send rattlesnakes to them as a thank-you!
This turned out to be the first shared symbol of national identity. Join or Die was printed beneath the snake because the superstition at the time was that if cut in pieces a snake put back together could come back to life if it was put back together before sunset of that same day.
Then in 1765 the Stamp Act became the enemy to rally against in unity and against Great Briton. Great Briton decided being as they were in great debt to try and get their "children planted by our care, nourished by our indulgence," as a certain Mr. Charles Townshend of the House of Commons put it -- to pay off England's debt?
The British government really had not done a lot for us. We flourished, expanded and grew despite what they did or didn't do. In fact in truth this country came about by people fleeing the British government's tyranny!
Sounds like today's government that keeps asking for more and more tax dollars to pay for the many and varied things they need that money for and that same government keeps intruding into the private lives of their subjects oops, I mean citizens, although it seems anymore as though we are subjects!
By 1775 it was appearing in numerous and sundry other places from buttons to paper money, and of course on flags and banners. It was no longer cut in pieces and had now morphed into an American Timber Rattlesnake. Rule to remember; a rattlesnake as a rule never bothers you unless it feels threatened. When stepped on it's retaliation is deadly and unforgiving!
Now comes the story of how this symbol first came to the history books. In 1775 the British were occupying Boston and the young Continental army was holed up in Cambridge and very short on supplies and ammo. That is not a good thing when you are facing an enemy so a plan was hatched to get the arms from the British. This was to be accomplished by capturing two cargo ships that the British were sending to America. The British knowing trouble when they saw it were sending all kinds of arms and gunpowder aboard these ships. Now what better way to get help then to plunder the enemy.
Thus the Navy was formed and consisted only of 4 ships. For this mission five groups of Marines were put together to accompany the Navy. Some of those Marines had yellow drums with a rattlesnake coiled and ready to strike. Thirteen coils were part of the snake and the motto was Don't Tread on Me also on the drums. It so happens, in the Marine Committee was a Congressman by the name of Thomas Gadsden, who was from S. Carolina and was a leader in the Sons of Liberty.
He created a flag for Commodore Esek Hopkins who was the first Commander in Chief of the U.S. Navy. We do not know if Thomas Gadsden saw the yellow drums carried by some of the Marines but he did use the same design and thus the flag was named after its maker..... The Gadsden Flag. This flag was no doubt raised by John Paul Jones then a 1st lieutenant and later to become a hero of the revolutionary war. The ship itself was the USS Alfred and the flag was the personal standard of Commodore Hopkins.
First, it occurred to him that "the Rattle-Snake is found in no other quarter of the world besides America."
that the rattlesnake also has sharp eyes, and "may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance."
"She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage. ... she never wounds 'till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of treading on her."
"I confess I was wholly at a loss what to make of the rattles, 'till I went back and counted them and found them just thirteen, exactly the number of the Colonies united in America; and I recollected too that this was the only part of the Snake which increased in numbers. ...
"'Tis curious and amazing to observe how distinct and independent of each other the rattles of this animal are, and yet how firmly they are united together, so as never to be separated but by breaking them to pieces. One of those rattles singly, is incapable of producing sound, but the ringing of thirteen together, is sufficient to alarm the boldest man living."
Over the years the Gadsden flag has become more and more associated with rebellion and lack of pride in one's government. I myself believe that is a perfect fit for these more recent years. Perhaps it should have been the flag all the way along. Rebellion can be shown in many different ways that are peaceful and yet firm. Lack of pride by the people in their government is something a government brings on itself when it is oppressive, overtaxes and overburdens it's people with rules and regulations. This recent growth of government and its powers that are flagrantly overreaching have infringed on our liberties and our freedom. Snooping and prying into it's citizens private lives to the point that I can see why this symbol of the snake and what it stands for is starting to become popular again.