Don't Tread on Me
The Fourth of July never fails to reinspire my patriotism and sense of community with my fellow Americans, even when those fellow Americans are a mob of drunken cretins and teenagers trying to get out of downtown Chicago at 11pm.
I like seeing all the American flags. I do have my complaints about the American government, especially about how intimately the Washington D.C. politicians feel they should be involved in the daily lives of their subjects, I mean, citizens. But the flag isn't just a symbol of the American government. It's a symbol of shared American values -- especially our highest common value: freedom.
When it comes to symbolizing freedom and the spirit of '76, I do think there's a better American flag. With all due respect to the stars and stripes, I prefer the yellow Gadsden flag with the coiled rattlesnake and the defiant Don't Tread on Me motto.
The meaning of Old Glory can get mixed up with the rights and wrongs of the perpetually new-and-improved government. The meaning of "Don't Tread on Me" is unmistakable. There's also an interesting history behind this flag. And it's intertwined with one of American history's most interesting personalities, Ben Franklin.
The snake symbol came in handy ten years later, when Americans were again uniting against a common enemy.
In 1765 the common enemy was the Stamp Act. The British decided that they needed more control over the colonies, and more importantly, they needed more money from the colonies. The Crown was loaded with debt from the French and Indian War.
Why shouldn't the Americans -- "children planted by our care, nourished by our indulgence," as Charles Townshend of the House of Commons put it -- pay off England's debt?
Colonel Isaac Barre, who had fought in the French and Indian War, responded that the colonies hadn't been planted by the care of the British government, they'd been established by people fleeing it. And the British government hadn't nourished the colonies, they'd flourished despite what the British government did and didn't do.
In this speech, Barre referred to the colonists as "sons of liberty." In the following months and years, as we know, the Sons of Liberty became increasingly resentful of English interference. And as the tides of American public opinion moved closer and closer to rebellion, Franklin's disjointed snake continued to be used as symbol of American unity, and American independence. For example, in 1774 Paul Revere added it to the masthead of The Massachusetts Spy and showed the snake fighting a British dragon.
Meaning and Origins of the Second Amendment; The AK-47.
THE GROWING TYRANNY
Under the leadership of General Santa Anna, the government of Mexico was transformed into a military dictatorship (see the letter by S.F. Austin, p. 85, Texas and the Texans), ignoring the Constitution of 1824, which had cost many lives and had secured liberties not previously enjoyed by the people. The state of Coahuila did not cooperate with Santa Anna's plans, and the state of Zacatecas rebelled, but was brutally crushed by the military. One of Santa Anna's "reforms" was to reduce the number of the militia to one soldier for every five-hundred inhabitants, and to disarm the remainder. This arbitrary decree was a sufficient justification of Texas for her subsequent acts. Every one who knows the Texans, or who has heard of them, would naturally conclude that they never would submit to be disarmed. Any government that would attempt to disarm its people is despotic; and any people that would submit to it deserves to be slaves!