Don’t Tread on Me is a very strong statement in the United States with very deep historical roots. The phrase was written under the image of a rattle snake and emblazoned on a yellow flag. This is known as the Gadsden flag and falls within the historical flags of America.
What Does It Mean?
The symbolism in the flag partnered by the image holds deep meaning. Basically, the “Don’t Tread on Me” phrase combined with the snake ready to strike is a warning. This tells people not to step on or take advantage of the Americans or they will strike.
The use of the snake or more specifically the rattlesnake did not happen by chance. The fact is that the eastern diamondback rattlesnake and the timber rattlesnake were both fairly abundant within the colonies. In a satirical article, Benjamin Franklin suggested that the Americas send rattlesnakes to Britain as a response to their sending of convicted criminals to the colonies.
Development of the Flag
The Gadsden flag was created by Christopher Gadsden who was an American statesman and general. Currently, there are several variations of this flag but the message remains the same. Following are some of the minor changes that may be found for the Gadsden flag.
- The typeface can either be serif of sans-serif.
- The word “Don’t” may be written with or without the apostrophe.
- The earliest versions of the flag show that the rattlesnake is facing to the left. However, some versions today show that the snake is facing the right.
- Most representations of the flag dating from 1887 to 1917 show a completely yellow background where the snake is resting. A recent addition however, is the green grass beneath the snake.
- Some parts of the United States today have declared the flag unsavory with some uncomforted reports about arrests on people who have the flag on display. Fair recently, the city of New Rochelle, New York have actually removed the flag from their military armory. The reasoning was that the flag is often used by the tea party movement.
Uses of the Flag
Upon development, the flag was used by various groups within America. The Continental Marines is one of the most popular groups that used this flag, unfurling it side by side with the Moultrie flag. The United States Navy also utilized an earlier version of the flag.
The first use of this flag however, was by Commodore Esek Hopkins. He was the first Commander in Chief for the New Continental Fleet. His ships sailed for the first time in year 1776 on the month of February. It was then showed by Colonel Christopher Gadsden to the Continental Congress.
Today, the flag is being used by the Tea Party Movement – which is why the symbol is currently getting some bad reputation. Still, the rattlesnake is still a powerful image and is actually being used by Nike in support of the US national soccer team for the males. Even the band Metallica has recorded a song entitled “Don’t Tread on Me.”
Why Is This Important?
The “Don’t Tread on Me” flag is a very important representation of American history. Nowadays, the United States is proud about its freedom – sometimes even stating that it is the freest country in the world. The Gadsden flag however, represents the time when America is in the process of fighting for its freedom. Therefore, it is a wonderful symbol of the country’s strength and willpower- leading it to become the world leader it is today. Young Americans will do well to know the impact and underlying meaning of this flag to their history.
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