A Flag Day History of the Stars and Stripes
The American flag has gone through many changes since it was adopted 235 years ago by the Second Continental Congress. As the adoption of the Stars and Stripes is commemorated this Thursday on Flag Day, find out more about Old Glory's mysterious origins and its rise to iconic prominence.
When the American Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, the colonists didn't yet unite under a single flag. Instead, they fought mainly under unit or regimental flags, according to Marc Leepson, author of the book “Flag: An American Biography.” One flag of the time featured a picture of a coiled rattlesnake with the slogan “Don't Tread on Me,” while another showed a pine tree with the words “An Appeal to Heaven.” “There really wasn't anything that was stars and stripes, red, white and blue,” said Mike Buss, a flag expert with the American Legion veterans' organization. In June 1775, the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, created a united colonial fighting force known as the Continental Army. Some historians claim that George Washington, the army's commander-in-chief, ordered that a flag called the Continental Colors be raised the following New Year's Day during a siege of British-occupied Boston. But David Martucci, past president of the North American Vexillological Association, the world's largest group dedicated to the study of flags, believes Washington likely raised a British Union Jack instead. The Continental Colors, which contained 13 alternating red and white stripes with a Union Jack in the upper left-hand corner, was only used by the navy and perhaps at forts, according to Martucci. “It was sort of a compromise between the radicals who wanted to see a separate nation and the people who were more conciliatory and wanted to see some accommodation with the crown,” he said.
Either way, Washington realized soon after that it probably wasn't a good idea to fly a flag resembling that of the enemy, Leepson said. The Second Continental Congress was busy drafting a constitution known as the Articles of Confederation, seeking an alliance with France and supplying the war effort. But on June 14, 1777, it took time from its schedule to pass a resolution stating that “the flag of the United States be 13 stripes, alternate red and white” and that “the union be 13 stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” To this day, no one knows who designed the flag or why that particular color combination and pattern were chosen. Although legend holds that Betsy Ross made the first American flag in 1776 after being asked to do so by Washington, primary sources backing up that assertion are scarce.
During the remainder of the Revolutionary War, the Stars and Stripes was mainly used for naval purposes, but afterwards it took on a national role. By 1794 two new states had been added to the Union, and Congress passed an act declaring that the flag would henceforth contain 15 stripes and 15 stars. More states kept joining, including Tennessee in 1796, Ohio in 1803, Louisiana in 1812, Indiana in 1816 and Mississippi in 1817. Nonetheless, the flag featured 15 stripes and 15 stars until 1818, when Congress passed a new act providing for 13 stripes in honor of the 13 original colonies and one star for each state.
It was almost unheard of for individuals to fly the U.S. flag until the Civil War broke out in 1861, at which time the Stars and Stripes suddenly became a popular symbol in the North, according to Leepson. “This is the beginning of what some people call the cult of the flag, the almost religious feeling that many Americans have for the red, white and blue,” he said. In 1870 the Betsy Ross legend took off when her grandson held a press conference touting her possible role in sewing the first flag, and the earliest flag protection laws appeared not long after. Meanwhile, in 1885, Wisconsin teacher Bernard Cigrand originated the idea for a national flag day.
In 1912, President William Howard Taft signed an executive order that, for the first time, clarified what the flag should look like. Up until then, some flags were oddly proportioned, Leepson explained, or even had six- or eight-pointed stars. Four years later, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation officially establishing a nationwide observance of Flag Day on June 14, the anniversary of the Flag Resolution of 1777. And in 1949, President Harry Truman signed legislation designating June 14 of each year as National Flag Day. Though Flag Day is not a federal holiday, the U.S. government encourages its citizens to display Old Glory outside of their homes and businesses. The tradition is not widely observed, however. “To most folks, unfortunately, Flag Day is not on their radar screen,” Buss said.
From the Washington Times
Panetta fears ‘another Pearl Harbor' in cyberattack
by Kristina Wong
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta warned Wednesday that a cyberattack on the United States could cause “another Pearl Harbor” by blacking out private and government electric power grids and throwing the nation into a panic.
“I think the more this technology develops, the more the will to potentially use it is going to take place,” he testified before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on defense. “I think there's a high risk.”
Mr. Panetta said U.S. private and public sectors are targets of hundreds of thousands of attacks every day.
“I'm very concerned at the potential in [cyberwarfare] to be able to cripple our power grid, to be able to cripple our government systems, to be able to cripple our financial systems,” he said.
“It would virtually paralyze this country. And as far as I'm concerned, that represents the potential for another Pearl Harbor, as far as the kind of attack that we could be the target of, using [cyberwarfare].”
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, added that the Defense Department needs to develop rules of engagement for cyberspace.
“These things occur at network speed,” he told the committee. “This is not something where we can afford to, you know, convene a study after someone has knocked out the East Coast power grid.”
Mr. Panetta and Gen. Dempsey also warned lawmakers that the looming “sequestration” defense cuts would be disastrous for the nation's military preparedness.
The automatic cuts, scheduled to go into effect Jan. 2 if Democrats and Republicans fail to come up with a long-term budget solution, would cost the Pentagon about $500 billion in projected spending over 10 years on top of the $492 billion that President Obama and congressional Republicans already agreed to in last summer's deficit-cutting budget.
Arizona prepares to enforce strict immigration law
by Stephen Dinan
Arizona is already gearing up to enforce its strict immigration law as it anticipates a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court sometime this month, with Gov. Jan Brewer issuing an executive order this week telling police to bone up on the details of the law.
Mrs. Brewer ordered that training materials produced to help police understand the law and its limits should be distributed throughout the state in preparation for a ruling.
The materials, created by a state board that sets standards for all law enforcement, include a DVD designed to help police understand the circumstances that would let them question someone about immigration status.
That power has been the most controversial part of the law, SB 1070, which Mrs. Brewer signed in 2010 but was largely halted by lower federal courts as an infringement on federal powers.
In her order, Mrs. Brewer said the materials need to “make clear that an individual's race, color or national origin alone cannot be grounds for reasonable suspicion to believe any law has been violated.”
Among other provisions, the Arizona law requires police to check the immigration status of those they have encountered during their duties and have reasonable suspicion are in the country illegally.
Immigrant-rights groups and civil liberties organizations said SB 1070 would lead to racial profiling, but that has yet to be tested in court.
Instead, the Obama administration sued to halt Arizona's law, arguing it would set the stage for a patchwork of laws throughout the country and infringe on the federal government's exclusive rights to set immigration policy.
The Supreme Court heard arguments in the case in late April and is expected to rule before the end of June, when its 2011-2012 term concludes.
During oral arguments the justices seemed to take a dim view of the government's challenge to at least parts of the law, saying the state seemed to want to push federal officials to enforce their own laws rather than try to compete with them.
The Obama administration said it should be allowed to determine the extent of calls it gets from local authorities to respond to illegal immigrants, but the justices said the government can always ignore those calls if they want.
The administration appeared on firmer ground, however, when it argued Arizona should not be allowed to impose its own state penalties, such as jail time against illegal immigrants who try to seek jobs.
In her executive order, Mrs. Brewer said authorities should be prepared to update their police training materials with any guidance the Supreme Court gives on how to enforce the law.
She issued a similar executive order in 2010 when the law was to go into effect, and decided with the court ruling pending it was wise to make sure police were prepared.
“The governor thought it was an appropriate time to revisit that and make certain law enforcement across the state of Arizona is as prepared as possible for the partial or full implementation of this law,” said Matt Benson, a spokesman for the governor.