Flag Day seems to have been first observed in 1894, when, by order of the Governor of New York, the national flag was hoisted on the public buildings of that state in honor of the one hundred and seventeenth anniversary of its adoption by congress, June 14th, 1777. The idea has spread until every state in the Union has adopted the custom.
This year the flag has for us a deeper meaning than ever before. It means more to the world. It carries a message of universal hope and cheer. It has become the symbol of the world’s freedom. The world looks to us to save it, and by this sign we shall conquer. Our glorious banner proclaims America the hope of the world.
Let Flag Day be a day on which those who have come to us from other lands, and have here found freedom and opportunity, shall re-affirm their loyalty to the United States and her institutions; and let us all on that day pledge anew our allegiance to our flag, and our faith in those principles of liberty and justice upon which the Republic was founded.
The National Flag
There is the national flag! He must be cold, indeed, who can look upon its folds rippling in the breeze without pride of country. If he be in a foreign land, the flag is companionship, and country itself, with all its endearments. Who, as he sees it, can think of a State merely? Whose eye, once fastened upon its radiant trophies, can fail to recognize the image of the whole nation?
It has been called a “floating piece of poetry;“ and yet, I know not if it have any intrinsic beauty beyond other ensigns. Its highest beauty is in what it symbolizes. It is because it represents all, that all gaze at it with delight and reverence. It is a piece of bunting, lifted in the air; but it speaks sublimely, and every part has a voice. Its stripes of alternate red and white proclaim the original union of thirteen States to maintain the Declaration of Independence.
Its stars, white on a field of blue, proclaim that union of States constituting our national constellation, which receives a new star with every new State. The two, together, signify union, past and present. The very colors have a language which was officially recognized by our fathers. White is for parity, red for valor, blue for justice; and all together, bunting, stripes, stars, and colors. blazing in the sky, make the flag of our country, to be cherished by all our hearts, to be upheld by all our hands.
The American Flag
A thoughtful mind, when it sees a nation’s flag, sees not the flag only, but the nation itself ; and whatever may be its symbols, its insignia, he reads chiefly in the flag the government, the principles, the truths, the history, which belongs to the nation that sets it forth.
When the French tricolor rolls out to the wind, we see France. When the new-found Italian flag is unfurled, we see resurrected Italy. When the other three-cornered Hungarian flag shall be lifted to the wind, we shall see in it the long-buried but never dead principles of Hungarian liberty.
When the united crosses of St. Andrew and St. George on a fiery ground set forth the banner of old England, we see not the cloth merely; there rises up before the mind the noble aspect of that monarchy, which, more than any other on the globe, has advanced its banner for liberty, law, and national prosperity.
This nation has a banner, too; and wherever it streamed abroad, men saw daybreak bursting on their eyes, for the American flag has been the symbol of liberty, and men rejoiced in it. Not another flag on the globe had such an errand, or went forth upon the sea, carrying everywhere, the world around, such hope for the captive and such glorious tidings.
The history of this banner is all on one side. Under it rode Washington and his armies ; before it Burgoyne laid down his arms. It waved on the highlands at West Point; it floated over old Fort Montgomery. When Arnold would have surrendered these valuable fortresses and precious legacies, his night was turned into day, and his treachery was driven away, by the beams of light from this starry banner.
Let us then twine each thread of the glorious tissue of our country’s flag about our heartstrings ; and looking upon our homes and catching the spirit that has fallen upon us from the battlefields of our dead, let us resolve, come weal or woe, we will in life and in death, now and forever, stand by the Stars and Stripes.
They have been unfurled from the snows of Canada to the plains of New Orleans, in the halls of the Monte- zumas and the solitude of every sea ; and everywhere, as the luminous symbol of restless and beneficent power, they have led the brave to victory and to glory. They have floated over our cradles; let it be our prayer and our struggle that they shall float over our graves.
—Henry Ward Beecher.