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Title: History of the National Flag of the United States of America
Author: Hamilton, Schuyler
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "History of the National Flag of the United States of America" ***

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  of the
  United States of AMERICA.


  Capt. by Brvt. U.S.A.


  Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1852, by


  in the Office of the Clerk of the District Court of the United States
  in and for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.



  The National Flag of the United States of America,





  _Captain by Brevet, U.S.A._


As nearly as we can learn, the only origin which has been suggested for
the devices combined in the national colors of our country is, that
they were adopted from the coat of arms of General Washington. This
imputed origin is not such as would be consonant with the known modesty
of Washington, or the spirit of the times in which the flag was
adopted. We have, therefore, been at some pains to collect authentic
statements in reference to our national colors, and with these, have
introduced letters exhibiting the temper of those times, step by step,
with the changes made in the flag, so combining them as to form a chain
of proof, which, we think, must be conclusive.

Should, however, the perusal of the following account of the origin and
meaning of the devices in the national flag of our country, serve no
other purpose than that of impressing more strongly upon the mind of
the reader the importance and the prominence those who achieved our
liberties and founded our government attached to the idea of Union, its
preparation will not have been a futile labor.

Emblems and devices, adopted under high excitement of the public mind,
are chosen as epitomes of the sentiments prevailing at the time of
their adoption. Those of the days of our Revolution afford proofs far
more striking than the most elaborate arguments, that, in the
estimation of our forefathers, Union, and existence as a nation, were

The prosecution of our subject has made it necessary for us to dwell
upon those devices, and to develop those proofs.


As a not uninteresting introduction to our research, we will glance at
the history of standards, from their inception to the present time. We
shall find that man's faculty of imitation has here, as elsewhere,
found employment, modified in its operation by some cause peculiar to
the nation whose standard chances to be under consideration.

Fosbroke, in his _Dictionary of Antiquities_, has furnished us with
most of the information on this subject which is pertinent to our
design. We shall add such comments as will tend to illustrate our
conclusions. Under the head of standards, he writes:--

"The invention began among the Egyptians, who bore an animal at the
end of a spear; but among the Græco-Egyptians, the standards either
resemble, at top, a round-headed knife, or an expanded semicircular
fan. Among the earlier Greeks, it was a piece of armor at the end of a
spear; though Agamemnon, in Homer, uses a purple veil to rally his men,
&c. Afterwards, the Athenians bore the olive and owl; the other nations
the effigies of their tutelary gods, or their particular symbols, at
the end of a spear. The Corinthians carried a _pegasus_, the Messenians
their initial [Mu], and the Lacedæmonians, [Lambda]; the Persians, a
golden eagle at the end of a spear, fixed upon a carriage; the ancient
Gauls, an animal, chiefly a bull, lion, and bear. Sir S. R. Meyrick
gives the following account of the Roman standards. 'Each _century_, or
at least each _maniple_ of troops, had its proper standard, and
standard-bearer. This was originally merely a bundle of hay on the top
of a pole; afterwards, a spear with a crosspiece of wood on the top;
sometimes the figure of a hand above, probably in allusion to the word
_manipulus_; and below, a small round or oval shield, generally of
silver or of gold. On this metal plate were anciently represented the
warlike deities Mars or Minerva; but after the extinction of the
commonwealth, the effigies of the emperors or their favorites. It was
on this account that the standards were called _numina legionum_, and
held in religious veneration. The standards of different divisions had
certain letters inscribed on them, to distinguish the one from the
other. The standard of a legion, according to Dio, was a silver eagle,
with expanded wings, on the top of a spear, sometimes holding a
thunderbolt in its claws; hence the word _aquila_ was used to signify a
legion. The place for this standard was near the general, almost in the
centre. Before the time of Marius, figures of other animals were used,
and it was then carried in front of the first maniple of the _triarii_.
The _vexillum_, or flag of the cavalry (that of the infantry being
called _signum_; an eagle on a thunderbolt, within a wreath, in
Meyrick, pl. 6, fig. 15), was, according to Livy, a square piece of
cloth, fixed to a crossbar on the end of a spear. The _labarum_,
borrowed by the Greek emperors from the Celtic tribes, by whom it was
called _llab_, was similar to this, but with the monogram of Christ
worked upon it. Thus Sir S. R. Meyrick. The dragon, which served for an
ensign to barbarous nations, was adopted by the Romans, probably from
the mixture of auxiliaries with the legions. At first, the dragon, as
the general ensign of the barbarians, was used as a trophy by the
Romans, after Trajan's conquest of the Dacians. The dragons were
embroidered in cotton, or silk and purple. The head was of metal, and
they were fastened on the tops of spears, gilt and tasselled, opening
the mouth wide, which made their long tails, painted with different
colors, float in the wind. They are seen on the Trajan column and the
arch of Titus, and are engraved. The _draconarii_, or ensigns, who
carried them, were distinguished by a gold collar. From the Romans,
says Du Cange, it came to the Western Empire, and was long, in England,
the chief standard of our kings, and of the dukes of Normandy. Matthew
Paris notes its being borne in wars which portended destruction to the
enemy. It was pitched near the royal tent, on the right of the other
standards, where the guard was kept. Stowe adds, that the
dragon-standard was never used but when it was an absolute intention to
fight; and a golden dragon was fixed, that the weary and wounded might
repair thither, as to a castle, or place of the greatest security. Thus
far for the dragon-standard. To return, Vigetius mentions _pinnæ_,
perhaps _aigrettes_ of feathers, of different colors, intended for
signals, rallying-points, &c. Animals, fixed upon plinths, with holes
through them, are often found. They were ensigns intended to be placed
upon the ends of spears.

"Count Caylus has published several; among others two leopards, male
and female. Ensigns upon colonial coins, if accompanied with the name
of the legion, _but not otherwise_, show that the colony was founded by
the veterans of that legion. There were also standards called _pila_,
or _tufa_, consisting of bucklers heaped one above the other.

"The ancient Franks bore the tiger, wolf, &c., but soon adopted the
eagle from the Romans. In the second race, they used the cross, images
of saints, &c. The _fleur-de-lis_ was the distinctive attribute of
the king.

"Ossian mentions the standard of the kings and chiefs of clans, and
says that it (the king's) was blue studded with gold. This is not
improbable, for the Anglo-Saxon ensign was very grand. It had on it
_the white horse_, as the Danish was distinguished by the _raven_.
They were, however, differently formed from the modern, being
parallelograms, fringed, and borne, sometimes at least, upon a stand
with four wheels. A standard upon a car was, we have already seen,
usual with the ancient Persians. Sir S. R. Meyrick admits that it was
of Asiatic origin, first adopted by the Italians, and introduced here
in the reign of Stephen. That of Stephen is fixed by the middle upon a
staff, topped by a cross _pattée_ (wider at the ends than in the
middle), has a cross _pattée_ itself on one wing, and three small
branches shooting out from each flag. It appears from Drayton, that the
main standard of Henry V. at the battle of Agincourt was borne upon a
car; and the reason which he assigns is, that it was too heavy to be
carried otherwise. Sir S. R. Meyrick adds, that it preceded the royal
presence. Edward I. had the arms of England, St. George, St. Edmond,
and St. Edward, on his standards. The flag or banner in the hands of
princes, upon seals, denotes sovereign power, and was assumed by many
lords in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries."

We observe that the invention of standards is ascribed to the
Egyptians. Layard, in "Nineveh, and its Remains," says of the standards
of the Assyrians:--

"Standards were carried by the charioteers. In the sculptures, they
have only two devices: one, a figure (probably that of the divinity)
standing on a bull, and drawing a bow; the other, two bulls running in
opposite directions," probably, as is stated in a note, the symbols of
war and peace.

"These figures are inclosed in a circle, and fixed to the end of a long
staff ornamented with streamers and tassels." Here we see the early
use of pendants as emblems of supreme authority. In our own day, we
frequently hear, Commodore ----'s broad pendant was hoisted on the
ship ----. In Queen Anne's time, on the union of England and Scotland,
we find the use of pendants by the ships of her subjects, expressly
prohibited in the following words: "_Nor any kind of pendants
whatsoever_, or any other ensign than the ensign described in the side
or margent hereof, which shall be worn instead of the ensign before
this time [1707] usually worn in merchant vessels." In reference to the
flags of the national vessels, the following language is used: "Our
flags, jacks, and pendants, which, _according to ancient usage_, have
been appointed to a distinction for our ships." Every one will observe
the distinction made in the case of the pendants, which were absolutely
prohibited to the subjects. We return now to the consideration of the
standards of the Assyrians. "The standards seem to have been partly
supported by a rest in front of the chariot, and a long rod or rope
connected them with the extremity of the pole. In a bas-relief of
Khorsabad, this rod is attached to the top of the standard."[1]

          [1] "Standards, somewhat similar to those represented on the
          Assyrian bas-reliefs, were in use in Egypt. Some sacred
          animal or emblem was also generally placed upon them."

The reader will have observed what Fosbroke says of the introduction
into England of a standard borne on a car, that it was in imitation of
the eastern nations. In the case of the Romans, the force of this habit
was even more strikingly illustrated. They at first used a bundle of
bay or straw; as they extended their conquests over the neighboring
colonists from Greece, and doubtless from Egypt, they assumed the wolf
and other animals. The wolf, perhaps, referred to the foster-mother of
Romulus. As they extended their conquests further, they borrowed the
custom of the Greeks, of placing a shield with the image of a warlike
deity upon it on a spear, still, however, retaining the reference to
the _manipulus_ in the hand, above it.

In the time of Marius, they adopted the eagle with the thunderbolt in
its claws, the emblem of Jove. We are also told that different
divisions had certain letters, frequently the name of the commander,
inscribed on their standards. This practice was also introduced among
the Romans from Greece. It was introduced among the Grecians by
Alexander the Great, who observed it among the Persians and other
eastern nations. Intoxicated with his triumphs, when he began to claim
for himself a divine origin, he caused a standard to be prepared,
inscribed with the title of "Son of Ammon," and planted it near the
image of Hercules, which, as that of his tutelary deity, was the ensign
of the Grecian host. In the same way, the Franks borrowed the eagle
from the Romans.

The same holds good of the dragon-standard, which, borrowed from the
Dacians and other barbarians, was for a long time the standard of the
Western Empire, of England, and of Normandy.

After the Crusades, however, the cross seems to have taken a prominent
place on the standards and banners of European nations.

The double-headed eagle of Russia and Austria originated among the
Romans, to indicate the sovereignty of the world. When the empire of
the Cæsars was divided into the Western and Eastern Empires, this
standard continued to be used in both those divisions. From the Eastern
Empire it passed into the standard of Russia, on the marriage of Ivan
I. with a Grecian princess. From the Western, with the title of Roman
Emperor, it passed to Austria.

From the above, we cannot fail to perceive, in the past as well as in
the present, the tendency, throughout the world, to imitation, in the
adoption of national ensigns; also, that the adoption of a particular
ensign marked some epoch in the history of the particular nation which
adopted it.

Thus the various changes in the Roman standard marked the epochs of
their conquest, first of the Greeks, then of the Barbarians. The
adoption of the eagle by the Franks, their conquest of the Romans. The
cross, the era of the Crusades. The double-headed eagle of Russia, the
marriage of the Czar to the heiress of the Eastern Empire. That of
Austria, the investiture of the emperors of Germany with the title of
Roman Emperor. The present union of the crosses of St. George, St.
Andrew, and St. Patrick, in the British ensign, reverting to the
Crusades, in the members composing it, more directly refers to the
union, first, of England and Scotland into the united kingdom of Great
Britain, and more recently, to the union of the kingdoms of Great
Britain and Ireland, and hence is called _The Great Union_.

The eagle of France, marked her republican era.

Having thus observed, in the adoption of ensigns by the principal
nations of the world, the prevalence of certain general rules, viz.: A
reference to their deity; the habit of imitating the ensigns of nations
from which they sprung, or which they conquered; the custom of marking,
by their standards, some epoch in their history; or these customs in
combination, may we not expect to find, in the adoption of our National
Ensign, that it is not wholly an exception to these general rules?




Adopting these general principles, we find ourselves, in attempting to
give a satisfactory account of the origin, adoption, and meaning of the
devices embodied in the National Flag of the United States, obliged to
describe the principal flags displayed during the Revolution, which
resulted in the independence of those States; to give some account of
the flags used by the colonists prior to that Revolution; and to
notice, though in a cursory manner, the national flag of the mother

To facilitate the consideration of our subject, we shall arrange the
flags, mention of which we have met with, as displayed during our
Revolution, in a table, chronologically; and shall number them,
according to the date of the notice of them, 1, 2, 3, 4, &c., beginning
in 1774.

In this Table, we shall give their distinguishing devices; noticing
them, when necessary, more at length as we proceed.


1. "Union Flags."[2]--These flags are very frequently mentioned in the
newspapers, in 1774, but no account is given of the devices upon them.
To establish these devices, will be one of the principal objects of
this inquiry.

          [2] Siege of Boston, Frothingham, p. 104, _note_.

2. The standard of the Connecticut troops.--A letter, dated
Wethersfield, Connecticut, April 23, 1775, says: "We fix upon our
standards and drums the colony arms, with the motto, '_Qui transtulit
sustinet_,' round it, in letters of gold, which we construe thus:
'God, who transplanted us hither, will support us.'"[3] The standards
of the different regiments were distinguished by their color. Act of
Provincial Congress of Connecticut, July 1, 1775: "One standard for
each regiment _to be distinguished by their color, as follows, viz.:
for the seventh, blue; for the eighth, orange_."[4]

          [3] American Archives, 4th series, vol. ii. p. 863.

          [4] Ibid. p. 1582.

3. The flag unfurled by General Israel Putnam, on Prospect Hill, July
18, 1775, which is thus described in a letter, dated

    "CAMBRIDGE, July 21, 1775.

    "Last Saturday, July 15, the several regiments quartered in this
    town being assembled upon the parade, the Rev. Dr. Langdon,
    President of the College, read to them 'A Declaration, by the
    Representatives of the United Colonies of North America now met in
    General Congress at Philadelphia, setting forth the causes and
    necessity of taking up arms.' It was received with great applause;
    and the approbation of the army, with that of a great number of
    other people, was immediately announced by three huzzas. His
    Excellency, the General, with several other general officers, &c.,
    were present on the occasion."

    "Last Tuesday morning, July 18, according to orders issued the day
    before by Major-General Putnam, all the continental troops under
    his immediate command assembled at Prospect Hill, when the
    Declaration of the Continental Congress was read; after which, an
    animated and pathetic address to the army was made by the Rev. Mr.
    Leonard, chaplain to General Putnam's regiment, and succeeded by a
    pertinent prayer, when General Putnam gave the signal, and the
    whole army shouted their loud _amen_ by three cheers; immediately
    upon which a cannon was fired from the fort, and the standard
    lately sent to General Putnam was exhibited, flourishing in the
    air, bearing this motto; on one side, 'An Appeal to Heaven,' and,
    on the other side, '_Qui transtulit sustinet_.'

    "The whole was conducted with the utmost decency, good order, and
    regularity, and the universal acceptance of all present; and the
    _Philistines_, on Bunker's Hill, heard the shout of the
    _Israelites_,[5] and, being very fearful, paraded themselves in
    battle array."[6]

          [5] General Putnam was named _Israel_.

          [6] American Archives, 4th series, vol. ii. p. 1687.

This flag bore on it the motto of Connecticut, "_Qui transtulit
sustinet_," and the motto, "An Appeal to Heaven;" the latter of
which is evidently adopted from the closing paragraph of the "Address
of the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts, to their brethren in Great
Britain," written shortly after the battle of Lexington, which ended
thus: 'Appealing to Heaven for the justice of our cause, we determine
to die or be free;' and which motto, under the form 'Appeal to Heaven,'
combined with a pine-tree, constituted the motto and device on the
colors of the Massachusetts colonial cruisers. In this combination of
the mottoes of Connecticut and Massachusetts, one can scarcely fail to
perceive the germ of the emblem of union which was introduced into the
flag, which, January 2, 1776, replaced the flag we have described
above, on Prospect Hill.

From the following notice of the flag displayed by General Putnam, July
18, 1775, we learn that it was a red flag. Before, however, giving the
notice, we will state that, as early as the time of the Romans, a red
flag was the signal of defiance or battle; thus, we are told: "When a
general, after having consulted the auspices, had determined to lead
forth his troops against the enemy, a red flag was displayed on a spear
from the top of the _Prætorium_,[7] which was the signal to prepare for
battle."[8] This accords with the account given of the display of the
above flag, and corroborates the fact mentioned in the following
extract from a letter of a captain of an English transport to his
owners in London:--

    "BOSTON, Jan. 17, 1776.

    "I can see the rebels' camp very plain, whose colors, a little
    while ago, were entirely red; but, on the receipt of the king's
    speech (which they burnt), they have hoisted the Union Flag, which
    is here supposed to intimate the union of the provinces."[9]

He probably could not perceive the mottoes referred to in the preceding
letter, owing to the distance.

          [7] The General's tent.

          [8] Adams's Roman Antiquities, p. 322.

          [9] American Archives, 4th series, vol. iv. p. 711.

4. The flag used at the taking of Fort Johnston, on James's Island,
September 13, 1775.--"Colonel Moultrie, September 13 [1775], received
an order from the Council of Safety for taking Fort Johnston, on
James's Island." [S.C.] "A flag being thought necessary for the
purpose of signals, Colonel Moultrie, who was requested by the Council
of Safety to procure one, had a large blue flag made, with a crescent
in one corner, to be in uniform with the troops. This was the first
American flag displayed in South Carolina."[10]

          [10] Holmes's Annals, vol. ii. p. 227.

Of the crescent, we have the following interesting account:--

"As is well known, the crescent, or, as it is usually designated, the
_crescent montant_, has become the symbol of the Turkish Empire,
which has thence been frequently styled the Empire of the Crescent.
This symbol, however, did not originate with the Turks. Long before
their conquest of Constantinople, the crescent had been used _as
emblematic of sovereignty_, as may be seen from the still-existing
medals struck in honor of Augustus, Trajan, and others; and it formed
from all antiquity the symbol of Byzantium. On the overthrow of this
empire by Mohammed II., the Turks, regarding the crescent, which
everywhere met their eye, as a good omen, adopted it as their chief
bearing."[11] It was, doubtless, "as the emblem of sovereignty," that it
was adopted by Colonel Moultrie.

          [11] Brande's Dictionary of Literature, &c. _Crescent._

5. The flag of the floating batteries.--Colonel Joseph Reed to Colonel
Glover and Stephen Moylan, says: "Head-quarters, October 20, 1775:
Please to fix upon some particular color for a flag, and a signal by
which our vessels may know one another. What do you think of a flag
with a white ground, a tree in the middle, the motto, 'Appeal to
Heaven?' This is the flag of our floating batteries."[12]

          [12] American Archives, 4th series, vol. iii. p. 1126.

6. The flag called _The Great Union Flag_, hoisted January 2, 1776,
the day which gave being to the new army.--General Washington's letter
of January 4, 1776, to Joseph Reed.[13] This flag, which we shall
designate in this way, was the basis of our National Flag of the
present day.

          [13] Ibid. vol. iv. p. 570.

7. The flag presented by Colonel Gadsden, a member of the Naval
Committee of the Continental Congress, to the Provincial Congress of
South Carolina, February 9, 1776, as the standard to be used by the
Commander-in-chief of the American Navy, "being a yellow field, with a
lively representation of a rattlesnake in the middle, in the attitude
of going to strike; and the words underneath, Don't tread on me."[14]

          [14] American Archives, 4th series, vol. v. p. 568.

8. The flag of the cruisers of the colony of Massachusetts.--"And the
colors to be a white flag with a green pine-tree, and an inscription,
'Appeal to Heaven.'"--Resolution of Massachusetts Provincial Congress,
April 29, 1776.[15]

          [15] Ibid. vol. v. p. 1299.

9. The National Flag of the United States, "The Stars and Stripes,"
adopted as such by a Resolution of Congress, passed June 14,
1777.--"_Resolved_, That the flag of the Thirteen United States be
thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the Union be thirteen
stars, white, in a blue field, representing a new constellation."[16]

          [16] Journal of Congress, vol. ii. p. 165.

This Resolution, though passed June 14, 1777, was not made public until
September 3, 1777.[17]

          [17] Boston Gazette and Country Journal, Sept. 15, 1777.

With this Table before us, we shall proceed to consider certain badges
intimately connected with the devices on the national flag of England,
afterwards embodied in the national flag of Great Britain, a
modification of which we shall show was, for a time, the flag of the
United States, and the basis of the "Stars and Stripes."

"In the first crusade, the Scots, according to Sir George Mackenzie,
were distinguished by the Cross of St. Andrew; the French, by a white
cross; and the Italians, by a blue one. The Spaniards, according to
Columbiere, bore a red cross, which, in the third crusade (A.D.
1189), was appropriated by the French, the Flemings using a green
cross, and the English a white one. The adherents of Simon Montfort,
the rebellious earl of Leicester, assumed the latter as their
distinguishing mark, thus making the national cognizance the badge
of a faction.

  [Illustration: Pl. I.]

"The cross of St. George has been the badge, both of our kings and the
nation, at least from the time of Edward III. Its use was for a while
nearly superseded by the roses, but revived upon the termination of the
wars between the rival houses. It still continues to adorn the banner
of England."[18]

          [18] Parker. Terms used in British Heraldry, p. 40.

Of the arms and banner of St. George, we have the following account:
"Saynte George, whyche had whyte arms with a red cross." (Fig. 1, Plate

"This blessed and holy martyr Saynte George is patrone of the realme of
England; and ye crye of men of warre."[19]

          [19] Parker. Terms used in British Heraldry, p. 148.

"With reference to the cross of St. George, Sir N. H. Nicholas
observes: 'That in the fourteenth and subsequent centuries, even if the
custom did not prevail at a much earlier period, every English soldier
was distinguished by wearing that simple and elegant badge over his

"The following extract," he adds, "from the ordinances made for the
government of the army with which Richard II. invaded Scotland in 1386,
and which were also adopted by Henry V., will best show the regulations
on the subject.

"Also, that everi man of what estate, condition, or nation thei be of,
so that he be of oure partie, bere a signe of the armes of Saint
George, large, both before and behynde, upon parell that yf he be
slayne or wounded to deth, he that hath so done to him shall not be put
to deth, for default of the cross that he lacketh. And that non enemy
do bere the same token or cross of St. George, notwithstanding if he be
prisoner, upon payne of deth."

"The banner of St. George is white, charged with the red cross."[20]

          [20] Ibid. p. 149.

"Banner. A banner is a square flag painted or embroidered with arms,
and of a size proportioned to the rank of the bearer."[21]--See the
Banner of St. George, Fig. 2, Plate I.

          [21] Parker. Terms used in British Heraldry, p. 42.

We now come to the description of the arms and banner of Saint Andrew.
The cross of St. Andrew is called a saltire, and is thus described:--

"Saltire, or _saltier_. This honorable ordinary probably represents
the cross whereon St. Andrew was crucified."[22]

          [22] Ibid. p. 273.

"Andrew, S., the Apostle: the patron saint of Scotland.

"The arms attributed to him, and emblazoned on the banner bearing his
name, are azure, a saltire argent."[23]--See Fig. 3, Plate I., Arms of
Saint Andrew; and for the banner of Saint Andrew, Fig. 4, Plate I.

          [23] Ibid. p. 9.

"Union Jack: the national flag of Great Britain and Ireland.

"The ancient national flag of England was the banner of St. George
(argent, a cross gules), to which the banner of St. Andrew (azure, a
saltire argent), was united (instead of being quartered, according to
ancient custom), in pursuance of a royal proclamation, dated April 12,
1606. An extract from this proclamation follows:--

"Whereas, some difference hath arisen between our subjects of South and
North Britain, travelling by seas, about the bearing of their flags:
for the avoiding of all such contentions hereafter, we have, with the
advice of our council, ordered, that henceforth all our subjects of
this Isle and kingdom of Great Britain, and the members thereof, shall
bear in their maintop the red cross, commonly called St. George's
Cross, and the white cross, commonly called St. Andrew's Cross, joined
together, according to a form made by our heralds, and sent by us to
our admiral, to be published to our said subjects; and in their foretop
our subjects of South Britain shall wear the red cross only, as they
were wont; and the subjects of North Britain, in their foretop, the
white cross only, as they were accustomed."[24]

          [24] Parker. Terms used in British Heraldry, p. 315.

The union of the crosses described above may naturally be called the
_king's colors_, though in fact, as James was king both of Scotland
and England, the national flags of either of those kingdoms would also
be the king's colors, in an extended sense; but would be likely to be
designated as the red or white crosses, or the crosses of St. George
or St. Andrew, while this form prepared by the heralds, and only
prescribed for "subjects travelling by seas," would be by those
subjects called, _par excellence_, the king's colors.

"There is," says Sir N. H. Nicholas, "every reason to believe that the
flag arranged by the heralds on this occasion was the same as, on the
union with Scotland [1707], became the national banner." It may be
emblazoned azure, a saltire argent surmounted by a cross gules, edged
of the second. (See Fig. 5, Plate I.) The white edging was no doubt
intended to prevent one color from being placed upon another; but this
precaution was, to say the least, unnecessary; for surely no heraldic
rule would have been broken, if the red cross had been placed upon the
white satire. The contact of the red cross and blue field would have
been authorized by numerous precedents. This combination was
constituted the national flag of Great Britain by a royal proclamation,
issued July 28, 1707.[25]

          [25] Note by AUTHOR.--This white edging would, however, show
          the union of the two flags, which otherwise might not have
          been apparent. We are told, in De Foe's History of the Union,
          that great jealousy for the ancient banners of their
          respective kingdoms, was shown both by Scots and English.

"No further change was made until the union with Ireland, January 1,
1801, previous to which instructions were given to combine the banner
of St. Patrick (argent, a saltire gules) with the crosses of St. George
and St. Andrew. In obedience to these instructions, the present
National Flag of Great Britain and Ireland was produced."[26]--See Fig.
6, Plate I.

We would observe that, as this last form of the _union_ was only
adopted in 1801, which was the first time that a change was made in the
flags proscribed in 1707, it is only of interest as completing the
account of the Union Jack.

"The word Jack is most probably derived from the surcoat, charged with
a red cross, anciently used by the English soldiery. This appears to
have been called a jacque, whence the word jacket, anciently written

          [26][27] Parker. Terms used in British Heraldry, pp. 315-16.

We desire to impress this last remark upon the mind of the reader, as,
in the course of our inquiry, we shall meet more than once with
allusions to the "Jack," the "St. George's Jack," &c., and to invite
special attention to the fact that the badge on the clothes of the
soldiery furnished a badge to the flag of their country. Thus the cross
of St. Andrew, worn by the Scots, was emblazoned on the banner of
Scotland, and the cross of St. George, worn by the English soldiery,
was emblazoned on the banner of England.

This last, the national flag of England, the Red Cross flag, has now,
for us, especial interest.

A singular circumstance furnishes us with proof that this Red Cross
flag was in use in the colonies. We find in the "Journal of John
Winthrop, Esq., the first governor of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay,"
the following memoranda in reference to it:--

"Anno 1634, November 5.] At the Court of Assistants, complaint was made
by one of the country (viz., Richard Brown, of Watertown, in the name
of the rest), that the ensign at Salem was defaced, viz.: one part of
the red cross taken out. Upon this, an attachment was issued against
Richard Davenport, ensign-bearer, to appear at the next court to
answer. Much matter was made of this, as fearing it would be taken as
an act of rebellion, or of like high nature, in defacing the king's
colors;" [_i.e._ the Banner of St. George;] "though the truth were,
it was done upon this opinion, that the red cross was given to the
King of England, by the pope, as an ensign of victory, and so a
superstitious thing, and a relic of antichrist. What proceeding was
hereupon, will appear after, at next court in the first month; for by
reason of the great snows and frosts, we used not to keep courts in
the three winter months."[28]

          [28] Winthrop's New England, vol. i. p. 146.

"Anno 1685, mo. 1, 4.] A General Court at Newtown."

"Mr. Endecott was called to answer for defacing the cross in the
ensign; but, because the court could not agree about the thing, whether
the ensigns should be laid by, in regard that many refused to follow
them, the whole case was deferred till the next general court; and the
commissioners for military affairs gave order, in the mean time, that
all ensigns should be laid aside," &c.[29]

          [29] Ibid. vol. i. pp. 155-6.

"Anno 1685, mo. 3, 6.] A General Court was held at Newtown, where John
Haynes, Esq., was chosen governor; Richard Bellingham, Esq., deputy
governor; and Mr. Hough, and Mr. Dummer, chosen assistants to the
former; and Mr. Ludlow, the late deputy, left out of the magistracy.
The reason was, partly, because the people would exercise their
absolute power, &c., and partly by some speeches of the deputy, who
protested against the election of the governor as void, for that the
deputies of the several towns had agreed upon the election before they
came, &c. But this was generally discussed, and the election adjudged

          [30] Ibid. vol. i. pp. 158.

"Mr. Endecott was also left out, and called into question about the
defacing the cross in the ensign; and a committee was chosen, viz.:
every town chose one (which yet were voted for by all the people), and
the magistrates chose four, who, taking the charge to consider the
offence, and the censure due to it, and to certify the court, after one
or two hours time, made report to the court, that they found the
offence to be great, viz.: rash and without discretion, taking upon him
more authority than he had, and not seeking advice of the court, &c.;
uncharitable, in that he, judging the cross, &c., to be a sin, did
content himself to have reformed it at Salem, not taking care that
others might be brought out of it also; laying a blemish, also, upon
the rest of the magistrates, as if they would suffer idolatry, &c., and
giving occasion to the state of England to think ill of us. For which
they adjudged him worthy admonition, and to be disabled for one year
from bearing any public office; declining any heavier sentence because
they were persuaded he did it out of tenderness of conscience, and not
of evil intent."[31]

          [31] Winthrop's New England, vol. i. p. 158.

"The matter of altering the cross in the ensign was referred to the
next meeting (the court having adjourned for three weeks), it being
propounded to turn it to the red and white rose, &c."

[We have seen, under our first notice of the Cross of St. George, that
"its use was, for a while, nearly superseded (in England) by the roses,
but revived upon the termination of the wars between the rival
houses."] "And every man was to deal with his neighbors to still their
minds, who stood so stiff for the cross, until we should fully agree
about it, which was expected, because the ministers had promised to
take pains about it, and to write into England to have the judgment of
the most wise and godly there."[32]

          [32] Winthrop's New England, vol. i. p. 158.

"Anno 1635, mo. 12, 1.] At the last General Court it was referred to
the military commissioners to appoint colors for every company; who did
accordingly, and left out the cross in all of them, appointing the
king's arms to be put into that of Castle Island, and Boston to be the
first company."[33]

          [33] Ibid. vol. i. p. 180.

"Anno 1636, mo. 8, 15.] Here arrived a ship called the St. Patrick,
belonging to Sir Thomas Wentworth [afterwards the great Earl of
Strafford], deputy of Ireland [_i.e._ viceroy], one Palmer, master.
When she came near Castle Island, the lieutenant of the fort went
aboard her and made her strike her flag, which the master took as a
great injury, and complained of it to the magistrates, who, calling
the lieutenant before them, heard the cause and declared to the master
that he had no commission so to do. And because he had made them
strike to the fort (which had then no color abroad), they tendered the
master such satisfaction as he desired, which was only this, that the
lieutenant, aboard their ship, should acknowledge his error, that so
all the ship's company might receive satisfaction, lest the lord
deputy should have been informed that we had offered that discourtesy
to his ship which we had never offered to any before."

"Mo. 8, 31.] One Miller, master's mate in the Hector, spake to some of
our people aboard his ship, that, because we had not the king's colors
at our fort, we were all traitors and rebels, &c. The governor sent for
the master, Mr. Ferne, and acquainted him with it, who promised to
deliver him to us. Whereupon, we sent the marshal and four sergeants to
the ship for him, but the master not being aboard they would not
deliver him; whereupon, the master went himself and brought him to the
court; and, the words being proved against him by two witnesses, he was
committed. The next day the master, to pacify his men, who were in a
great tumult, requested he might be delivered to him, and did undertake
to bring him before us again the day after, which was granted him, and
he brought him to us at the time appointed. Then, in the presence of
all the rest of the masters, he acknowledged his offence, and set his
hand to a submission, and was discharged."

We will break the thread of this extract to introduce this curious
paper, which, taken from the _Colonial Record,_ i. 179, we, find
given at length in a note to Winthrop's _New England_.

"Whereas I, Thomas Millerd, have given out most false and reproachful
speeches against his majesty's loyal and faithful subjects, dwelling in
the Massachusetts Bay in America, saying that they were all traitors
and rebels, and that I would affirm so much before the governor
himself, which expressions I do confess (and so desire may be
conceived) did proceed from the rashness and distemper of my own brain,
without any just ground or cause so to think or speak, for which my
unworthy and sinful carriage being called in question, I do justly
stand committed. My humble request, therefore, is that, upon this my
full and ingenuous recantation of this my gross failing, it would
please the governor and the rest of the assistants to accept of this my
humble submission, to pass by my fault, and to dismiss me from further
trouble; and this, my free and voluntary confession, I subscribe with
my hand, this 9th June, 1686."

We now resume our extract from Winthrop.

"Then the governor desired the masters that they would deal freely, and
tell us, if they did take any offence, and what they required of us.
They answered, that in regard they should be examined upon their
return, what colors they saw here; they did desire that the king's
colors might be spread at our fort. It was answered, we had not the
king's colors. Thereupon, two of them did offer them freely to us."
This was about June, 1636, and we have seen that it was only in the
year 1635, that the commissioners for military affairs had ordered the
red cross ensigns to be laid aside; hence, it is altogether improbable
that they could not have procured one of these, but, what we have
styled the king's colors _par excellence_, being prescribed only
for ships, was not likely to be owned by the colonial authorities. Its
device, a modification of the cross, about which the question had
arisen, might possibly have served as a device to relieve the
tenderness of the consciences of the authorities, and would also enable
the masters to say, on their return, that they had seen the king's
colors spread at the castle at Boston.

As we see above, "it was answered we had not the king's colors.
Thereupon, two of them did offer them freely to us. We replied, that
for our part, we were fully persuaded that the cross in the ensign was
idolatrous, and, therefore, might not set it up in our ensign; but,
because the fort was the king's, and maintained in his name, we thought
his own colors might be spread there. So the governor accepted the
colors of Captain Palmer, and promised they should be set up at Castle
Island. We had conferred over night with Mr. Cotton, &c., about the
point. The governor, and Mr. Dudley, and Mr. Cotton, were of opinion
that they might be set up at the fort upon this distinction, that it
was maintained in the king's name. Others, not being so persuaded,
answered that the governor and Mr. Dudley, being two of the council,
and being persuaded of the lawfulness, &c., might use their power to
set them up. Some others being not so persuaded, could not join in the
act, yet would not oppose, as being doubtful, &c."[34]

          [34] Winthrop's New England, vol. i. p. 187.

"Anno 1636, mo. 4, 16.] The governor, with consent of Mr. Dudley, gave
warrant to Lieutenant Morris, to spread the king's colors at Castle
Island, when the ships passed by. It was done at the request of the
masters of the ten ships which were then here; yet with this
protestation, that we held the cross in the ensign idolatrous, and,
therefore, might not set it up in our own ensigns; but this being kept
as the king's fort, the governor and some others were of opinion that
his own colors might be spread upon it. The colors were given us by
Captain Palmer, and the governor, in requital, sent him three

          [35] Winthrop's New England, vol. ii. p. 344.

The following order of the Court of Massachusetts, leads us to conclude
that these colors, or those containing the king's arms, were continued
in use until they were likely to bring the colony under the displeasure
of the Parliament of England, which, in arms against the king, used the
Red Cross flag, or St. George's banner. We then find the colony of
Massachusetts giving orders on this matter as follows:--


    "Forasmuch as the court conceives the old English colors now used
    by the Parliament of England to be a necessary badge of distinction
    betwixt the English and other nations in all places of the world,
    till the state of England shall alter the same, which we much
    desire, we being of the same nation, have, therefore, ordered that
    the captain of the castle shall presently advance the aforesaid
    colors of England upon the castle upon all necessary occasions."

          [36] Hazard, vol. i. p. 554.

These extracts show the importance attached to _colors_ in those

  [Illustration: Pl. II.

This question, and indeed all questions, as to the flags to be used
both at sea and land by the subjects of Great Britain, and the
dominions thereunto belonging, were, however, set at rest, by the 1st
article of the treaty of union between Scotland and England, from which
fact the flags then prescribed were called _Union flags_.

"Act of Parliament ratifying and approving the treaty of the two
kingdoms of Scotland and England, Jan. 16, 1707."

"I. Article. That the two kingdoms of Scotland and England shall, upon
the first day of May next, ensuing the date hereof, and forever after,
be united into one kingdom by the name of Great Britain; and that the
ensigns armorial of the said united kingdom be such as her majesty
shall appoint; and the crosses of St. Andrew and St. George be
conjoined in such manner as her majesty shall think fit, and used
in _all_ flags, banners, standards, and ensigns, both at sea and

          [37] History of the Union of Scotland and England, by Danl.
          De Foe, p. 528.

Under the head of Union Jack, we have shown how these crosses were
conjoined. We now give a portion of the proclamation of July 28, 1707,
referred to in that account of the Union Jack.


    "Declaring what ensigns and colors shall be borne at sea in
    merchant ships, and vessels belonging to any of her majesty's
    subjects of Great Britain, and the dominions thereunto belonging.

    "ANNE R.

    "Whereas, by the first article of the treaty of union, as the same
    hath been ratified and approved by several acts of Parliament, the
    one made in our Parliament of England, and the other in our
    Parliament of Scotland, it was provided and agreed that the ensigns
    armorial of our kingdom of Great Britain be such as we should
    appoint, and the crosses of St. George and St. Andrew conjoined in
    such manner as we should think fit, and used in all flags, banners,
    standards, and ensigns, both at sea and land, we have therefore
    thought fit, by, and with the advice of our privy council, to order
    and appoint the ensign described on the side or margent hereof [see
    Fig. 7, Plate I.], to be worn on board of all ships or vessels
    belonging to any of our subjects whatsoever; and to issue this, our
    royal proclamation, to notify the same to all our loving subjects,
    hereby strictly charging and commanding the masters of all merchant
    ships and vessels belonging to any of our subjects, whether
    employed in our service or otherwise, and all other persons whom it
    may concern, to wear the said ensign on board their ships and
    vessels. And whereas, divers of our subjects have presumed, on
    board their ships, to wear our flags, jacks, and pendants, which,
    according to ancient usage, have been appointed to a distinction
    for our ships, and many times thinking to avoid the punishment due
    for the same, have worn flags, jacks, and pendants in shape and
    mixture of colors, so little different from ours, as not without
    difficulty to be distinguished therefrom, which practice has been
    found attended with manifold inconveniences: for prevention of the
    same for the future, we do, therefore, with the advice of our privy
    council, hereby strictly charge and command all our subjects
    whatsoever, that they do not presume to wear on any of their ships
    or vessels, our jack, commonly called the Union Jack, nor any
    pendants, nor any such colors as are usually borne by our ships
    without particular warrant for their so doing from us, or our high
    admiral of Great Britain, or the commissioners for executing the
    office of high admiral for the time being; and do hereby further
    command all our loving subjects, that, without such warrant as
    aforesaid, they presume not to wear on board their ships or
    vessels, any flags, jacks, pendants, or colors, made in imitation
    of ours, or any kind of pendant, whatsoever, or any other ensign,
    than the ensign described in the side or margent hereof, which
    shall be worn instead of the ensign before this time usually worn
    in merchant vessels. Saving that, for the better distinction of
    such ships as shall have commissions of letters of mart or
    reprisals against the enemy, and any other ships or vessels which
    may be employed by principal officers and commissioners of our
    navy, the principal officers of our ordnance, the commissioners for
    victualling our navy, the commissioners for our customs, and the
    commissioners for transportation for our service--relating
    particularly to those offices our royal will and pleasure is, That
    all such ships as have commissions of letters of mart and
    reprisals, shall, besides the colors or ensign hereby appointed to
    be worn by merchant ships, wear a red jack, with a Union Jack
    described in a canton at the upper corner thereof, next the staff
    [see Fig. 1, Plate II.], and that such ships and vessels as shall
    be employed for our service by the principal officers and
    commissioners of our navy, &c. [same enumeration as before], shall
    wear a red jack with a Union Jack in a canton at the upper corner
    thereof, next the staff, as aforesaid; and in the other part of the
    said jack, shall be described the seal used in such of the
    respective offices aforesaid, by which the said ships and vessels
    shall be employed. [This flag was the same as Fig. 1, Plate II.,
    except the seal of the office by which employed.] And we do
    strictly charge and command, &c., (and the residue orders, seizure
    of vessels not obeying this proclamation, by wearing other ensigns,
    &c., and to return the names of such ships and vessels, and orders
    strict inquiry into any violation of the proclamation, and then
    directs it to take effect in the Channel or British seas and in the
    North Sea, after twelve days from the date of the proclamation, and
    from the mouth of the Channel unto Cape St. Vincent after six weeks
    from the date, and beyond the cape, and on this side the
    equinoctial line, as well in the ocean and Mediterranean as
    elsewhere, after ten weeks from the date, and beyond the line,
    after the space of eight months from the date of these presents.)

    "Given at our court at Windsor, the 28th day of July, in the sixth
    year of our reign.[38]


          [38] The Boston News Letter, No. 197, from Monday, Jan. 19,
          to Monday, Jan. 26, 1707.

In a description of Boston Harbor, in 1720, thirteen years after the
date of this proclamation, we learn that, "to prevent any possible
surprise from an enemy, there is a light-house built on a rock
appearing above water, about three long leagues from the town, which,
in time of war, makes a signal to the castle, and the castle to the
town, by hoisting and lowering the Union flag so many times as there
are ships approaching."[39]

          [39] Neal's History of New England, p. 585.

After having given the first article of the treaty, and the above
proclamation, this description is only useful as proving that the term
"Union Flag" was the familiar one applied to describe the flags
established under the union, as well in the colonies as the mother
country, and explains the following note in Frothingham's _Siege of

Frothingham says: "In 1774, there are frequent notices of Union flags
in the newspapers, but I have not met with any description of the
devices on them."[40] After the history of Union flags already given,
this will not appear surprising; for who, in our day, speaking of the
"Stars and Stripes," would pause to describe its devices. We, however,
are inclined to the opinion that the flags spoken of in the newspapers,
referred to by Mr. Frothingham, were the ensigns described in the
proclamation of Queen Anne, as being the common ensign of the
commercial marine of "Great Britain, and the dominions thereof." For,
as such, they must have been more easily procurable than the Union
Jacks, and more familiar to the people, and therefore would appeal with
most force to the popular sentiment.

          [40] Siege of Boston, p. 104, note.

That this was the case in the colony of New York, we learn from the
following: "In March, 1775, 'a Union flag with a red field' was hoisted
at New York upon the liberty-pole, bearing the inscription 'George Rex,
and the Liberties of America,' and, upon the reverse, 'No Popery.'"[41]
With the exception of the mottoes, this was the same flag as is
represented, Fig. 7, Plate I.

          [41] T. Westcott, Notes and Queries. Literary World, Oct. 2,

Frothingham gives us to understand that they were displayed on
liberty-poles and on the famous "Liberty Tree" on Boston Common. In
this connection, we will quote a few lines from a letter, dated
Philadelphia, December 27, 1775, to show the temper of the public mind
at that time, and to indicate the name given to the colonies, whose
flag we are now about to consider.


    "PHILADELPHIA, December 27, 1775.

    "Those who have the general welfare of the United English Colonies
    in North America sincerely at heart, who wish to see peace
    restored, and her liberties established on a solid foundation, may,
    at present, be divided into two classes, viz.: those who 'look
    forward to an independency as the only state in which they can
    perceive any security for our liberties and privileges,' and those
    who 'think it not impossible that Britain and America may yet be

    "If the present struggle should end in the total independence of
    America, which is not impossible, every one will acknowledge the
    necessity of framing what may be called the 'Constitution of the
    United English Colonies.' If, on the other hand, it should
    terminate in a reunion with Great Britain, there yet appears so
    evident a necessity of such a constitution that every good man must
    desire it."[42]

          [42] American Archives, 4th series, vol. iv. p. 467.

This letter shows the importance the Union of the Colonies, lately
entered into, held in the mind of the public. Prior to its being
entered into, its necessity was thus forcibly indicated to the public
mind. The newspapers commonly bore the device of a disjointed snake,
represented as divided into thirteen portions. Each portion bearing the
initials of one of the colonies, and under it the motto, "Join, or
die." Thus impressed, we can readily perceive how naturally they seized
upon the flag in use in the mother country and its dominions, as an
emblem of union among the members of that mother country, to indicate
the necessity of it among the colonies, and, by displaying it from
liberty-poles, &c., indicated the object for which union was necessary,
viz.: to secure the liberty of British subjects.

The first authentic account of the display of the Union flag, as the
flag of the united colonies, is from the pen of General Washington, in
a letter addressed to Colonel Joseph Reed, his military secretary.

    "CAMBRIDGE, January 4, 1776.

    "DEAR SIR: We are at length favored with a sight of his majesty's
    most gracious speech, breathing sentiments of tenderness and
    compassion for his deluded American subjects. The echo is not yet
    come to hand, but we know what it must be; and, as Lord North said
    (and we ought to have believed and acted accordingly), we now know
    the ultimatum of British justice. The speech I send you. A volume
    of them was sent out by the Boston gentry; and, farcical enough, we
    gave great joy to them, without knowing or intending it; for, on
    that day, the day which gave being to the new army, but before the
    proclamation came to hand, we had hoisted the Union flag in
    compliment to the united colonies. But, behold! it was received in
    Boston as a token of the deep impression the speech had made upon
    us, and as a signal of submission. So we hear, by a person out of
    Boston, last night. By this time, I presume, they begin to think it
    strange that we have not made a formal surrender of our lives."

[From _Philadelphia Gazette_], note to the above, in _American

    "PHILADELPHIA, January 15, 1776.

    "Our advices conclude with the following anecdote: That, upon the
    king's speech arriving at Boston, a great number of them were
    reprinted and sent out to our lines on the 2d of January, which,
    being also the day of forming the new army, The Great Union Flag
    was hoisted on Prospect Hill, in compliment to the United Colonies.
    This happening soon after the speeches were delivered at Roxbury,
    but before they were received at Cambridge, the Boston gentry
    supposed it to be a token of the deep impression the speech had
    made, and a signal of submission. That they were much disappointed
    at finding several days elapse without some formal measure leading
    to a surrender, with which they had begun to flatter themselves."

We observe, in General Washington's letter, that the Americans,
"farcical enough," "without knowing or intending it," led the Boston
gentry to imagine them about to surrender, because a Union flag was
displayed, which was only displayed in compliment to the United
Colonies on the day the army, organized under the orders of Congress,
_subsequent_ to the union of the thirteen colonies, came into being.
And, in the extract from the newspaper account of this, that the
flag was displayed on Prospect Hill, and that it must have been a
peculiarly marked Union flag, to be called The Great Union Flag. As
this was the name given to the national banner of Great Britain, this
indicates this flag as the national banner of the United Colonies.
Lieutenant Carter, a British officer, very naturally explains both
these circumstances. He was on Charlestown Heights, and says: January
26, 1776: "The king's speech was sent by a flag to them on the 1st
inst. In a short time after they received it, they hoisted an Union
flag (above the continental with thirteen stripes) at Mount Pisgah;
their citadel fired thirteen guns, and gave the like number of

          [43] Siege of Boston, p. 283.

This account of the flag, from Lieut. Carter, is corroborated by the
following from the captain of an English transport, to his owners in
London, when taken in connection with the extract subjoined to it,
taken from the _British Annual Register_ for 1776. The captain

    "BOSTON, Jan. 17, 1776.

    "I can see the rebels' camp very plain, whose colors, a little
    while ago, were entirely red; but, on the receipt of the king's
    speech (which they burnt), they have hoisted the Union Flag, which
    is here supposed to intimate the union of the provinces."[44]

          [44] American Archives, 4th series, vol. iv. p. 711.

The _Annual Register_ says: "The arrival of a copy of the king's
speech, with an account of the fate of the petition from the
Continental Congress, is said to have excited the greatest degree of
rage and indignation among them; as a proof of which, the former was
publicly burnt in the camp; and they are said, on this occasion, to
have changed their colors from a plain red ground, which they had
hitherto used, to a flag with thirteen stripes, as a symbol of the
number and union of the colonies."[45]

          [45] British Annual Register, 1776, p. 147.

We have already shown that the first flag spoken of in both the above
accounts (Flag No. 3) in our Table, bore certain mottoes; and not being
precise in the description of the flag, which for months had been
displayed before their eyes, we may expect inaccuracies in the
description of a flag newly presented to them, and which, even to an
officer on Charlestown Heights, who, as appears, was at some pains to
describe it, appeared to be _two_ flags; and remembering that this
flag was supposed to be displayed on the receipt of the king's speech,
the following account of the colors of British regiments explains why
it was especially regarded by the British as a token of submission.

"The kings, or _first_ color of every regiment, is to be the Great
Union throughout.

"The _second_ color is to be the color of the facing of the regiment,
with the Union in the upper canton, except those regiments which are
faced with red, white, or black.

"The first standard, Guidon, or color of regiments of the line, is not
to be carried by any guard but that of the King, Queen, Prince of
Wales, Commander-in-chief, or Admiral of the Fleet, being of the royal
family; and, except in those cases, it is always to remain with the

          [46] King's Regulations for the British Army, Colors, &c.

From the above we see that, to the mind of a British officer, the Union
flag, supposed to have been displayed in connection with the receipt of
the king's speech, above a flag with thirteen stripes, would indicate
an acknowledgment of the supremacy of the king over the United
Colonies, supposed to be represented in the thirteen stripes.

Without further proof, therefore, we may conclude that the "Union"
flag, displayed by General Washington, was the union of the crosses of
St. George and St. Andrew, with thirteen stripes through the field of
the flag. (See Fig. 2, Plate II.)

On the evacuation of Boston by the British, this standard was, on the
entrance of the American army into Boston, carried by Ensign

          [47] American Archives, 4th series, vol. v. p. 423.

While we may fairly infer from General Washington's letter, that this
emblem of union had presented itself to his mind as such, we may also
infer from his not describing its accompanying devices, to mark the
compliment to the United Colonies, that he supposed Colonel Joseph
Reed, his military secretary, fully acquainted with them; and from this
we may conclude Colonel Reed had something to do with its preparation.
This conclusion is strengthened by the fact, that Colonel Joseph Reed
was Secretary to the Committee of Conference sent by Congress to
arrange with General Washington the details of the organization of the
army, which went into being January 2, 1776. And, at the very time that
Committee was in session at the camp at Cambridge, we find Colonel Reed
having the subject of flags under consideration. To the reply to a
letter written by him at that time, we may possibly trace the origin of
the use of a modification of the British ensign, a drawing of which is
given under Queen Anne's proclamation before quoted, as the flag of the
United Colonies. And we shall give good reasons to conclude that this
modification consisted in applying to its red field a sufficient number
of white stripes, to divide the whole into thirteen stripes, alternate
red and white, as above shown; and we will show the propriety of this
by establishing the fact that a _stripe_ was the badge of rank in
the ununiformed army that assembled about Boston in defence of liberty.

Colonel Joseph Reed, Secretary to the Committee of Conference from
Congress, and Military Secretary of General Washington, the Committee
being then in session, wrote, October 20, 1776: "Please fix upon some
particular color for a flag and a signal by which our vessels may know
one another.[48] What do you think of a flag with a white ground, a tree
in the middle, the motto, 'Appeal to Heaven?' This is the flag of our
floating batteries." To which Colonels Glover and Moylan replied,
October 21, 1775: "That as Broughton and Selman, who sailed that
morning, had none but their old colors, they had appointed the signal
by which they could be known by their friends to be 'the ensign up to
the maintopping lift."[49]

          [48] From this, we may justly conclude that the Committee of
          Conference, composed of Dr. Franklin, Mr. Lynch, and Mr.
          Harrison, had the subject of the flag under consideration,
          and that the flag prepared under their supervision was the
          one displayed as the flag of the United Colonies, on the day
          the army organized by them, General Washington, &c., went
          into being.

          [49] Siege of Boston, p. 261.

This ensign, which is called their "old colors," must have been the
ensign spoken of and described in Queen Anne's proclamation. (See Fig.
7, Plate I.) Since we have seen _one_ ensign prescribed 1707, for the
merchant ships and vessels of Great Britain, and the dominions
thereunto belonging, and that no change was made until 1801. This
being the case, the ensign of the colonial cruisers, inasmuch as they
were armed merchant vessels, must have been the British ensign
displayed at the maintopping lift. There were several reasons for
this; the most forcible of which were, that it being usual to have no
special place for the display of the national ensign at sea, but the
custom being to exhibit it in such part of the vessel from which it
could be most conveniently observed by the strange sail (on which
occasion only it was worn at sea), to adopt a particular place for its
display would be to give it a new character; one peculiarly happy for
the then state of affairs, as it would betray the _English_ transports
to the colonial cruisers, and would not betray the _Colonial_ cruisers
to the British ships of war, as "the maintopping lift" must have been
such a position as would not attract the attention of those not in the
secret. This reply of the gentlemen charged with the continental or
colonial cruisers, would readily have suggested a modification of the
British ensign for the ensign of the United Colonies of North America;
for the transition, in the adoption of a flag, from a particular place
for the display of a particular flag, to some modification of the same
flag, was both natural and easy; especially, as a slight modification
of this flag would enable them to indicate the number of colonies,
while the emblem of union would happily indicate the union of those
colonies, and at the same time would have justified them in saying, in
their address of December 6, 1775, "Allegiance to our king. Our words
have ever avowed it, our conduct has ever been in keeping with it," as
having acknowledged their dependence on the mother country, even in
the flag with which they were to struggle against her.

Before we proceed to consider the origin of the stripes, we shall give
an account of the same flag as displayed on the fleet fitted out at
Philadelphia about this time, so as to fix, beyond a doubt, this emblem
of _union_. As a preliminary, we will give a short extract of the
sailing orders given to Benedict Arnold's fleet,[50] when he set out on
his expedition to Canada. They may be found at length in Major Meigs's
journal of that expedition.

          [50] Mass. Historical Collections, 2d series, vol. ii. p.

"1st Signal." "For speaking with the whole fleet, _ensign_ at
maintopmast head."

"2d Signal." "For chasing a sail, ensign at foretopmast head."

"6th Signal." "For boarding any vessel, Jack at maintopmast head, and
the whole fleet to draw up in a line as near as possible."

The Jack, or Union, or Union Jack, as it was and is called, was and is,
to this day, in the navy of Great Britain, the flag of the admiral of
the fleet; and was probably, as such, worn by the vessel of the
commander-in-chief of this expedition, and its use probably suggested
the adoption of a standard for the commander-in-chief of the first
American fleet, Flag No. 7, in our table. The date of sailing of the
above fleet was Sept. 19, 1775, before the letter of Colonels Glover
and Moylan, speaking of the "old colors," was written (the date of the
latter was Oct. 21, 1775), and the use of the terms jack and ensign
strengthens the conclusion that the term "old colors" meant British
colors, for we shall find, in the orders of the first American fleet,
that the ensign and jack are called the striped ensign and Jack.

In this connection, we give a few extracts from the sailing orders of
the first American fleet, "given the several captains in the fleet, at
sailing from the Capes of Delaware, Feb. 17, 1776."[51]

          [51] American Archives, 4th series, vol. iv. p. 1179.

"Sir: You are hereby ordered to keep company with me, if possible, and
truly observe the signals given by the ship I am in."

"In case you are in any very great danger of being taken, you are to
destroy these orders and your signals."


"For chasing: For the whole fleet to chase, a red pennant at the
foretopmast head." We have already said that, since the time of the
Romans, a red flag has been the signal to prepare for battle.

"For seeing a strange vessel: Hoist the ensign, and lower and hoist it
as many times as you see vessels, allowing two minutes between each

Supposing this _ensign_ to be a Union flag, observe the similarity
between this signal and that for the lighthouse and castle in Boston
Harbor in 1720; "the lighthouse," as we have already stated, "in time
of war makes a signal to the castle, and the castle to the town, by
hoisting and lowering the Union flag so many times as there are ships

"For the Providence to chase: A St. George's ensign with stripes at the
mizzen peak."

"For a general attack, or the whole fleet to engage, the standard at
the maintopmast head, with the _striped_ Jack and ensign at their
proper places."

Now let us look at some of the descriptions of the colors of this
fleet, both by American and British writers.


    "NEWBERN, NORTH CAROLINA, February 9, 1776.

    "By a gentleman from Philadelphia, we have received the pleasing
    account of the actual sailing from that place of the first American
    fleet that ever swelled their sails on the Western Ocean, &c.

    "This fleet consists of five sail, fitted out from Philadelphia,
    which are to be joined at the capes of Virginia by two more ships
    from Maryland, and is commanded by Admiral Hopkins, a most
    experienced and venerable sea captain."

    "They sailed from Philadelphia amidst the acclamations of thousands
    assembled on the joyful occasion, under the display of a Union
    flag, with thirteen stripes in the field, emblematical of the
    thirteen United Colonies."[52]

          [52] American Archives, 4th series, vol. iv. p. 965.

And the following extract from a letter, dated New Providence, West
Indies, of which Island Admiral Hopkins took prisoner the governor,

          [53] Ibid. vol. v. p. 823.

This letter was kindly furnished by Colonel Peter Force, editor of
the _American Archives_, and may be found in the _London Ladies'
Magazine_, vol. vii. July 1776, p. 390.

    "NEW PROVIDENCE, May 18, 1776.

    "The colors of the American fleet were striped under the
    _Union_, with thirteen strokes, called the United Colonies,
    and their standard, a rattlesnake; motto--'Don't tread on me.'"

The following extract was furnished by the same gentleman, to whom I
cannot too warmly return my thanks for the facilities and assistance he
has afforded me.

    "WILLIAMSBURG, VA., April 10, 1776.

    "The Roebuck [a British cruiser] has taken two prizes in Delaware
    Bay, which she decoyed within her reach, by hoisting a
    _Continental Union Flag_."

Reference to this letter not obtained, but in support of its
correctness, see affidavit of Mr. Barry, master's mate, ship Grace,
captured by the Roebuck, to be found in the _Pennsylvania Evening
Post_, June 20, 1776, vol. ii. No. 221.

It is unnecessary to multiply proof on this subject. The term _union_,
in these accounts, both by American and British writers, at sea and
land, by the interpretation we give it, explains and harmonizes all
of them. We therefore proceed to consider the other and what may be
called the distinctive devices--we mean the stripes on this
Continental Union Flag.

Under the head of Ensign (_Brande's Dictionary_), we are told: "Men of
war carry a red, white, or blue ensign, according to the color of the
flag of the admiral." By the 1st Article of the union between England
and Scotland, we have seen that the ensigns, both "at sea and land,"
were to embody the union of the crosses of St. George and St. Andrew
conjoined; hence the colors, red, white, &c., only apply to the field
of the ensign.

In the extract from the King's Regulations for the British Army, we
have shown that the ensign of the different regiments differed in color
according as the facings of the uniforms of the particular regiments to
which they belonged differed. We have seen, in the Crusades, the
different nations were distinguished by different colored crosses on
their surcoats, from which the particular colored cross was transferred
to the national banners of at least Scotland and England. Here the
striking distinction was color. The same practice prevailed at the time
of the Revolution in the colonies.--See the Proceedings of the
Provincial Congress of Connecticut, "July 1, 1775. One standard for
each regiment, distinguished by their color, as follows, viz.: For the
seventh, blue; for the eighth, orange."[54]

          [54] American Archives, 4th series, vol. ii. p. 1582.

With this practice of nations, then, before them, and evidently applied
by them, viz.: that of applying some badge of distinction in use in
their armies to their national banner, combined with that of indicating
different portions of their armies by different colors for their flags;
and of two nations, when uniting, adopting as a common ensign something
to indicate their union, and still preserve the original banners (both
as to devices and color), under which they had respectively achieved
signal triumphs, especially as this last example was that of the mother
country, we may expect to see the colonies carrying out this practice
in their Union flag.

They were British colonies: and, as we have shown, they used the
British Union, but now, they were to distinguish their flag by its
color from other British ensigns, preserve a trace of the colors under
which they had previously fought with success, and, at the same time,
represent this combination in some form peculiar to themselves.

The mode of distinction by color could not well be applied by the
United Colonies in a single color, as the simpler and most striking
were exhausted in application to British ensigns; but, if applied,
must have been used in a complex form or combination of colors. This
being the case, stripes of color would naturally be suggested as being
striking, as enabling them to show the number and union of the
colonies, _as preserving the colors of the flags previously used by
them_; and also the badge of distinction, which, at the time of the
adoption of this flag, marked the different grades in the ununiformed
army before Boston. Hence, probably, the name, _The Great Union Flag_,
given to it by the writer in the _Philadelphia Gazette_, before
quoted, doubtless Colonel Joseph Reed, inasmuch as this flag
indicated, as respected the Colonies, precisely what the Great Union
Flag of Great Britain indicated respecting the mother country.

The only point that now remains for us to establish is, that a stripe
or ribbon was the badge in common use in the army of the colonists
before Boston. In proof of this, we quote the following extracts from
the orders of General Washington.

    "HEAD-QUARTERS, CAMBRIDGE, July 14, 1775.

    ("Countersign, Inverness. Parole, Halifax.)

    "There being something awkward as well as improper in the general
    officers being stopped at the outposts, asked for passes by the
    sentries, and obliged, often, to send for the officer of the guard
    (who, it frequently happens, is as much unacquainted with the
    persons of the generals as the private men), before they can pass
    in or out, it is recommended to both officers and men, to make
    themselves acquainted with the persons of all officers in general
    command, and, in the mean time, to prevent mistakes, the general
    officers and their aides-de-camp will be distinguished in the
    following manner: The commander-in-chief, by a light blue ribbon
    worn across his breast, between his coat and waistcoat; the majors
    and brigadiers general by a pink ribbon worn in like manner; the
    aides-de-camp, by a green ribbon."[55]

          [55] American Archives, 4th series, vol. ii. p. 1662.

    "HEAD-QUARTERS, CAMBRIDGE, July 28, 1775.

    ("Parole, Brunswick. Countersign, Princeton.)

    "As the continental army have unfortunately no uniforms, and
    consequently many inconveniences must arise from not being able
    always to distinguish the commissioned officers from the
    non-commissioned, and the non-commissioned from the privates, it is
    desired that some badges of distinction may be immediately
    provided; for instance, the field officers may have red or pink
    colored cockades in their hats, the captains yellow or buff, and
    the subalterns green. They are to furnish themselves accordingly.
    The sergeants may be distinguished by an epaulette or stripe of red
    cloth sewed upon the right shoulder, the corporals by one of

          [56] American Archives, 4th series, vol. ii. p. 1738.

    "HEAD-QUARTERS, CAMBRIDGE, July 24, 1775.

    ("Parole, Salisbury. Countersign, Cumberland.)

    "It being thought proper to distinguish the majors from brigadiers
    general, by some particular mark for the future, the majors general
    will wear a broad purple ribbon."

    Having thus established the use of the stripe as a badge of
    distinction, we have completed our proofs in reference to the Union
    flag displayed by General Washington before Boston, January 2,
    1776. And to perceive how simple and natural is the deduction of
    the ensign of the army and fleet of the United English Colonies of
    North America, from the national ensign of Great Britain, it is
    only necessary to compare Fig. 7, Plate I. and Fig. 2, Plate II.

    Having made some observations in reference to the mottoes on
    several of the flags given in our table, we would now invite
    attention to the religious character of those on the colonial
    flags, viz.: _Qui transtulit sustinet_, and an "Appeal to Heaven."
    In the famous effort of colonial vigor, which, resulting in the
    capture of Louisburg, surprised the world in 1745, we learn, from
    Belknap's _History of New Hampshire_, vol ii. p. 157, that the
    flag used bore the motto, _Nil desperandum Christo Duce_. A
    motto furnished by the celebrated George Whitfield. This last
    flag, under the treaty of union, must have been an Union flag,
    probably, similar to the British ensign above given, or perhaps
    with a white field, to which color the New England people were
    partial (see the colors of the Massachusetts cruisers, Flag No. 8,
    in our table), with the motto above given inscribed on the field.

    May we not conclude that, when the flags embodying such mottoes
    were dispensed with, some reference to them would still be
    preserved, as would be the case by preserving in the flag which
    replaced them the colors of the flags laid aside?


The letter previously quoted, dated New Providence, May 13, 1776, says:
"And their standard, a rattlesnake;" motto--"Don't tread on me." This
_standard_ is thus described, viz.:--

    "In CONGRESS, February 9, 1776.

    "Colonel Gadsden presented to the Congress an elegant standard,
    such as is to be used by the Commander-in-chief of the American
    Navy, being a yellow field, with a lively representation of a
    rattlesnake in the middle, in the attitude of going to strike, and
    the words underneath, 'Don't tread on me.'[57]

    "_Ordered_, That the said standard be carefully preserved and
    suspended in the Congress room."

          [57] American Archives, 4th series, vol. v. p. 568. South
          Carolina Provincial Congress.

Before I proceed, I shall offer one or two remarks on this device of
the rattlesnake, to show that it also, as well as the British crosses,
was an emblem of union, and that it was seized upon as one _then_
(December, 1775) in use, and familiar.

In 1754, in the _Philadelphia Gazette_, when Benjamin Franklin was
editor of that paper, an article appeared, urging _union_ among the
colonies as a means of insuring safety from attacks of the French. This
article closed with a wood-cut of a snake divided into parts, with the
initials of one colony on each division, and the motto, "Join, or die,"
underneath, in capital letters.[58] (See Fig. 3, Plate II.)

          [58] Franklin's Works, vol. iii. p. 25.

When union among the colonies was urged, in 1774-6, as a mode of
securing their liberties, this device, a disjointed snake, divided into
_thirteen_ parts, with the initials of a colony on each division, and
the motto, "Join, or die," was adopted as the head-piece of many of the
newspapers. When the union of the colonies took place, this was
changed, for the head-pieces of the newspapers, into the device adopted
on the standard, viz.: a rattlesnake in the attitude of going to
strike, and into an _united_ snake. (Under both forms of this device,
was the motto, "Don't tread on me.")

The seal of the War Department is the only public instrument in use,
exhibiting evidence of the rattlesnake's having played an important
part as a device in the American Revolution. The old seal of 1778, and
the more modern seal now in use, both bear the rattlesnake (with its
rattles as the emblem of union), and a _liberty cap_ in contiguity with
it; the _liberty cap_ enveloped by the body, so that the opened mouth
may defend the _rattles_, and liberty cap, or _union_ and liberty, with
the motto, "This we'll defend." (See Fig. 4, Plate II.)

The following account of this device, supposed to be from the pen of
Benjamin Franklin, indicates fully why it was adopted, and will be
found in the _American Archives_, vol. iv. p. 468.

    "PHILADELPHIA, December 27, 1775.

    "I observe on one of the drums belonging to the marines now
    raising, there was painted a rattlesnake, with this motto under it,
    'Don't tread on me.' As I know it is the custom to have some device
    on the arms of every country, I suppose this may have been intended
    for the arms of America; and, as I have nothing to do with public
    affairs, and as my time is perfectly my own, in order to divert an
    idle hour, I sat down to guess what could have been intended by
    this uncommon device. I took care, however, to consult, on this
    occasion, a person who is acquainted with heraldry, from whom I
    learned that it is a rule, among the learned in that science, 'that
    the worthy properties of the animal, in the crest-born, shall be
    considered;' he likewise informed me that the ancients considered
    the serpent as an emblem of wisdom; and, in a certain attitude, of
    endless duration--both which circumstances, I suppose, may have
    been had in view. Having gained this intelligence, and recollecting
    that countries 'are sometimes represented by animals peculiar to
    them,' it occurred to me that the rattlesnake is found in no other
    quarter of the world beside America, and may, therefore, have been
    chosen on that account to represent her.

    "But then, 'the worthy properties' of a snake, I judged, would be
    hard to point out. This rather raised than suppressed my curiosity,
    and having frequently seen the rattlesnake, I ran over in my mind
    every property by which she was distinguished, not only from other
    animals, but from those of the same genus or class of animals,
    endeavoring to fix some meaning to each, not wholly inconsistent
    with common sense.

    "I recollected that her eye excelled in brightness that of any
    other animal, and that she has no eye-lids. She 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. As if anxious to prevent all
    pretensions of quarrelling with her, the weapons with which nature
    has furnished her she conceals in the roof of her mouth; so that,
    to those who are unacquainted with her, she appears to be a
    defenceless animal; and even when those weapons are shown and
    extended for defence, they appear weak and contemptible; but their
    wounds, however small, are decisive and fatal. Conscious of this,
    she never wounds till she has generously given notice, even to her
    enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of treading on her. Was
    I wrong sir, in thinking this a strong picture of the temper and
    conduct of America?

    "The poison of her teeth is the necessary means of digesting her
    food, and at the same time is certain destruction to her enemies.
    This may be understood to intimate that those things which are
    destructive to our enemies, may be to us not only harmless, but
    absolutely necessary to our existence. 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 number.

    "Perhaps it might be only fancy, but I conceited the painter had
    shown a half-formed additional rattle; which, I suppose, may have
    been intended to represent the province of Canada. '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 these rattles singly is incapable of producing
    sound; but the ringing of thirteen together is sufficient to alarm
    the boldest man living. The rattlesnake is solitary, and associates
    with her kind only, when it is necessary for their preservation. In
    winter, the warmth of a number together will preserve their lives:
    while, singly, they would probably perish. The power of fascination
    attributed to her, by a generous construction, may be understood to
    mean, that those who consider the liberty and blessings which
    America affords, and once come over to her, never afterwards leave
    her, but spend their lives with her. She strongly resembles America
    in this, that she is beautiful in her youth, and her beauty
    increaseth with her age, 'her tongue also is blue, and forked as
    the lightning, and her abode is among impenetrable rocks.'

    "Having pleased myself with reflections of this kind, I
    communicated my sentiments to a neighbor of mine, who has a
    surprising readiness at guessing at everything which relates to
    public affairs; and indeed, I should be jealous of his reputation
    in that way, was it not that the event constantly shows that he has
    guessed wrong. He instantly declared it as his sentiments, that the
    Congress meant to allude to Lord North's declaration in the House
    of Commons, that he never would relax his measures until he had
    brought America to his feet; and to intimate to his lordship, that
    if she was brought to his feet, it would be dangerous treading on
    her. But, I am positive he has guessed wrong, for I am sure that
    Congress would not condescend, at this time of day, to take the
    least notice of his lordship, in that or any other way. In which
    opinion, I am determined to remain, your humble servant."

The yellow flag, with the rattlesnake in the middle, and the words
underneath, "Don't tread on me," (see Fig. 5, Plate II.,) the standard
for the Commander-in-chief of the American Navy, was probably the flag
referred to by Paul Jones, in his journal.

Paul Jones was commissioned first of the first lieutenants in the
continental navy. "This commission, under the United Colonies, is dated
the 7th of December, 1775, as first lieutenant of the Alfred. On board
that ship, before Philadelphia, Mr. Jones hoisted the flag of America,
with his own hands, the first time it was ever displayed, as the
commander-in-chief embarked on board the Alfred." (Page 34, _Life and
Correspondence of Paul Jones_.)

From the foregoing account, it will be perceived that the first flag
adopted by the army of the colonists before Boston, was a red flag,
with the mottoes, _Qui transtulit sustinet_, and "An Appeal to Heaven."
By the combination of these mottoes, the union of Massachusetts and
Connecticut, in defence of their outraged liberties, was doubtless
intimated; and, taken in connection with those mottoes, the color of
the flag indicated that, trusting in the God of battles, they defied
the power of the mother country. About this time, too, the floating
batteries, the germ of the navy subsequently organized, bore a white
flag, with a green pine-tree, and the motto, "Appeal to Heaven." These
flags were adopted before the union of the _thirteen_ colonies was

After that union, and upon the organization of the army and fleet,
these flags were supplanted by one calculated to show to the world the
union of the North American colonies among themselves, and as an
integral part of the British Empire, and as such demanding the rights
and liberties of British subjects. And a flag combining the crosses of
St. George and St. Andrew united (the distinctive emblem of the United
Kingdom of Great Britain), with a field composed of thirteen stripes,
alternate red and white, the combination of the flags previously used
in the camp, on the cruisers, and the floating batteries of the
colonies, was adopted for this purpose, and called THE GREAT UNION

The union implied both the union of the colonies represented in the
striped field, which was dependent upon it, and the nationality of
those colonies. The thirteen stripes, alternate red and white,
constituting the field of the flag, represented the body of that union,
the number of the members which composed it, as well as the union of
the flags, which had preceded this Great Union Flag.

We assume that the colors of those stripes were alternate red and
white, inasmuch as those were the colors in the first flag of the
United States, and we presume no change, not absolutely necessary, was
made, in altering the flag of the United Colonies to that of the United
States. There is no evidence of their being of that color, except the
universally received tradition that such was the case.

The colors of those stripes, alternate red and white, indicated on the
part of the colonies, thus represented as united, the defiance to
oppression, symbolized by the red color of the flag of the army, and
red field of the flag of the continental cruisers together, with the
purity implied by the white flag of the floating batteries, of which
the motto was, "Appeal to Heaven."

Lest these conclusions should seem far fetched, we would again advert
to the fact, that in the present Union, or national flag of the United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, not only are the crosses of St.
George, St. Andrew, and St. Patrick united, but the colors of the
fields of the banners of St. George, of England, St. Andrew, of
Scotland, and St. Patrick, of Ireland, are preserved.

In the case of the colonies, everything that tended to call to mind
previous triumphs would have been studiously preserved, and the red and
white flags were identified with the successes of Bunker Hill, (for
tradition says the flag on that occasion was red, and that a Whig told
General Gage that the motto was, "Come, if you dare,")[59] and the
various successes of the siege of Boston, prior to Jan. 2, 1776.

          [59] Frothingham's Siege of Boston.

The use of the stripes, besides indicating the union of the above
flags, for the purpose before indicated, would, as a badge of
distinction for the Great Union Flag of the colonies, have carried the
minds of those who were marshalled under it back to the moment when the
tocsin of war sounded at Lexington--called them, "generals" as well as
"private men,"--in the garbs in which they were pursuing their peaceful
avocations, to arms in defence of liberty. And we of the present day
should regard them as hallowed, by having been employed by General
Washington as the first step towards introducing subordination into the
army, which achieved our independence. In those stripes we may perceive
the necessity indicated of the subordination of each State to the
Union, while their equality under the Union is also intimated, by there
being nothing to indicate that any particular State was represented by
any particular stripe. There being seven red stripes, doubtless arose
from that being the color of the principal flags represented in the
combination of colors, for certainly the flags of the army and cruisers
must have had pre-eminence over that of the floating batteries.

The striped Union flag was the colonial colors, both at sea and land,
but there was also, as we have seen, a standard such as was used by the
commander-in-chief of the American navy, being a yellow field, with a
lively representation of a rattlesnake in the middle, in the attitude
of going to strike, and the words underneath, "Don't tread on me." The
color of the snake, as represented, was dark. This circumstance goes
strongly to prove the correctness of our conclusion, that the example
of the mother country was followed in the preparation of the flags of
this period--for the quarantine flag of the mother country was a
_yellow_ flag with a dark spot, a representation of the plague-spot in
the middle--those colors were, doubtless, chosen for the rattlesnake
flag, to indicate the deadly character of the venom of the rattlesnake,
and the danger of treading on it.

But we have before stated that the rattlesnake first appeared as a
snake divided into thirteen parts, each part marked with the initials
of the colony to which it corresponded, and beneath them the motto,
"Join, or die," indicating the necessity of union. And that, the union
being effected, the initials on the parts were dropped (thus indicating
the equality of the colonies under the Union), and the parts were
united in the form indicated in this standard, and beneath it the
words, "Don't tread on me," implying the consciousness of strength
derived from that union, of which, we have seen, the rattlesnake was an
emblem indigenous to America, while at the same time the serpent
implies eternal duration. This, then, may properly be called the
Rattlesnake Union Standard, and the other, the Great Union, or Striped
Union Flag; and together they indicated that existence as a people was
inseparable from union--the strength resulting from that union--the
necessary subordination of each colony to the whole Union, the intimate
connection of the colonies composing the Union, their equality and
perpetuity under it, and the power of fascination in the Union and
harmony in the colonies, which would draw everybody to America, and
cause those who had once tasted the liberty and blessings she enjoys,
never to leave her, but to "spend their lives with her."

Having thus described the flags of the United Colonies, and shown that
they were emblematic of union, and hence called Union flags, in
imitation of the prevailing custom of the mother country, we now
proceed to consider the Flag of the United States, described in the
following Resolution of Congress, passed June 14, 1777:--

    "_Resolved_, That the Flag of the Thirteen United States be
    thirteen stripes, alternate red and white: That the union be
    thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new

This resolution was made public September 3, 1777; and Colonel Trumbull
represents the flag made in pursuance of it as used at Burgoyne's
surrender, October 17, 1777.

From the above resolution and what has preceded, it is apparent that
the object of that resolution was simply to give the authorization of
Congress to a color existing, so far as the stripes and part of the
flag called the union were concerned; but it is worthy of remark that
the character of the new emblem for that union is specially described
as representing "a new constellation."

The use of some emblem of union different from the British crosses, the
United States having declared themselves free and independent States,
was eminently natural, but the description of the emblem substituted
for them as "representing a new constellation," involves the idea that
some constellation, in some way emblematic of union, had been presented
to the minds of those adopting this resolution. It may be said that the
adoption of a star, as the representative of a State, would naturally
lead to the idea of a constellation; but, as the emblem to be altered
was one of union, we are inclined to think that the first idea
suggested was that of some constellation, which of itself implied
union, and that the representation of a State by a star was involved in

The question that now arises is, was there any constellation which
implied union? The answer is, there was the constellation Lyra. The
next point is, to ascertain if the first flag displayed under this
resolution bore that constellation. If not, in what form the stars were
presented on that flag, and whether any connection can be traced
between it and the constellation Lyra.

Let us first consider the fitness of the constellation Lyra to indicate
union. In Charles Anthon's _Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities_,
we find the following account of the Lyra. He says:--

"Lyra. The Latin name _fides_, which was used for a lyre as well as a
cithara, is probably the same as the Greek [Greek: sphides], which,
according to Hesychius, signifies gut-strings; but Festus takes it to
be the same as _fides_ (faith), _because the lyre was the symbol of
harmony and unity among men_." The quotation from the Astronomicon of
Manilius, presented in the following letter from Mr. Charles Francis
Adams, grandson of Mr. John Adams, confirms the attributes above
ascribed to the lyre, and its corresponding constellation "Lyra."

    QUINCY, May 18, 1852.

    DEAR SIR: Your letter of the fourth came upon me unprepared to
    answer it without investigations, which I have ever since been
    hoping to pursue, but thus far in vain. Not a moment has been at my
    command since I received it, and as I am now expecting every moment
    to depart for Washington, I fear that I must give up all idea of
    doing more hereafter, at least in season for any object of yours.

    With the exception of a few letters to and from Generals Green,
    Sullivan, Parsons, and Ward, there are no memorials remaining in my
    hands of my grandfather's services while chairman of the Board of
    War. He had no time to copy or record papers, so that very few are
    left. I am not aware of the existence of any journal or other
    record of the action of the body, nor of any further history of it
    than is given in his lately published diary. I am, therefore,
    wholly unable to give you any light upon the question of the origin
    of the American colors.

    With regard to the other design, of the eagle, with the lyre on its
    breast, and the stars of the constellation Lyra, I can only say
    that I possess the seal which was the original form in which the
    device was presented. There it has the motto, _Nunc sidera
    ducit_, taken from the Astronomicon of Manilius, describing the
    effect of the Lyre of Orpheus,

        "At Lyra diductis per coelum cornibus inter Sidera conspicitur,
        qua quondam ceperat Orpheus Omne quod attigerat, cantu,
        manesque per ipsos Fecit iter, domuit que infernas carmine
        leges. Hinc coelestis honos, similisque potentia causæ: Tunc
        silvas et saxa trahens, nunc sidera ducit, Et rapit immensum
        mundi revolubilis orbem."

        II. 331-337.

    It is my opinion that, although this last line does not appear, my
    father had it in his mind when applying the device to the American
    passport, but I have not had the leisure to look for any
    explanation he may have himself left of it. His papers are
    voluminous, and I have barely as yet glanced at any part of their
    contents. This must be my apology for sending you so unsatisfactory
    a reply.

    I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


The following is a translation of the above quotation:--

Conspicuous among the stars, its horns wide spread over the heavens, is
the Lyre, with which Orpheus was wont to captivate everything to which
he addressed his song, and even made a journey through Hades itself,
and put to sleep the infernal laws. Hence, its celestial honor; and, by
the same power with which it then drew rocks and trees along, it now
leads the stars, and _whirls along the immense orb of the revolving

This last line shows that the constellation Lyra, as an emblem of union
for the United States, would have been an amplification of the
attribute of "fascination" ascribed to the Rattlesnake, as an emblem of
union for the United States, in the account we have already given of
the Rattlesnake as such, in describing the standard of the
commander-in-chief of the American navy; for the constellation Lyra
would not only imply "that those who consider the liberty and blessings
which America affords, and once come over to her, never afterwards
leave her, but spend their lives with her," but that by their union and
harmony the United States would "whirl along the immense orb of the
revolving world," to follow their example in their forms of government.

Having thus shown how appropriate the constellation Lyra would have
been as an emblem of the union of the United States, we proceed to
ascertain if the first flag displayed under the resolution of June 14,
1777, bore that constellation. In Trumbull's picture of the surrender
of Burgoyne, and Peale's picture of Washington, the thirteen stars are
represented as arranged in a circle; it now remains to show the
existence of some record exhibiting a connection between the
constellation Lyra and the circle of thirteen stars.

We find this record on a form for a passport of the United States,
prepared under Mr. John Quincy Adams, when Secretary of State, in 1820,
which form is now in use. In adopting the form in question, the arms of
the United States, previously used on U.S. passports, were replaced by
a circle of thirteen stars surrounding an eagle, holding in his beak
the constellation Lyra, and the motto, _Nunc sidera ducit_.

Mr. W. J. Stone, of Washington City, gives the following account of
the preparation of the device above described, and presented in
the vignette to the title-page. In it, the constellation Lyra is
represented as radiating into a circle of thirteen stars.


    MY DEAR SIR: I find, on examination, that on the 25th of August,
    1820, I engraved for the Department of State, by order of J. Q.
    Adams, Secretary of State, a plate for a passport, at the head of
    which was a spread eagle, drawn to encompass the constellation

    The drawing was made by me, according to particular verbal
    directions given by Mr. Adams. I have a distinct recollection of
    having submitted the drawing to Mr. Adams, for approval, previous
    to engraving.

    Very respectfully, your obedt. servt.

    (Signed,) W. J. STONE.

Had not this device been substituted, on the form for a United States
passport, for the arms of the United States, by Mr. John Quincy Adams,
we should not consider the constellation Lyra, radiating into a circle
of thirteen stars, as having any special meaning; but as, at the time
the circle of thirteen stars was introduced into the flag of the United
States as an emblem of union, his father, Mr. John Adams, was chairman
of the Board of War, we think it has.

On page 6, vol. iii. of the _Life and Writings of John Adams_, we
find the following entry in his journal:--

    "The duties of this Board kept me in continual employment, not to
    say drudgery, from the 12th of June 1776, till the 11th of November
    1777." Again: "Other gentlemen attended as they pleased, but, as I
    was chairman, or as they were pleased to call it, president, I must
    never be absent."

A change being contemplated in the emblem of union in the flag, the
Board of War would, doubtless, have had charge of the preparation of
the substitute; and from the above, we perceive the chairman must have
been particularly connected with its preparation.

We have thus presented the data upon which is based the conclusion that
the constellation Lyra was originally proposed for the union of our
Flag, in 1777, at the time the circle of thirteen stars was adopted.
The reasons for that conclusion are the following:--

  [Illustration: Pl. III.]

It was a Union flag that was to be altered. The United States having
become independent of Great Britain, the British emblem of union was no
longer appropriate; some other emblem of union was to be substituted.

The constellation Lyra was a time-honored emblem of union. The language
of the resolution of June 14, 1777, evidently has reference to such an
emblem, representing a constellation. The Lyra was not adopted. A
circle of thirteen stars was. At this time, Mr. John Adams was chairman
of the Board of War.

Mr. John Adams's son became Secretary of State in 1820. Striking out
the arms of the United States, he presented on the passport a device,
representing the constellation Lyra radiating into a circle of
stars--the stars thirteen in number. At this time there were twenty-one
States in the Union--hence this circle of thirteen stars referred to an
earlier day. The first instance of a circle of thirteen stars being
used as a national device, was in the U. S. Flag, and its being
presented on the passport must have referred to that use of it, as
constituting it a well-known emblem of the United States, indicative of
their union, while the constellation Lyra, occupying the centre of this
circle, indicates the origin of the circle of stars, as an emblem of
union "representing a new constellation," in that time-honored emblem
of union. The other circumstances we have adduced point to Mr. John
Adams as the source from which his son derived his information. We
suppose the circle of stars was preferred to the Lyra because it
indicated the perpetuity of the Union, which was distinctly intimated
by the Rattlesnake Standard, laid aside when the flag of the United
States, commonly called the Stars and Stripes, was adopted. It may not
be improper to observe that these deductions are in keeping with the
general rules, presented in our Introduction, as deduced from the
practices of nations relative to national emblems.

Compare Fig. 6, Plate II., the Flag of the United States, as first
presented under the resolution of June 14, 1777, with Fig. 1, Plate
III., the flag as we suppose it to have been proposed when Mr. John
Adams was chairman of the Board of War, and both of the above with the
vignette to the title-page, the device introduced into the passport in
_lieu_ of the arms of the United States, by Mr. John Q. Adams, when
Secretary of State.

In making these comparisons, the eagle, only adopted for the arms of
the United States in 1782, must be kept out of view, or rather
considered as having no part in the question about the stars.

In the preceding pages, we have established the origin of the part of
the flag called "the union," also that of the circle of stars as an
emblem for that union, together with that of the stripes, as clearly as
analogy will enable us so to do. As corroborating the views we have
advanced, we now present to the reader the reports on the adoption of
the arms of the United States, copied by permission from unpublished
records of the State Department, from which it appears that certain of
those who prepared the devices for the Flag of the United States, were
also engaged in the preparation of the device for a Great Seal.


    "1776--_page_ 248.

    "_July 4._ Dr. Franklin, Mr. J. Adams, and Mr. Jefferson, be a
    committee to prepare a device for a Great Seal for the United
    States of America.

    "1776--_page_ 321.

    "_Aug. 10._ The Committee appointed to prepare the Device for a
    Great Seal for the United States brought in the same, with an
    explanation thereof; ordered to lie on the table.

    "No. 1. _Copy of a Report made Aug. 10, 1776._

    "The Great Seal should on one side have the arms of the United
    States of America, which arms should be as follows:--

    "The shield has six quarters, parts one, _coupé_ two. The 1st or, a
    rose, enamelled gules and argent for England; the 2d argent, a
    thistle proper, for Scotland; the 3d verd, a harp or, for Ireland;
    the 4th azure a _flower-de-luce_ or, for France; the 5th or, the
    imperial eagle, sable, for Germany; and the 6th or, the Belgic
    lion, gules for Holland, pointing out the countries from which the
    States have been peopled. The shield within a border gules entwined
    of thirteen scutcheons argent, linked together by a chain or, each
    charged with initial letters sable as follows: 1st, N.H.; 2d, M.B.;
    3d, R.I.; 4th, C.; 5th, N.Y.; 6th, N.J.; 7th, P.; 8th, D.E.; 9th,
    M.; 10th, V.; 11th, N.C.; 12th, S.C.; 13th, G., for each of the
    thirteen independent States of America.

    "Supporters dexter the Goddess Liberty, in a corselet of armor,
    alluding to the present times; holding in her right hand the spear
    and cap, and with her left supporting the shield of the States,
    sinister, the Goddess Justice, bearing a sword in her right hand,
    and in her left a balance.

    "Crest. The eye of Providence in a radiant triangle, whose glory
    extends over the shield and beyond the figures. Motto: _E. Pluribus

    "Legend round the whole achievement. Seal of the United States of
    America, MDCCLXXVI.

    "On the other side of the said Great Seal should be the following

    "Pharaoh sitting in an open chariot, a crown on his head and a
    sword in his hand, passing through the divided waters of the Red
    Sea in pursuit of the Israelites. Rays, from a pillar of fire in
    the cloud, expressive of the Divine presence and command, beaming
    on Moses, who stands on the shore, and, extending his hand over the
    sea, causes it to overthrow Pharaoh. Motto: _Rebellion to tyrants
    is obedience to God_."

In regard to this Report, we observe Mr. John Adams was one of those
engaged in preparing it. The emblems to represent countries were the
rose for England, the thistle for Scotland, the harp for Ireland, &c.
May not this train of ideas have suggested to his mind the lyre and its
corresponding constellation to mark the Union of the United States of
America in the flag of those States?

We observe the reference to the Sacred Volume in the device for the
reverse of the proposed Seal. May not the idea of stars, as the
representatives of dependent States, have been borrowed from the same
source, and applied in the case of the flag as States dependent upon
union, and thus constituting a constellation?

    "_March 25, 1779_--_page_ 101.

    "_Ordered_, that the Report of the Committee on the Device of
    a Great Seal for the United States, in Congress assembled, be
    referred to a committee of three--Lovell, Scott, Houston."

This Committee made a Report, May 10. _Vide No. 2._

    "Original Report of May 10, 1779. No. 2."

    "The seal to be four inches in diameter.

    "On one side, the arms of the United States, as follows: The shield
    charged on the field, with thirteen diagonal stripes, alternate red
    and white. Supporters dexter, a warrior holding a sword; sinister,
    a figure representing Peace, bearing an olive-branch. The crest, a
    radiant constellation of thirteen stars. The motto: _Bello vel
    pace_. The legend round the achievement, _Seal of the United

    "On the reverse: The figure of Liberty, seated in a chair, holding
    the staff and cap. The motto: _Semper_. Underneath, MDCCLXXVI."

    "_May 17, 1779_--_page_ 149.

    "The Report of the Committee on the Device of a Great Seal was
    taken into consideration, and, after debate,

    "Ordered that it be recommitted."

    "Report No. 2, on the Great Seal, as altered after recommitment.

    "The Committee to whom was referred, on the 25th of March last, the
    report of a former committee on the Device of a Great Seal of the
    United States, in Congress assembled, beg leave to report the
    following description:--

    "The Seal to be three inches in diameter.

    "On one side, the arms of the United States, as follows: The shield
    charged in the field azure, with thirteen diagonal stripes,
    alternate rouge and argent, supporters; dexter, a warrior holding
    a sword; sinister, a figure representing Peace, bearing the
    olive-branch. The crest, a radiant constellation of thirteen stars.
    The motto. _Bello vel pace_. The legend round the achievement, _The
    Great Seal of the United States_.

    "On the reverse: The figure of Liberty, seated in a chair, holding
    the staff and cap. The motto: _Virtute perennis_. Underneath,

    "A drawing of the Seal is annexed. No. 3, May 10, 1780.

    "A miniature of the face of the Great Seal to be prepared, of half
    the diameter, to be affixed as the less Seal of the United States."

We have not thought it worth while to present the drawing above
referred to.

    "_Device for an Armorial Atchievement for the United States of
    North America, blazoned agreeably to the laws of Heraldry, proposed
    by Mr. Barton, A.M._

    "ARMS.--Paleways of [60]thirteen pieces, argent and gules; a chief
    azure: the escutcheon placed on the breast of an American (the
    bald-headed) eagle, displayed proper; holding in his beak a scroll,
    inscribed with the motto, viz.:--

        '_E Pluribus Unum_'--

    and in his dexter talon a palm or an olive-branch; in the other a
    bundle of thirteen arrows; all proper.

          [60] "As the pales or pallets consist of an uneven number,
          they ought in strictness to be blazoned--Argt. 6 pallets
          gules; but as the thirteen pieces allude to the thirteen
          States, they are blazoned according to the number of
          _pieces paleways_."

    "FOR THE CREST.--Over the head of the eagle, which appears
    above the escutcheon, a glory, or, breaking through a cloud,
    proper, and surrounding thirteen stars forming a constellation,
    argent on an azure field.

    "In the exergue of the Great Seal--

        "Jul. IV. MDCCLXXVI."

    "In the margin of the same--

        "_Sigil. Mag. Reipub. Confoed. Americ._"

    "_Remarks._--The escutcheon is composed of the chief and pale, the
    two most honorable ordinaries; the latter represent the several
    States, all joined in one solid compact entire, supporting a chief,
    which unites the whole and represents Congress. The motto alludes
    to the Union. The colors or tinctures of the pales are those used
    in the Flag of the United States. White, signifies purity,
    innocence; red, hardiness and valor. The chief denotes Congress.
    Blue is the ground of the American uniform, and this color
    signifies vigilance, perseverance, and justice.

    "The meaning of the crest is obvious, as is likewise that of the
    olive-branch and arrows.

    "The escutcheon being placed on the breast of the eagle is a very
    ancient mode of bearing, and is truly imperial. The eagle
    _displayed_, is another heraldric figure; and, being borne in
    the manner here described, supplies the place of supporters and
    crest. The American States need no supporters but their own virtue,
    and the preservation of their Union through Congress. The pales in
    the arms are kept closely united by the chief, which last likewise
    depends on that Union, and strength resulting from it, for its own
    support--the inference is plain.

    W. B."

    "_June 13, 1782._"

Mr. Barton also presented the following:--

    "A device for an armorial atchievement for the Great Seal of the
    United States of America, in Congress assembled, agreeably to the
    rules of heraldry, proposed by William Barton, A.M.

    "ARMS.--Barry of thirteen pieces, argent and gules, on a canton
    azure, and many stars disposed in a circle of the first; a pale or,
    surmounted of another, of the third; charged in chief, with an eye
    surrounded with a glory proper; and in the fess-point, an eagle
    displayed on the summit of a Doric column, which rests on the base
    of the escutcheon, both as the stars.

    "CREST.--Or, an helmet of burnished gold damasked, grated with six
    bars, and surmounted of a cap of dignity, gules, turned up ermine,
    a cock armed with gaffs proper.

    "SUPPORTERS.--On the dexter side; the genius of America
    (represented by a maiden with loose auburn tresses, having on her
    head a radiated crown of gold encircled with a sky-blue fillet,
    spangled with silver stars; and clothed in a long loose white
    garment, bordered with green. From her right shoulder to her left
    side a scarf, _semé_ of stars, the tinctures thereof the same
    as in the canton; and round her waist a purple girdle, fringed or
    embroidered argent, with the word 'Virtue'--resting her interior
    hand on the escutcheon, and holding in the other the proper
    _Standard of the United States_, having a dove argent perched
    on the top of it.

    "On the sinister side: a man in complete armor, his sword-belt
    azure, fringed with gold, his helmet encircled with a wreath of
    laurel, and crested with one white and two blue plumes; supporting
    with his dexter hand the escutcheon, and holding in the interior a
    lance, with the point sanguinated, and upon it a banner displayed,
    Vert., in the fess-point an harp stringed with silver, between a
    star in chief, two _fleurs-de-lis_ in fess, and a pair of swords,
    in saltier, in basses, all argent. The tenants of the escutcheon
    stand on a scroll, on which is the following motto:--

        '_Deo Favente_,'

    which alludes to the _eye_ in the arms, meant for the eye of

    "Over the crest, in a scroll, this motto:--

        '_Virtus sola invicta_,'

    which requires no comment.

    "The thirteen pieces, barways, which fill up the field of the arms,
    may represent the several States; and the same number of stars,
    upon a blue canton, disposed in a circle, represent a new
    constellation, which alludes to the new empire formed in the world
    by the confederation of those States. Their disposition in the form
    of a circle, denotes the perpetuity of its continuance, the ring
    being the symbol of eternity. The eagle displayed, is the symbol of
    supreme power and authority, and signifies the Congress; the pillar
    upon which it rests is used as the hieroglyphic of fortitude and
    constancy, and its being of the Doric order (which is the best
    proportioned and most agreeable to nature), and composed of several
    members, or parts, all taken together, forming a beautiful
    composition of strength, congruity, and usefulness, it may, with
    great propriety, signify a well-planned government. The eagle being
    placed on the summit of the column is emblematical of the
    sovereignty of the government of the United States; and as further
    expressive of that idea, those two charges, or five and six azure,
    are borne in a pale which extends across the thirteen pieces into
    which the escutcheon is divided. The signification of the eye has
    been already explained. The helmet is such as appertains to
    sovereignty, and the cap is used as the token of freedom and
    excellency. It was formerly worn by dukes; says Guillien, _they
    had a more worthy government than other subjects_. The cock is
    distinguished for two most excellent qualities, viz.,
    _vigilance_ and _fortitude_.

    "The genius of the American confederated Republic is denoted by the
    blue scarf and fillet glittering with stars, and by the tag of
    Congress which she displays. Her dress is white edged with green,
    colors emblematical of innocence and truth. Her purple girdle and
    radiated crown indicate her sovereignty; the word "Virtue," on the
    former, is to show that that should be her principal ornament; and
    the _radiated_ crown, that no earthly crown shall rule her. The
    dove, on the top of the American standard, denotes the mildness and
    purity of her government.

    "The knight in armor, with his bloody lance, represents the
    military genius of the American empire, armed in defence of its
    just rights. His blue belt and blue feathers, indicate his country,
    and the white plume is in compliment to our gallant ally. The
    wreath of laurel round his helmet is expressive of his success.

    "The green field of the banner denotes youth and vigor; the
    harp[61] [with thirteen strings], emblematical of the several
    States acting in harmony and concert; the star _in chief_ has
    reference to America, as _principal_ in the contest; the two
    _fleurs-de-lis_ are borne as a grateful[62] testimony of the
    _support_ given to her by France, and the two swords, crossing each
    other, signify the state of war. This tenant and his flag relate
    totally to America at the time of her Revolution.

    (Signed,) "WM. BARTON."

          [61] The pen is run through the words, "with thirteen
          strings," in the original.

          [62] "In the arms of Scotland, as manifested in the royal
          atchievement, the double fressure which surrounds the lion is
          borne _flory_ and _counter-flory_ (with _fleurs-de-lis_),
          which is in consequence of a treaty that was entered into
          between Charlemagne, then Emperor and King of France, and
          Achius, King of Scotland; to denote that the French lilies
          should guard and defend the Scottish lion."

Mr. Middleton, Mr. Boudinot, and Mr. Rutledge, reported a modification
of this, June 13, 1782, which was referred to the Secretary of the
United States, in Congress assembled, to take order.

Device for a Great Seal, as adopted June 20, 1782.

    "The Secretary of the United States in Congress assembled, to whom
    was referred the several reports of committees on the device of a
    Great Seal to take order, reports:--

    "That the device for an armorial atchievement, and reverse of a
    Great Seal for the United States in Congress assembled, is as

    "ARMS.--Paleways, of thirteen pieces, argent and gules, a chief
    azure. The escutcheon on the breast of the American bald eagle,
    displayed proper, holding in his dexter talon an olive-branch, and
    in his sinister a bundle of thirteen arrows, all proper, and in his
    beak a scroll, inscribed with this motto: _E Pluribus Unum_.

    "FOR THE CREST.--Over the head of the eagle, which appears above
    the escutcheon, a glory, or, breaking through a cloud proper, and
    surrounding thirteen stars forming a constellation, argent on an
    azure field.

    "REVERSE.--A pyramid unfinished. In the zenith, an eye in a
    triangle, surrounded with a glory proper. Over the eye these words,
    _Annuit Coeptis_. On the base of the pyramid, the numerical
    letters, MDCCLXXVI., and underneath the following motto:

        '_Novus ordo Seclorum._'

    "_Remarks and Explanations._--The escutcheon is composed of the
    chief and pale, the two most honorable ordinaries. The pieces paly,
    represent the several States all joined in one solid compact
    entire, supporting a chief, which unites the whole and represents
    Congress. The motto, alluding to this Union. The pales in the arms
    are kept closely united by the chief, and the chief depends on that
    union, and the strength resulting from it, for its support, to
    denote the confederacy of the United States of America, and the
    preservation of their Union through Congress.

    "The colors of the pales are those used in the flag of the United
    States of America; white, signifies purity and innocence; red,
    hardiness and valor; and blue, the color of the chief, signifies
    vigilance, perseverance, and justice. The olive-branch and arrows
    denote the power of peace and war, which is exclusively vested in
    Congress. The constellation denotes a new State taking its place
    and rank among the sovereign powers. The escutcheon is borne on the
    breast of the American eagle, without any other supporters, to
    denote that the United States of America ought to rely on their own

    "REVERSE.--The pyramid signifies strength and duration. The eye
    over it, and the motto, allude to the many and signal
    interpositions of Providence in favor of the American cause. The
    date underneath is that of the Declaration of Independence; and the
    words under it signify the beginning of the new American era, which
    commences from that date."

In most of the above reports, a reference will be perceived to the
devices and colors of the flag of the U. States, and many of the ideas
presented in them are drawn from it, viz., the chief azure
corresponding to the union of the flag, the pales corresponding to the
stripes, which together constitute a whole; the constellation of stars
also taken from the flag, and indicating a new State (composed of
thirteen States) dependent upon their union. As these are the principal
ideas presented in the arms of the United States, may we not reasonably
conclude that, being borrowed from the flag, they are the views that
prevailed at the time of its adoption, presented under another guise?
The reference to eternity, in the arms, was indicated by the circle of
stars in the flag; the reference to Providence, in the eye, was in the
flag presented in the field of thirteen stripes, a combination of the
red and white flags, which bore the mottoes: "_Qui transtulit
sustinet_," and an "Appeal to Heaven."

It is intimated, in some of these reports, that the colors for the flag
were adopted apart from other reasons, as implying certain virtues; of
the fact of their implying them there can be no doubt, but that they
were not immediately adopted into the flag for that reason, but rather
because they were already in use, with these meanings attached to them,
at least so far as the red and white colors were concerned, we think we
have conclusively shown. We shall presently offer some suggestions
relative to the blue color, which will indicate a more direct reason
for its adoption than the virtues implied by it.

But to return to the account of the flag. We remarked, under the head
of the Great Union Flag of the Colonies, that the stripes in the field
of the flag were not only designed to show the union of the thirteen
colonies, but also the number of members which composed it, and their
dependence as a whole upon the Union. The first change in the flag of
the United States, shows that this conclusion was a correct one. It was
directed in the following resolution:--

    "_Be it enacted_, &c.,  of May,
    Anno Domini one thousand seven hundred and ninety-five, the flag of
    the United States be fifteen stripes, alternate red and white. That
    the union be fifteen stars, white in a blue field." Approved
    January 13, 1794. (See Fig. 2, Plate III.)

This was the flag of the United States during the war of 1812-14.

In 1818, the flag of the United States was again altered, and, as we
are informed, on the suggestion of the Hon. Mr. Wendover, of New York,
a return was made to the thirteen stripes; as it was anticipated the
flag would become unwieldy if a stripe was added on the admission of
each State; and, moreover, by the plan proposed, the union of the old
thirteen States, as well as the number of members composing the
existing Union, would be presented by the flag of the United States.
Mr. W. also proposed the arrangement of the stars in the union into the
form of a single star. In this, there was a departure from the original
design, as the perpetuity of the Union ceased to be indicated by the
flag, as it had previously been in the circle of stars, except so far
as indicated by the several stars forming one large star.

The Resolution of 1818 was as follows:-

    "_Be it enacted_, &c., That from and after the fourth day of July
    next, the flag of the United States be thirteen horizontal stripes,
    alternate red and white; that the union be twenty stars, white, in
    a blue field.

    "And, that, on the admission of a new State into the Union, one
    star be added to the union of the flag; and that such addition
    shall take effect on the fourth day of July next succeeding such
    admission." Approved April 4, 1818.

The flag planted on the National Palace of the city of Mexico had
thirty stars in the union.

The following compliment was paid to this flag.

June 3, 1848, "Mr. Drayton submitted the following resolution; which
was considered, by unanimous consent, and agreed to:--

    "_Resolved_, That the Vice-President be requested to have the flag
    of the United States first erected by the American army upon the
    palace in the capital of Mexico, and now here presented, deposited
    for safe-keeping in the Department of State of the United
    States."--Page 370, Journal of the Senate 1847-48.

    The union of the United States flag at present contains thirty-one
    stars. (See Fig. 3, Plate III.)

We have, in the preceding pages, offered many reasons for concluding
that the devices in the flag, its colors, and the manner in which they
were combined, originated in some circumstance directly connected with
the history of the colonies, or in some practice which prevailed in the
mother country. Particularly was this the case in the adoption of the
emblem of union from the mother country. This leads us to make a few
remarks as to the prominence given to the color blue in the reports on
the adoption of the device for a Great Seal of the United States, and
in its being the ground of the uniform of the United States. We have
previously stated that its adoption was due to other circumstances
directly, than its being typical of the virtues of perseverance,
vigilance, and justice, though indirectly this meaning was involved in
its adoption. First, blue was a favorite color in the colonies, as is
proved by the fact of its being the uniform of the South Carolina
troops in 1775. For we have seen that Colonel Moultrie caused a large
blue flag to be made, with a crescent in one corner, to be uniform with
the troops; and by the fact that the pine-tree flag of New England was
a blue field, containing in the upper canton, next the staff, a St.
George's cross on a white ground, and a pine-tree represented in the
upper square formed by the cross. A reason for this color being a
favorite in New England, may perhaps be found in the circumstance,
that, in 1679, when the banner of the league and covenant was raised in
Scotland, it was a red flag, the borders of which were edged with
blue.[63] Borders of different color from the body of the flag, or from
the shield of the coat of arms, are in heraldry, a common distinction,
and as such was doubtless applied by the Covenanters (blue being the
color of the field of the banner of Scotland, as we have seen), to
indicate by whom this red flag was raised, and thus the blue color
became identified with the league and covenant. After the defeat of
Bothwell's Bridge, many of those people fled to the colonies,
particularly to New England and New Jersey.

          [63] Walter Scott's Old Mortality, vol. ii. p. 116.

That feelings kindred to those excited among the Covenanters were
aroused among the colonists, is shown by the mottoes on "the Union flag
with a red field," already spoken of as displayed on a liberty-pole in
New York city in 1775. Those mottoes were, "No Popery," and "George Rex
and the liberties of America." It was probably in reference to his
being commander of the armies of the colonies, united in a solemn
league and covenant in defence of civil and religious liberty, that
General Washington adopted as his badge a light blue riband, which had
already been identified with a similar league and covenant in Scotland.
At a later day, on the adoption of an Union flag as the flag of the
United Colonies, the color of the field of the union (derived, as was
the blue border of the red flag of the Covenanters, from the banner of
Scotland) being blue, this color became identified with that which gave
nationality to the colonies, viz., their union, and on this account was
adopted as the ground of the national uniform, and as the color for the
chief or union, both in the arms of the United States and in their

That the prevailing colors of the uniforms of the army at that time
corresponded to the colors of the flag, is a well-known fact. Thus the
facings of the blue coats were red, the color of the plumes white,
tipped with red, &c. The buff and blue, commonly regarded as the
continental uniform, was that of the general officers, and not of the
body of the troops. In the navy, the same was the case. The prevailing
colors of the uniform of the officers of the navy were blue and red;
those of the uniform of the marine officers, green and white: the
colors of the flag of the United States, and of the flag of the
floating batteries, before given, viz., white, with a green tree in the
middle, &c. &c.

That such considerations operate in the selection of colors for
uniforms, is proved by the fact that the uniform of the United States
corps of cadets, a corps instituted and kept up with a view to foster
and preserve military knowledge in our country, instead of being of the
national color, blue, is gray trimmed with black. This color for the
uniform of that corps was chosen in 1815, out of compliment to the
services of the brigade commanded by General Scott at Chippewa, &c., in
the war of 1812-14. The embargo and the war having cut off the supply
of blue cloths, the commissary-general of purchases was forced
temporarily to supply that brigade with a substitute of gray, trimmed
with black.

As this, then, was the origin of the color of the uniform of the corps
of cadets, may we not conclude that, for the reasons assigned, blue was
adopted as our national color, out of compliment to the Union, with
which, as we have shown, it was intimately connected.

Having given the preceding account of our National Flag, we now add the
names of those connected with its different phases.

1st. General Washington.

2d. Benjamin Franklin, Mr. Lynch, and Mr. Harrison; the Committee of
Conference, with General Washington, on the organization of the army,
of which Colonel Joseph Reed was Secretary.

3d. The Marine Committee; Mr. Bartlett, Mr. Hancock, Mr. Hopkins, Mr.
Deane, Mr. Lewis, Mr. Crane, Mr. R. Morris, Mr. Read, Mr. Chase, Mr. R.
H. Lee, Mr. Hewes, Mr. Gadsden, and Mr. Houston.

4th. The Board of War; Mr. J. Adams, Mr. Sherman, Mr. Harrison, Mr.
Wilson, and Mr. E. Rutledge.

With this array of names before us, of those who, with others,
established our liberty and Union, and the idea we have developed, that
the devices adopted by them for the National Ensign of our country were
intended to intimate the perpetuity of that country's union, may we not
truly say of WASHINGTON and his compeers, now resting in their graves,
as connected with those devices, There is neither speech nor language,
but their voices are heard among them. Their sound has gone out into
all lands, and their words into the ends of the world, proclaiming
their trust in Providence, that that Union should only perish, when the
sun and moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their

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