The Meaning Of Don’t Tread On Me

meaning of don't tread on me

The Gadsden Flag

Contrary to popular belief Metallica did not coin the phrase DON’T TREAD ON ME.

But like Metallica, it is unmistakably American.

For centuries it has spoken to the hearts of millions who simply want the freedom to live their lives.  The same was true in the days of The American Revolution.

Or does it possibly mean something else?

After all, what did the teacher from Dazed and Confused say about a bunch of slave-owning, aristocratic, white males, who didn’t want to pay their taxes?  How can you sift through today’s obvious efforts at fake news and revisionist history?

The safest way to understand the Gadsden Flag, the rattlesnake, and the meaning of the phrase “DON’T TREAD ON ME,” is to understand the events leading up to The American Revolution.

The attacks on freedom during Revolutionary times were similar in some ways to the attacks on our history and our basic freedoms today.  But in case you’ve missed some of that, Ammo Atlas brings you our take on some more recent history.

Modern Use Of The Flag

Though the Gadsden Flag emerged in a non-racial and anti-British context, many with political agendas today have suggested otherwise.  In recent history accusations of racism and anti-government rebellion have plagued the Gadsden flag.

The Gadsden flag certainly was a symbol of rebellion in it’s original meaning.  However, it was not a rebellion without a clue, but a rebellion against tyranny.

Particularly in modern times, the Gadsden flag has been flown in the hands of many different races.  And being that the flag’s original meaning advocates for the right to freedom and self-defense for all, the charges of racism are a shameful distortion.

With that said, there are always those who misuse symbols and abuse their original meaning.  Whether the inverted cross, the modern day #hashtag, or even the swastika, redefinition of symbols through their misuse has and will continue to happen.

However unfortunate that may seem, it is important to recognize that is also a part of the freedoms secured by a free nation like the United States.

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The Fake News Agenda

Leading up to the midterm elections of 2010, massive grass-roots political rallies sprang up across America.  Placards in support of the Second Amendment and others carrying the phrase “DON’T TREAD ON ME” were commonplace.

Naturally, the flying of the Gadsden Flag was also true to type.  Mingled among freedom loving rally-goers were those who would deviate from the true meaning of these distinctively historic marks.

The fake news organizations leapt at the opportunity to silence the opposition and seize the moment as a method of censorship and to push gun control.  In a free nation like the USA anyone can throw mud on the integrity of a slogan or a flag.

And the Gadsden Flag has had it’s share of abusive misapplication, which is certainly shameful.  More shameful still are the coordinated attempts by the leftist media to undermine the basic rights secured by the First and Second Amendments.

Painful Recoil

The political left had overplayed their hand and it had backfired tremendously.  The result was sweeping Republican victories for the liberty-loving individuals among us.  And the political victories continued.

After winning the House of Representatives in 2010, the Republican majorities grew to record numbers not seen since the 1920’s.  Republicans won the Senate in 2014 and two years later the Presidency in 2016.

Rattlesnake Bitten

join or die cartoonIronically, the symbolism of the Gadsden flag had played out within our political system.  But those political victories would not have been possible without the concepts of government envisioned centuries ago, and even well before The Revolutionary War.

What is the meaning of the Rattlesnake?

The Over 20 years before the Revolutionary war Benjamin Franklin introduced the rattlesnake as a mascot for the American colonies.  In order to unite the colonies during the French and Indian war, Franklin published the first political cartoon in a newspaper.

His image brought light to the predicament of the colonies by depicting the rattlesnake divided with a message reading “Join, or Die.”

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Why did Franklin choose the Rattlesnake?

Leading up to the Revolutionary War, Benjamin Franklin explained why he depicted the American Colonies embodied in the rattlesnake:

“She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage.”…”but their wounds however small, are decisive and fatal:—Conscious of this, she never wounds till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of stepping on her.—Was I wrong, Sir, in thinking this a strong picture of the temper and conduct of America?”

When was “Don’t Tread On Me” first used?

With the Revolutionary War in full swing, Commander George Washington established the Continental Navy in 1775 to intercept incoming British supplies.  The Second Continental Congress authorized five companies of Marines to assist the Navy on their first mission.

These first Marines enlisted in Philadelphia carried drums painted yellow and depicted a coiled rattlesnake.  Thirteen individual rattles were painted on the drums to represent the colonies.  Also painted on the drums was the motto “Don’t Tread on Me.”

Commodore Esek Hopkins previously lead the Providence Train of Artillery before being appointed Commander of the Navy.  This unit’s gold flag featured a coiled rattlesnake and the motto “DO NOT TREAD ON ME” above an anchor, a pair of cannons, and the motto “In God We Hope.”

These two examples are the earliest known links between the American Militia, and the motto Don’t Tread On Me.

When did the Gadsden Flag Appear?

A seven member committee outfitted the Navy’s first mission.  Continental Colonel Christopher Gadsden was one of those seven members.  Gadsden presented his flag to the newly appointed Commodore Esek Hopkins.

Both of the men were very familiar with the flag’s imagery and motto.  As such, Commodore Esek Hopkins embraced the flag as the personal standard of his flagship, the Alfred.  The Gadsden Flag was first flown at the mainmast.

The congressional journals of South Carolina record Gadsden presenting a duplicate version of his flag on February 9, 1776.

The Gadsden Flag continued to be flown in connection with the American Military for years afterward.

Has the meaning of DON’T TREAD ON ME changed?

In July of 1776 The Declaration of Independence made an unmistakable statement of rejection to the British King George.  But it also made the statement that all men are created equal.  Early drafts of the document spoke harshly against slavery, referring to the evil practice as a “cruel war against human nature itself.”

In similar fashion, the Gadsden Flag, the snake and motto, made the statement that all people have the right to stand their ground against tyranny and abuse, and to defend themselves with lethal force if necessary.

But is the media correct to say that it’s meaning has changed? Does the Gadsden flag now stand in support of racism?

Really Fake News

On the contrary, quite the opposite is true.  The Gadsden Flag stands arm-in-arm with our Constitution as a bold warning to any would-be oppressors regardless of race. Both speak to the security to live freely, to speak freely, and to defend your freedoms when necessary.

And to paraphrase The Declaration of Independence; We institute our government to secure those rights, deriving their power from our consent to do so.

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Don’t Tread On Me Shirts

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Don’t Tread On Me Hat

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