On June 14, 1777, in Philadelphia, the Marine Committee of the Second Continental Congress adopted a resolution that read the following: “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field representing a new constellation.” On July 4th of the previous year, we had declared ourselves to be an independent nation, forever breaking the yoke of tyranny of our mother country, England. For too long we had been taxed without representation in Parliament. We had tried to make our voices heard, but the Mother Country refused to listen. We did not enter lightly into a revolution, but only took that step when it became clear that there was no alternative. This flag became the symbol of our new nation, the symbol of freedom.
What Do the Stars and Stripes Represent?
The thirteen stars and thirteen stripes represented the thirteen original colonies: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. As colonies (later states) were added to the Union, stars would be added to represent them, but the number of stripes would remain unchanged.
What Do the Colors Represent?
No significance was given to the colors in the commissioning of the flag. Perhaps they were chosen because they were the colors of the British flag. However, these same colors appear in the design of the Great Seal, and great significance is placed on them with regard to that national symbol. Consider the following from USFlag.org:
From the book “Our Flag” published in 1989 by the House of Representatives…
“On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress passed a resolution authorizing a committee to devise a seal for the United States of America. This mission, designed to reflect the Founding Fathers’ beliefs, values, and sovereignty of the new Nation, did not become a reality until June 20, 1782. In heraldic devices, such as seals, each element has a specific meaning. Even colors have specific meanings. The colors red, white, and blue did not have meanings for The Stars and Stripes when it was adopted in 1777. However, the colors in the Great Seal did have specific meanings. Charles Thompson, Secretary of the Continental Congress, reporting to Congress on the Seal, stated:
“The colors of the pales (the vertical stripes) are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness & valour, and Blue, the color of the Chief (the broad band above the stripes) signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice.”
The design of the United States Seal was commissioned on July 4, 1776, the day we declared our independence from England, and was officially adopted June 20, 1782.
June 14: Flag Day
Although not a federal holiday, June 14 is revered by many as National Flag Day, as established in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson. To commemorate this special day, businesses and homes across the nation will proudly display Old Glory.
While there may or may not be any symbolism in the colors of the flag, Mike Buss, a flag expert with the American Legion, sums up the significance of our flag perfectly when he says:
For us veterans, the flag represents why we served. We were there because the flag represented our freedoms — freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion.”
Banner of the free and brave,
Stars and Stripes—
Long may she wave!
|PHOTO CREDIT: Moran, Percy, artist. “The Birth of Old Glory,” 1917. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction Number LC-USZC4-2791|
Great Seal Photo Credit: Kevin Lamarque/REUTERS