Pine Tree Flag
The Pine Tree Flag, also known as the flag of Washington's Cruisers, bears the inscription on it of An Appeal to Heaven on a white background, along with a representation of the Liberty Tree in the center. The flag bears a strong association with the ideals of Natural Law.
In the fall of the year 1775 the colonists created a fleet of six ships known as Washington's Cruisers. These brave little vessels sailed forth to capture British stores and ammunition bound for America's shores. The ships were the "Lynch," the "Franklin," the "Lee," the "Harrison," the "Warren," and the "Lady Washington". The Lee was the only one of this first American Fleet to meet with success upon the high seas, capturing the British brig Nancy, carrying arms, ammunition and provisions to the British Army in America.
These "Washington's Cruisers" flew the first national flag. It was a white flag bearing a pale green pine tree with the motto "An Appeal to Heaven."
This flag was officially endorsed by the Massachusetts Council, which in April 1776, passed a series of resolutions providing for the regulation of the sea service, among which was the following:
Resolved, That the uniform of the officers be green and white, and that they furnish themselves accordingly, and that the colors be a white flag with a green pine-tree and the inscription "An Appeal to Heaven."
For a more detailed treatment, see Liberty Tree.
In fact, it was on their coins as early as 1652, and probably on some of their flags in earlier days. And just after the battles of Lexington and Concord, the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts made an address to their brethren in England in which occurred the following sentence: “Appealing to Heaven for the justice of our cause, we determine to die or be free.” It was from this address that the motto “Appealing to Heaven” was taken.
In September two floating batteries were fitted out upon which howitzers were placed for the purpose of besieging Boston. These two batteries carried a flag having on it a pine tree and the motto “An Appeal to Heaven.” This flag had no official recognition at that time, but on April 29, 1776, the Massachusetts Council passed a resolution defining the uniforms for its officers and the colors for its troops, the colors being this flag, having a white field, a green pine tree and the motto “An Appeal to Heaven.”
In September, 1775, Congress decided to fit out two schooners to be used as privateers, and when they were about ready to sail Col. Reid, who was the private secretary to General Washington, wrote a letter to Colonels Glover and Moylan, who, whilst they were not to have personal command of the vessels, had supervision over them, requesting that they adopt some flag or signal by which our vessels might know each other on the high sea and suggested that they use this flag on their vessels. The suggestion came too late, for on the next day Col. Moylan replied stating that the vessels sailed the day before, and, not having the new colors, they sailed under their old, but as a signal they were to be flown from a certain point of the rigging, technically known as the “main topping lift.” The fact is that this flag was largely used, especially at sea, for quite a while during that war, and was especially popular with the northern colonies.
The design of the Pine Tree Naval Flag was suggested to General Washington by Colonel Joseph Reed. According to some early portraits published in London around the time of the American Revolution, this flag had the words "Liberty Tree" across the top and the bottom of the flag contained the phrase "An Appeal to God".
The White Pine, or Pinus Strobus, had other important points of symbolism. It has long been regarded as the "monarch of the forest". For many American Indians, it is considered the "Tree of Peace".
The inspiration and influence of John Locke and God as the Supreme authority in everybody's lives, and that God is greater than Government is acknowledged. When governments become abusive of the people, the people have one last resort and that is to appeal to the Almighty to resolve their grievances. Locke wrote:
Where an appeal to the law, and constituted judges, lies open, but the remedy is denied by a manifest perverting of justice, and a barefaced wresting of the laws to protect or indemnify the violence or injuries of some men, or party of men, there it is hard to imagine any thing but a state of war: for wherever violence is used, and injury done, though by hands appointed to administer justice, it is still violence and injury, however coloured with the name, pretences, or forms of law, the end whereof being to protect and redress the innocent, by an unbiased application of it, to all who are under it; wherever that is not bona fide done, war is made upon the sufferers, who having no appeal on earth to right them, they are left to the only remedy in such cases, an appeal to heaven.
Where there is no judge on earth the appeal lies to God in Heaven. That question then cannot mean who shall judge, whether another hath put himself in a state of war with me, and whether I may, as Jephtha did, appeal to Heaven in it? Of that I myself can only judge in my own conscience, as I will answer it at the great day to the Supreme Judge of all men.
This concept of "appealing to heaven" was especially true at the time of the American Revolution, where the colonists believed that King George III had failed them and only God would protect them from the King's wrath. Throughout the writings of the Founding Fathers, phrases that indicate protection from divine Providence are common, and even appear in the Declaration of Independence itself.
- Our Navy, the Standard Publication of the U.S. Navy, Volume 14
- Flags of the World
- Harper's Round Table, Volume 17
- The Register of the Kentucky State Historical Society, Volume 13
- Our Flag: Its History and what it Stands for
- History of the Lake Huron Shore: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers
- Tree Details: Pine, Eastern White - Pinus strobus
- Two Months on the Tobique, New Brunswick: An Emigrant's Journal, 1851
- Separating the Trees from the Forest
- State Botanical Symbols
- Great Tree of Peace: the White Pine
- The Lockean Moment: The Language of Rights on the Eve of the American Revolution: An Inaugural Lecture Delivered Before the University of Oxford on 15 May 2001
- "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."
- The true history of the flag is far different from the stories we learned as children, yet every bit as interesting, Orange Coast Magazine, July 1988
- The pictorial field-book of the Revolution; or, Illustrations, by pen and pencil, of the history, biography, scenery, relics, and traditions of the War for independence, by Benson John Lossing - Contains an early illustration of the flag