Strength and tenacity: breaking down meaning of Gadsden Flag
Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.
Email This Story
Depicted on flags, license plates, bumper stickers, even lanyards, the Gadsden Flag is a symbol commonly found throughout the United States.
Each American has seen the image: A coiled rattlesnake flashing its tongue and ready to strike with the words “Don’t Tread on Me” written in bold capital letters on a yellow background.
The defiant and alert attitude of the rattlesnake is a reminder to all Americans that they must remain vigilant to infringes of their constitutional rights and freedoms.
The Gadsden Flag first made appearance in 1775. Great Britain’s thirteen American colonies were brewing with dissent and longed for liberty. The seeds of rebellion already planted, American colonists reached for their weapons and prepared to seize independence from Britain. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania a group of Continental Marines mustered to the beat of yellow-painted drums. Sketched on the drums was a coiled snake with thirteen rattles, under which was written the phrase “Don’t Tread on Me”. Christopher Gadsden of South Carolina saw the drums and was inspired to convert the image into a flag.
For many modern Americans the choice of a snake to represent the fledging colonies may seem unusual, as the snake is commonly symbolic of trickery and evil. Undoubtedly, it also caused confusion in colonial Americans, as in December of 1775 the colonial magazine Pennsylvania Journal received a message from an anonymous person who voiced his thoughts on why a snake had been chosen.
The mystery writer acknowledged that the rattlesnake is native only to America and that it possesses sharp eyes, the same kind of vision Americans must develop in order to gain and maintain their freedom. He then mused at the way that “(the rattlesnake) 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.”
Noticing that the snake contained thirteen rattles, a number identical to the amount of American colonies, the writer took the image as a cry for unity between the thirteen colonies against Britain, speculating how “Tis curious and amazing how distinct and independent of each state 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 two-hundred years later, many American historians believe that the anonymous writer was Benjamin Franklin.
This coiled rattlesnake served as one of the first symbols of the soon-to-be-born United States, and has been adorned and brandished by Americans patriots far into the 21st Century. Almost a dozen states have approved of a specialty Don’t Tread on Me license plate.
However, in recent years people have begun to take offense to the symbol. Citizens cite various reasons, but some see the image of defiance and vigilance as politically incorrect and seek to have it removed from the public visage.
Regardless of how one views it, the Gadsden Flag was never intended to promote negativity or offense. If anything, the symbolic American rattlesnake should be beheld more favorably nowadays than it has been in the past. In a time of political turmoil, where fellow citizens find so much to be divided by, an image that promotes freedom and unity should be recognized for its worth.
In addition to unity, the flag represents the opposition that would be mounted by the people in the face of an oppressive government. It plainly states that the American people will never take government tyranny sitting down, and if their rights were trampled the citizens will rise up and take their country back from those who had abused and violated America’s most basic freedoms.
The purpose of the Gadsden Flag was to show the world that the thirteen American colonies would forever stand united, and would fight to the death if anyone dared challenge their rights and freedom.
The American people truly are the coiled rattlesnake. Throughout this country’s history Americans have repeatedly answered the call to take up arms when the things they cherished were threatened, both by foreign adversaries and domestic enemies. Through the good-will, unity, and vigilance of the American people those thirteen colonies have grown to the fifty states of the greatest nation on earth.
The birth of America as a sovereign nation opened a new chapter in world history. The creation of a country without a king, emperor, or dictator was a drastic change from any other modern civilization.
While Americans may disagree on many things, such as political and social issues, the dissimilarity is what gives our system of government a purpose. The ability of the regular citizen to sit across a table with his congressman or representative and explain what he wants is what makes this country different.
In this country one person does not reign over his fellow citizens. In this nation the people reign over the government.
In this land the little guy has a voice. One individual can enact change through perseverance and planning. And if he is disappointed, he can protest and present his opinion.
Acts of freedom are present in our everyday lives, from peaceful protests to political rallies. Choice is what defines freedom.
The power to select one’s course of action and one’s views is exactly what the Gadsden Flag protects. Americans will never always be in agreement, but the ability to choose one’s beliefs and to act on them is something every American should hold dear and if need be protect.
Soon after the 2016 presidential election, Vice President Mike Pence attended a Broadway production with his family. When the audience learned of his arrival, many of those in attendance directed a chorus of boos and jeers at VP Pence and his family.
Vice President Pence, however, wasn’t swayed. “When we arrived we heard a few boos, and we heard some cheers,” he later said, “I nudged my kids and reminded them that is what freedom sounds like.”
No matter what tomorrow may bring, the United States will remain an integrated country, its strength and tenacity captured in the immortal phrase Don’t Tread on Me.
Quotes from: Gadsden Flag History