Franklin Flag

02/06/16

 

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                                                                                      "Franklin Flag"          

                                                                                                       

      The "Franklin Flag" that was given for foreign recognition before the first national flag was adopted was similar to the one we know today. Itís colors are red, white and blue, and it had thirteen stripes and thirteen white stars on a blue background. The difference between the standard described by Mr. Franklin and the first official flag is simply that, in the former, four of the stripes are blue, the others being red and white, and its stars had eight points instead of five.

      While Benjamin Franklin was our ambassador to Paris in 1777, John Paul Jones was creating so much havoc on the high seas with his raids on the British Merchant Marine and coastal villages that the Admiralty issued orders to have him hung as a pirate if he could be captured. The reason given for the order was a legalistic one -- he did not fly the flag of any recognized nation. While Ambassador Franklin pondered possible solutions to this problem, the Dutch Ambassador, acting for his government, asked for a description of the United States Flag. As far as Mr. Franklin knew, no national flag existed. Nevertheless, he gave his visitor a description of what we now call the "Franklin or Serapis Flag." This description was sent to the Dutch Fleet, along with the orders that it be recognized on the high seas. Shortly afterwards, the Ambassador of the two Sicilyís came to call, making the same request. He also received a description of the flag, and forwarded similar orders to his countryís fleet. Mr. Franklin, then apparently, had the flag made and sent to Jones so that it could be flown at his ships' masthead. By doing this, he could avoid being treated as a pirate by other countries. Thus the United States, through it's Navy, was first given official recognition by foreign countries. Meanwhile a ship from the United States was on its way to Paris with a notice that a "Resolve" of Congress of June 14, 1777, had adopted the now familiar "Stars and Stripes".  No one knows who designed or made this flag for Mr. Franklin.

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