What is the Meaning behind “Don’t Tread on Me” & “Come And Take It” Flag?
Since the beginning of 2022, and even around 2004, you probably heard or read about “Don’t Tread on Me” around the truck convoy that started in Canada, and now gaining more visibility since the War on Ukraine. However, did you know this flag originated in the Revolutionary War? It is also known as the Gadsden Flag. This popular, and historic, flag presents itself with a yellow backdrop portraying a timber rattlesnake about to “strike” over a patch of grass with the phrase “DON’T TREAD ON ME”, all letters in uppercase. Over the years there have been several instances seeing it displayed around for various reasons. Variations of the iconic snake design of this flag and motto are a common sight amongst gun owners of America.
The History of Don’t Tread On Me
Portrait by Charles Fraser
Christopher Gadsden was one of our Founding Fathers of the United States. He also served as a delegate to the Continental Congress, brigadier general in the Conventional Army and the leader of the South Carolina movement. During the Revolutionary War (1765-1783) he designed the Gadsden flag. Around 1754, a snake was seen on the “Join, or Die” cartoon of Benjamin Franklin. His goal was to portray the symbol to support a unified colonial government, which the Parliament did not want. When the United States was separating from the Britain Parliament, they began to send convicted criminals to America. In return, a “thank you” from Franklin suggested Britain should get rattlesnakes.
As time went on, that coiled rattlesnake turned out to be a representation of America supporting vigilance, assertiveness, individualism and most importantly FREEDOM. That phrase often translates for stepping, marching, or trample as to crush or injure someone or something. As the image is seen the snake’s body is coiled holding its ground, but ready to protect. Their fangs and tongue are out prepared to stand their ground. Since then, the snake and flag has been used as a representation for America across multiple political gain.
In the 2000 - 2010s, the Don’t Tread on Me flag - and the broader symbolism of the flag turned out to be more and more politicized. In the early 2000s, the slogan turned out to be associated with a variety of conservative, libertarian, pro-gun rights, or far-right political groups as way to put across their beliefs. Since a few supporters of these groups have been accused of racism, their critics view the flag from a different perspective. In 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had to hear a discrimination case that ended that summer.
What’s the Story Behind Come and Take It? The story behind “Come and Take It” started around 480 B.C. as “Molon labe” in the Battle of Thermopylae. The phrase saw it’s rise in the American Revolution when British tried to overtake Fort Morris in Georgia back in November of 1778. It was later used in 1835 during the Texas Revolution as the 1st flag used during the Battle of Gonzales, Texas. The disposition of the cannon immortalized on the flag has been disputed. Rumor has it that the Mexican Government and General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s troops melted it down along with other weapons.
Over the last 20 years it has come to be a symbol of resistance and the right to stand our ground in uncertain times around injustice and politics. Often it is used in tandem with the 2nd Amendment, making it a resembling that it wasn’t going to be an easy battle. In that sense, the slogan “Don’t Tread On Me,” “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death,” “Come and Take It” and many others are making political statements present. Even today, its meaning fits perfectly of what is happening on the War against Ukraine.
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