I believe this is the greatest thought I have ever had and ever will.
On this day in 1754, Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette publishes a political cartoon that you might recognize. It depicted a snake cut into eight sections with the words “Join, or Die” etched below the snake.
The snake imagery would come to carry great meaning during the Revolutionary War years. But do you know precisely what that snake symbolizes?
Franklin’s original cartoon, of course, was published two decades before the Revolution ever began. In 1754, Franklin wouldn’t have been concerned about British tyranny; he would have been concerned about French attempts to seize more territory during the French and Indian War.
Indeed, an article appeared next to his cartoon warning against the “present disunited State of the British Colonies.” Colonists were urged to join together to stop the French threat.
The “Join, or Die” motto was resurrected again about a decade later when the British Parliament passed the Stamp Act. By then, the motto and snake imagery were going through a subtle shift in meaning. The symbol was now more than just a call for unification. “[A]ngry colonists,” historian Daniel P. Stone observes, “started to use Franklin’s cartoon to encourage unification against Britain’s encroachments, transforming the original intention of the image by making it a call for revolutionary ideology.”
The meaning of the snake has been analyzed in various ways, but at least two ideas are worth mentioning.
First, the rattlesnake was, in many ways, a natural symbol for the colonists: It is indigenous to America. Moreover, rattlesnakes were described in literature of the period as “never Aggressors . . . for unless they are disturbed they will not bite, and when provoked, they give Warning by shaking their Rattle.”
In other words, Americans would not strike first. But they would definitely defend themselves.
Second, it’s worth noting that these years were marked by a fierce battle of words between Loyalists and Patriots: Who would control the narrative about the snake? Each side seized upon Biblical references to prove its point.
Loyalists described the snake as if it were Satan. It represented deception, trickery, and the fall of humankind. The serpent in the Garden of Eden had been treacherous. If Patriots were using a snake as their symbol, then they must be untrustworthy, too.
Patriots argued the opposite, naturally. To them, the snake represented wisdom, unity, and endurance. They cited Bible verses such as Matthew 10:16: “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”
In late 1775, Franklin himself finally jumped into the fray, authoring an article about the “Rattle-Snake as a Symbol of America.” In such situations, Franklin wrote, the “worthy properties of the animal” are to be considered. “[T]he base ones cannot have been intended.” He concluded by noting that the “antients considered the serpent as an emblem of wisdom, and in a certain attitude of endless duration.”
You won’t be surprised to hear that Patriots ultimately won this particular battle of words. The motto “Join, or Die” would be used repeatedly during those years, and the snake would emerge as a much-loved symbol of wisdom, patriotism, and endurance.
Today the imagery of a snake on a flag once again seems to hold different meanings for different people.
But then again, history does tend to repeat itself. Doesn’t it?
If you enjoy these history posts, please see my note below. 🙂
Gentle reminder: History posts are copyright © 2013-2021 by Tara Ross. I appreciate it when you use the shar e feature instead of cutting/pasting.
TDIH #OTD #AmericanHistory #USHistory #liberty #freedom #ShareTheHistory
My pondering: This verse isn’t a popular one these days in many circles as it requires work. It clearly shows we have a responsibility. Like Paul tells us in another passage, ‘to work out our salvation with fear and trembling ‘. God desires and commands us to work with Him and exercise our faith, then He, and only He, supernaturally enables our holiness to rise and meet His standard of perfection namely by:
leading of the Holy Spirit and the activation of God’s strength thru prayer, praise and thanksgiving plus the Work of Jesus on the cross, grace, mercy, imputation of rightousness and so many other blessings.
Further, it requires us to fear God which is a strong admonishen throughout the Bible. I think this word fear is best described in our culture as respect. God requires us to love and respect Him. Its a fear and respect of His awesome power that created all we see, know and no doubt, much more. He created the whole universe in 6 days. He promises to renovate it all in due time when He purges sin from the world once and for all. CS Lewis sure describes this holy, healthy fear well in the fictional character of Aslon, the lion from Narnia.
So we must work to eliminate the defilement which so easily attracts to our flesh and self. The Bible gives us instruction by being in the light, washing of the water and with the help of our brothers and sisters.
My prayer: I know sure well, by myself, all this is impossible. But by You oh LORD, nothing good is impossible. Help me please!
Forgive me for my sins. I know and claim full well You have, are and shall wash me white as snow.
This might be the most amazing data picture you see in a lifetime! It shows the 63,779 cross-references in the Bible. The white bars along the bottom represent each Bible chapter, Gen. 1 – Rev. 22. The line’s color shows the reference’s distance from the other. A cross reference is a scripture that references another scripture. Had the Bible been written by one person or at one time this would still be amazing; however, the Bible was written by 40 authors over the span of 1500 years on 3 different continents.
The Bible is complex, diverse, and intricate, and yet it has one unified message: God lovingly is redeeming all who believe! (From post by John Durham, Pastor of Highland Baptist Church, Waco, TX)
Positive change not just change for change sake only.
How ’bout you?
Best definition of religion I have come across. The word ‘religion’ gets slammed so often be both sides but it’s a legitimate word for our spiritual life.
This so well written by the man who coined the inspirational battlecry; ‘Give me freedom 🇺🇸 or give me death ☠️’
[From a speech given at Saint John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia on March 23, 1775 to the Virginia House of Burgesses; as first published in print in 1817 in William Wirt’s Life and Character of Patrick Henry.]”
― Patrick Henry, Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death.
Imagine yourself in this picture with Jesus.
I like to do so in the mornings and then carry on through the day.
Traveling WayWord and hopefully not wayward.