Don't Tread On Me Flag

The Don't Tread On Me flag, commonly known as the Gadsden flag is a historical American flag with a bright yellow field depicting a rattlesnake, coiled and ready to strike. Printed under the snake are the words Don't Tread On Me. This flag was named after its designer, American general Christopher Gadsden and the United States Marine Corps also used this flag as an early motto flag.

Benjamin Franklin first used the rattlesnake in 1751 when he referenced it in a satirical commentary that he published in his Pennsylvania Gazette. Previous to this it had been Great Britain's policy to send their convicted criminals to America. Benjamin Franklin suggested that America thank the British by returning the favor and send rattlesnakes to England.

It was during the French and Indian War in 1754 that Benjamin Franklin published his famous woodcut of a snake cut into eight sections for the first time. These eight sections represented the colonies starting with New England joined together as the head and ending with South Carolina as the tail. The colonies followed in the order of the coast. Under the snake were printed the words, Join or Die.

As the American Revolution approached the snake was used more and more as a symbol of the colonies. Writing under the pseudonym American Guesser, Benjamin Franklin published an essay stating that the rattlesnake would be a good symbol of the American spirit.

In the fall of 1775, the United States Navy was established. They were formed to intercept British ships who were trying to deliver war supplies to the British troops stationed in the colonies. To support the Navy in their mission the Second Continental Congress mustered five companies of Marines to accompany them on their first mission. These first Marines, who originated from Philadelphia, carried drums painted bright yellow with a coiled rattlesnake with thirteen rattles. Under the snake was painted the motto "Don't Tread On Me" with the thirteen rattles representing the thirteen original colonies. This was the first recorded telling of what the future Gadsden flag would symbolize.

Before the Navy departed for their first mission, Colonel Gadsden presented the commander-in-chief of the Navy, Commodore Esek Hopkins, with the yellow rattlesnake Don't Tread On Me flag to serve as his personal standard. Gadsden also presented a copy of the Don't Tread on Me flag to his state legislature in Charleston, South Carolina. This fact is recorded in the South Carolina congressional journal.

The Gadsden flag is considered to be one of the first flags of the United States and was later replaced with our current Stars & Stripes flag. The flag has been reintroduced many times since the American Revolution as a symbol of American patriotism.

The Gadsden flag is a symbol of American independence and freedom and has been used in modern politics as a show of disagreement with the current government. Recently it has been displayed at the Tea Party protest of 2009. The display of this flag is protected by the United States Constitution under the First Amendment.