Jean Schwieder


Having just celebrated the Fourth of July, did we stop to think what we were celebrating and what part our flag plays in the celebrations?

When the colonies were first settled, they were allowed a lot of freedom with very little interference from Britain. In 1773, Britain decided they needed more control over the colonies and the colonies needed to return revenue to the mother country and to pay for their own defense, which was being provided by Britain. The colonies did not agree with this, so they formed the First Continental Congress to persuade the British government to recognize their rights. Things then began to get hot. Many people decided that any kind of taxation without representation was tyranny. It was decided it was time to unite all of the colonies and to stand together against Britain. War was declared, which is known as the American Revolution.

During the course of the American Revolution, a second Continental Congress was formed. This group adopted the final draft of the Declaration of Independence. The Fourth of July is known as Independence Day because that is the day the Second Continental Congress adopted the full and formal Declaration of Independence. (Although other sources say the correct date was July 2.)

While celebrations on July Fourth during the American Revolution were modest, after the war ended in 1783 the Fourth of July became a holiday in many places. The celebrations included speeches, military events, parades and fireworks. Today, the Fourth of July is the most patriotic holiday celebrated in the United States and we still have speeches, parades and fireworks. The flag is always flown at these celebrations, though not during the American Revolutionary War. Searching the internet, I found the following about the evolution of the U.S. flag at:

n On June 14, 1777, in order to establish an official flag for the new nation, the Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act: “Resolved, That the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.”

n Act of January 13, 1794 — provided for 15 stripes and 15 stars after May 1795.

n Act of April 4, 1818 — provided for 13 stripes and one star for each state, to be added to the flag on the Fourth of July following the admission of each new state, signed by President Monroe.

n Executive Order of President Taft dated June 24, 1912 — established proportions of the flag and provided for arrangement of the stars in six horizontal rows of eight each, a single point of each star to be upward.

n Executive Order of President Eisenhower dated January 3, 1959 — provided for the arrangement of the stars in seven rows of seven stars each, staggered horizontally and vertically.

n Executive Order of President Eisenhower dated August 21, 1959 — provided for the arrangement of the stars in nine rows of stars staggered horizontally and 11 rows of stars staggered vertically.

I am concerned about the lack of patriotism that I see in our country now. After our 9/11 tragedy with the Twin Towers in New York, we experienced a renewal of patriotism in the United States. People seemed to realize the importance of supporting our country, our government and our military personnel. That support is diminishing and being replaced with arguing, complaining and unrest.

I remember marching in parades with our school band and have always loved to see the flag carried by scout troops, military groups and even local posses on their horses. We see the flag at rodeos, when the cowboys and cowgirls have their grand entrance. We have the flag presented at ball games and meetings. We are encouraged to own and fly a flag at our homes and businesses on holidays or every day if we wish. I don’t remember people having flag poles at their homes when I was young, but we always had a flag on a short pole that Dad would put out on the lawn on holidays. It is good to see how the flag is displayed in yards now on a daily basis. I appreciate those who show respect for the flag. But respecting the flag is not all of what patriotism is about. We don’t have to agree with all politicians to personally be patriotic--to have vigorous support for one’s country. But we do need to respect a person’s right to voice their opinion and we need to obey the laws.

Jean Schwieder is a writer who has spent her life involved in eastern Idaho agriculture. Her books, including past columns, are available by calling 208-522-8098 or by email at straddlin

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