Did you know that our nation’s first flag was not the one Betsy Ross sewed in 1776? I may or may not have been taught that in American history while in school, and if so, I had certainly forgotten it (among many other lessons). A couple of historians, Dr. Jacob King and Dr. John Franklin, share how our first nation’s flag came into being. And believe it or not, the circumstances for the creation of that flag carries great distinction and importance for all believers.
The American colonies found themselves in turmoil in the summer of 1775 after shots had been fired and King George declared the colonies in rebellion. As war ensued, the Continental Congress on July 3rd appointed George Washington as general over the colonial forces. Waging war against the most powerful nation on earth at the time, Washington quickly concluded that naval vessels needed to be commissioned to intercept British shipping. Six schooners, most likely funded from Washington’s own pocket, became known as “Washington’s Secret Navy.” The ships needed a flag to fly under, but none existed at the time.
John Locke, a leading political philosopher of the era, had written, Second Treatise of Government, in which he argued that once a people had exhausted every possible means of redress in conflict with a sovereign, they were then permitted to appeal to heaven for the rectitude of their cause. So convinced of the rightness of their cause, the framers of the Declaration of Independence included the phrase, “appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions.”
Influenced by Locke’s argument, Washington chose to boldly affix the words Appeal to Heaven on a white background with a large pine tree in the center, thus creating our nation’s first flag – the Appeal to Heaven flag. The pine tree had long been a symbol of importance to the colonies. Some, more than 200 feet tall and up to 6 feet in diameter, were valued by the King of England and wanted them for his Royal Navy. Marking the trees and declaring them not to be touched infuriated the colonists and strengthened its symbolism, becoming known as the Liberty Tree in the fight for freedom.
Thursday May 7th is designated this year as the National Day of Prayer. I believe everyone would agree that America is certainly in need of a mighty move of God. As believers, let’s make a concerted effort to appeal to heaven on behalf of our nation asking God to bring forgiveness, healing, and unity. God has already given the guide to make that possible in 2Chron.7:14, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
To His Glory,