Image from The Gadsden Flag
From the London Chronicle.
The Old American Flag.
The American Standard is thus described. The colors of the American fleet have a snake with thirteen rattles, the fourteenth budding, described in the attitude of going to strike, with this motto “Don’t tread on me.” It is a rule in heraldry that the worthy properties of the crest bone shall be considered and the base one intended. The ancients accounted a snake or a serpent, an emblem of wisdom, and in certain attitudes of endless duration. The rattle snake is properly a representative of America, as this animal is found in no other part of the world. The eye of this creature excels in brightness that of any other animal. She has no eye-lid, and is therefore an emblem of vigilance. — She never begins an attack nor ever surrenders. She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage. When injured she never wounds till she gives notice to her enemies in danger.
No other of her kind show such generosity. When undisturbed and in peace, she does not appear to be furnished with weapons of any kind. They are latent in the roof of her mouth, and even when extended for her defense, appear to those who are not acquainted with her to be weak and contemptible, yet her wounds, however small, are decisive and fatal. She is solitary and associates with her kind only when it is necessary for their preservation. Her poison is at once the necessary means of digesting her food, and certain destruction of her enemies. The power of fascination attributed to her by a generous construction resembles America. Those who look steadily upon her are delighted and involuntarily advance toward her. She is frequently found with thirteen rattles, and they increase yearly. She is beautiful in youth, and her beauty increases with her age; her tongue is blue and forked as lightning.
Hillsdale Whig Standard (Hillsdale, Michigan) Jul 3, 1849