- The Story
Have you ever seen this flag before?....well the truth is most haven't. If you have a belief in Divine Providence and or an interest in American history, you need to read this!. Its a true one page short story about a flag and philosophy so important that the Declaration of Independence, our most valuable document bows it's head to this. Very well could be the greatest untold story about the founding of America that you never learned in school.
The year was 1775 and our country was just about to face their greatest battle on American soil, it was the beginning of the American Revolution. At that time the British (the most powerful military in the world) was occupying Boston and problems in the colonies were rising. George Washington wanted to intercept incoming British ships with supplies, however the popular vote in Philadelphia disagreed with anything to do with upsetting the king, especially after the Boston Tea Party. Our General decided to take it upon himself behind closed doors to commission 6 Privately owned schooners and start his own navy, (rumored to be at his own expense) it was to be called "Washington's Secret Navy" and all boats were to have "An Appeal to Heaven" flags upon them. Also known as the "Washington’s cruiser flag", it was white flag with an evergreen tree in the middle and the words “An Appeal to Heaven" stitched across.
Just a few months after the first voyage, a British Brigantine named the "Nancy" was captured by one of our schooners the "Lee". On board were muskets, flint, gun powder, and other supplies in abundance. The prize was so great that it was said our country would have taken well over a year to produce. Not only was this the greatest capture of the entire Revolution, it also inspired all the founding fathers and the birth of our countries United States Navy as we know it today. The original schooners bearing the "Appeal to Heaven" flags continued capturing British ships and performing special services for the remainder of the war as our new Navy was being formed. In April 1776, The state of Massachusetts adopted this flag for its own navy. It's resolution for operations... "Resolved, that the uniform of the officers be green and white, and that the colors be a white flag, with a green pine tree, and the inscription, 'An Appeal to Heaven.'" The Massachusetts Navy sailed 25 ships during the war to defend the coast from the British and then eventually absorbed into the United States Navy.
In addition to the schooners, the flag was also known to be on floating batteries, river banks, in our towns, battlefields like Bunker Hill, and even places of most importance like our nations capital in Philadelphia.
The Pine Tree, also known as the "Tree of Peace" has been sacred by the Iroquois Indians for over a 1000 years in America. At a very troubling time in their history, a peacemaker united 6 great tribes from the Great Lake areas and established unity.. This great treaty was symbolized by burring their weapons under a pine tree (this is were "bury the hatchet" came from) and this tree was to be guarded by a bald eagle at its peak clutching 6 arrows, representing the six tribes...sound familiar?...our eagle has 13. The truth is, our founding fathers and early settlers were very much influenced by the Iroquois Indians. In addition, wood was so foundational to us, home building and ship building were vitally important. We had pine trees with trunks at 6' in diameter and as tall as 230' and all the wood was old growth, rumored to be the best in the world at the time, especially for the tall masts on ships. In the mid 1700's the king of England would see this value and wanted them for his own Royal Navy. He would mark trees and they were not to be touched even if on your property, also known as the "Broad Arrow Act", this alone would infuriate the colonists to no end and strengthen the pine tree's symbolism in America.
Just around the time of the signing of The Declaration, The Iroquois attended a Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia. This meeting was one of the many were the Indians would inspire our founders to unite with them in their ways of living, laws, and style of government. It was just after the this that the "Tree of Peace" became known as our new "Liberty Tree" and it would show itself on flags of all kinds, especially those in the fight for our freedom.
The phrase “An Appeal to Heaven “was created by John Locke from England in the mid 1600’s. Locke was one of the great philosophers of his time, he like other English Philosophers were also influenced by the Iroquois in America. "An Appeal to Heaven" comes from his studies on “Natural Laws", a system of right or justice common to all humankind and derived from nature rather than from the rules of society and the only judge is that of our creator. It is in these laws where our unalienable rights come from and the foundation on which this country was formed. The phrase "An Appeal to Heaven" connotes that when all resources and justices on earth are exhausted that only "An Appeal to Heaven" remains. And so is the example of our country when our rights were taken away by the tyrannical acts of King George that we as nation after countless attempts to resolve, Appealed to Heaven as our final judge before breaking ties with the crown.
And that is the short story of "An appeal to Heaven"....a special flag, a philosophy known by many, and the birth of a new navy, but there is something even greater....one night as I was further researching our founders I realized that our very own "Declaration of Independence" is Americas' "Appeal to Heaven" publicly declared. Thomas Jefferson who wrote the declaration was for a long time highly influenced by John Locke's work and if you read The Declaration of Independence you can see it is by all means the definition of An Appeal to Heaven in its format.
Originally, "Appeal to Heaven" was a beautiful name for my art that came to me one day when my boat was stranded on the Delaware River. It just so happens I was in the same approximate area where “An Appeal to Heaven" flags were known to be flown protecting Philadelphia. My first thoughts revolved around the Appeal as in beauty or attraction, and the Heavens being in direct relation to Nature, all surrounded by a spirit of American History. However, since this all started it has evolved into so much more. As I began to further research George Washington, The Founding Fathers, The Iroquois Indians, John Locke, The Pine Tree, and the role "An Appeal to Heaven" had in our freedom, my mind was in complete history overdrive and what was once just a beautiful name for art began to consume me in such a way that the history would take precedence over my work, something I truly didn't expect.
"Beautiful Art from Nature"?..... yes, but I must say, I am only an inspired artist and historian, what I learned here was so much greater, a most valuable lesson on a way to think and live by a people who in the darkest times in American history, when everyday daily life was a struggle in itself to survive, not only rose above incredible odds to defeat "The English Monarchy", but simultaneously created a new country founded on Natural laws. It truly is amazing when you think about it...how could these people with all the hardship have such strength, determination and character?......
Now, at the dawning of a new age that’s pressed with some difficulty worldwide, maybe we can learn from our own history and take from it the importance of people and what underlines their happiness. According to today’s mystics, they say it’s a time when peace will prevail on Earth, but in truth, it must start with ourselves. Peace, love, and happiness must always begin here, and only then can we demonstrate compassion to understand, inspire and serve; people, governments, and even nations. The truth is...darkness and negativity seem to creep up everywhere, and at every level, its undermining and takes away, but we the people do have the power to change and influence others. Our founders, signers, and citizens sacrificed all they had so we could have our freedom and their hard work and wisdom is well noted.
The pine tree will always be a symbol of world peace and "Appeal to Heaven" not only guided us in the founding of our freedom, but still resides patiently waiting as the greatest insurance policy ever, the genius in the preservation of our country and liberty.