Which Flag is Which?
by Richard McDonald
The people of the United States actually have two national flags: one for our military government and another for the civil. Each one has fifty stars in its canton and thirteen red and white stripes, but there are several important differences.
Although most Americans think of the Stars and Stripes (above left) as their only flag, it is actually for military affairs only. The other one, meant by its makers for wider use (peacetime), has vertical stripes with blue stars on a white field (above right). You can see this design, which bears civil jurisdiction, in the U.S. Coast Guard and Customs flags, but their service insignias replace the fifty stars.
I first learned of the separate, civil flag when I was reading Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, published in 1850. The introduction, titled "The Custom House," includes this description:
From the loftiest point of its roof, during precisely three and a half hours of each forenoon, floats or droops, in breeze or calm, the banner of the republic; but with the thirteen stripes turned vertically, instead of horizontally, and thus indicating that a civil, and not a military post of Uncle Sam's government, is here established.
It took me two years of digging before I found a picture that matched what he was describing: my second clue was an original Illuminated History of North America (1860). If this runs against your beliefs, look up those two references.
History book publishers contribute to the public's miseducation by always picturing the flag in military settings, creating the impression that the one with horizontal stripes is the only one there is. They don't actually lie; they just tell half the truth. For example, the "first American flag" they show Betsy Ross sewing at George Washington's request, was for the Revolution - of course it was military.
The U.S. government hasn't flown the civil flag since the Civil War, as that war is still going on. Peace has never been declared, nor have hostilities against the people ended. The government is still operating under quasi-military rule.
You movie buffs may recall this: In the old Westerns, "Old Glory" has her stripes running sideways and a military yellow fringe. Most of these films are historically accurate about that; their stories usually took place in the territories still under military law and not yet states. Before WWII, no U.S. flag, civil or military, flew within the forty-eight states (except in federal settings); only state flags did. Since then, the U.S. government seems to have decided the supposedly sovereign states are its territories too, so it asserts its military power over them under the "law of the flag."
Today the U.S. military flag appears alongside, or in place of, the state flags in nearly all locations within the states. All of the state courts and even the municipal ones now openly display it. This should have raised serious questions from many citizens long ago, but we've been educated to listen and believe what we are told, not to ask questions, or think or search for the truth.
1. hornswoggled: deceived. The term comes from the traditional image of cuckolded husbands wearing horns.Editor
2. canton: The rectangular section in the upper corner of a flag, next to the staff.
3. The Scarlet Letter: An Authoritative Text, edited by Sculley Bradley, W. W. Norton, New York, 1978, pp. 7-8.
4. There is also a picture of the Coast Guard flag in Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged, G. & C. Merriam Company, Springfield, Mass., 1966.
5. For more about the law of the flag, see "A Fiction-at-Law . . ," in the printed version of Perceptions Magazine May/June1995, Issue 9, page 11.
About the author: Richard McDonald is a California Citizen domiciled in The California state Republic. He does legal research and has his own site on the web, The Citizens Forum File area. hornswog.htm