• Exploring American History

A new Republic is characterized by its banner

The second American Revolution, better known as the War of 1812, had now found its place in the chronicles of history as a patriotic spirit made its way across the land of the young Republic. This newly born country, for which few but God held out hope for success, had actually defeated a mighty empire and won her independence. As this took place, the Stars and Stripes soon became celebrated as a mighty symbol of independence. Numerous gifted men now began to express homage to the banner and what it represented for not only their generations, but those whose future footsteps would also tread the land it represented.

Congregationalist clergyman Henry Ward Beecher expressed his feelings by saying, “A thoughtful mind when it sees a nation’s flag, sees not a flag, but the nation itself. And whatever may be its symbols, its insignia, he reads chiefly in the flag, the government, the principles, the truths, the history that belong to the nation that sets it forth. The American flag has been a symbol of Liberty and men rejoiced in it.

The stars upon it were like the bright morning stars of God, and the stripes upon it were beams of morning light. As at early dawn, the stars shine forth even while it grows light, and then as the sun advances that light breaks into banks and streaming lines of color, the glowing red and intense white striving together, and ribbing the horizon with bards effulgent, so on the American flag, stars and beams of many-colored light shine out together . . .”

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that officially established June 14 as Flag Day in honor of the Resolution of June 14, 1777. The following year, President Wilson stated:

This flag, which we honor and under which we serve, is the emblem of our unity, our power, our thought and purpose as a nation. It has no other character than that which we give it from generation to generation. The choices are ours. It floats in majestic silence about the hosts that execute those choices, whether in peace or in war. And yet, though silent, it speaks to us – speaks to us of the past, of the men and women who went before us, and of the records they wrote upon it.

We celebrate the day of its birth; and from its birth until now it has witnessed a great history, has floated on high the symbol of great events, of a great plan of life worked out by a great people . . .

Woe be to the man or group of men that seeks to stand in our way in this day of high resolution when every principle we hold dearest is to be vindicated and made secure for the salvation of the nation. We are ready to plead at the bar of history, and our flag shall wear a new luster. Once more we shall make good with our lives and fortunes the great faith to which we were born, and a new glory shall shine in the face of our people.”

Born amid the strife of battle, the Stars and Stripes have over the years become the recognized banner of free people who struggled to found a nation.

- On December 7, 1941, the Stars and Stripes flew over Pearl Harbor as the Navy’s flotilla was bombed by the Japanese. This same flag later found itself rippling above the United Nations Charter meeting in San Francisco and the Big Three Conference at Potsdam. It was later hoisted above the White House on August 14, 1945, as the Japanese accepted the terms of surrender, ending World War II.

- The United States declared war on Japan on December 8th, then Germany and Italy on December 11th. The banner which flew above the Capitol in Washington, D.C. on these days became a “flag of liberation” as it was carried by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to a number of historic places and then flown over the conquered cities of Rome, Berlin and Tokyo.

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