Author Topic: Our First Flag  (Read 4602 times)

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Offline Jim Nunziato

Our First Flag
« on: May 25, 2019, 11:45:36 AM »
 Ask anyone, "Who created our first flag?" and chances are, you'll get the answer, "Betsy Ross." Well, if you missed Dr. Henry Leissing's lecture, here's a condensed version of what you missed.

  The year was 1775 and our country was just about to face their greatest battle on American soil; it was the beginning of the American Revolution. At that time the British were occupying Boston, and problems in the colonies were rising. George Washington wanted to intercept incoming British ships with supplies, but the popular vote in Philadelphia disagreed with anything which might upset the king, especially after the Boston Tea Party. Washington decided to take it upon himself to commission 6 Privately owned schooners and start his own navy. It was rumored to be at his own expense. It was to be called "Washington's Secret Navy" and all vessels would fly "An Appeal to Heaven"  flags. Also known as the "Washington’s cruiser flag", it had a white background, with an evergreen tree in the middle, and the words “An Appeal to Heaven" stitched across the top.

   Just a few months after the first voyage, a British Brigantine named the "Nancy" was captured by one of our schooners, the "Lee". On board were muskets, flint, gun powder, and other supplies in abundance. The prize was so great that it was said our country would have taken well over a year to produce. Not only was this the greatest capture of the entire Revolution, it also inspired all the founding fathers and the birth of our countries United States Navy as we know it today. The original schooners bearing the "Appeal to Heaven" flags continued capturing British ships and performing special services for the remainder of the war as our new Navy was being formed.

  In April 1776, The state of Massachusetts adopted this flag for its own navy. It's resolution for operations... "Resolved, that the uniform of the officers be green and white, and that the colors be a white flag, with a green pine tree, and the inscription, 'An Appeal to Heaven.'" The Massachusetts Navy sailed 25 ships during the war to defend the coast from the British and then eventually absorbed into the United States Navy.

But why a pine tree? What's the significance of this flag?  Well, as Paul Harvey used to say Here's "The rest of the story..."

    The Pine Tree, also known as the "Tree of Peace" has been sacred by the Iroquois Indians for over a 1000 years in America. At a very troubling time in their history, a peacemaker united 6 great tribes from the Great Lake areas and established unity... This great treaty was symbolized by burying their weapons under a pine tree (this is where the phrase to, "bury the hatchet" comes from) and this tree was to be guarded by a bald eagle at its peak clutching 6 arrows, representing the six tribes....

   Our founding fathers and early settlers were very much influenced by the Iroquois Indians. These peoples comprise the oldest living participatory democracy on earth.  Their story, and governance is truly based on the consent of the governed. The original United States representative democracy, fashioned by such central authors as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, drew much inspiration from this confederacy of nations.

   Around the time of the signing of The Declaration, The Iroquois attended a Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia. This meeting was one of the many were the Indians would inspire our founders to unite with them in their ways of living, laws, and style of government. It was just after this that the "Tree of Peace" became known as our new "Liberty Tree" and it would show itself on flags of all kinds, especially those in the fight for our freedom.

   In addition, wood was so indispensable to us for home and ship building, were both so vitally important. We had pine trees with trunks up to 6 feet in diameter, and as tall as 230 feet. This wood was old growth, rumored to be the best in the world at the time, especially for the tall masts on ships. In the mid 1700's the king of England recognized this value and wanted them for his own Royal Navy. He would mark trees in America and they were not to be touched even if on your own property.  Known as the "Broad Arrow Act",  this was one more action which infuriated the colonists, and strengthened the pine tree's symbolism in America.

  The phrase “An Appeal to Heaven “was created by John Locke from England in the mid 1600’s.  Locke was one of the great philosophers of his time.  He, like other English Philosophers, were also influenced by the Iroquois in America. "An Appeal to Heaven" comes from his studies on “Natural Laws", a system of right or justice common to all humankind and derived from nature rather than from the rules of society, and the only judge is that of our creator. It is in these laws where our "unalienable rights" come from and the foundation on which this country was formed. The phrase "An Appeal to Heaven" connotes that when all resources and justices on earth are exhausted, that only "An Appeal to Heaven" remains. And so is the example of our country when our rights were taken away by the tyrannical acts of King George that we as nation, after countless attempts to resolve, Appealed to Heaven as our final judge before breaking ties with the crown.

   And lastly, our very own "Declaration of Indepedence"....One of our most prized document, is Americas' "Appeal to Heaven" publicly declared. Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the declaration was for a long time highly influenced by John Locke's work, and if you read The Declaration of Independence (especially the last paragraph) you can see it is by all means the true definition of An Appeal to Heaven in its format.
"I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend."  Thomas Jefferson

If Hillary was the answer, then it must have been a really stupid question!