Patriotic movie star Chris Pratt recently was photographed wearing a tee shirt that featured an American flag with a coiled snake on top of it. The words “Don’t tread on me” were emblazoned below.  

As most members of the Tea Party know (heck, don’t most Americans know this?) the image is a derivative of the historical Gadsden flag.  National Review’s Robert Verbruggen wrote about it back in 2010:

In America, it was immigrants from this region and their children who introduced versions of the rattlesnake/“Don’t Tread on Me” flag in 1775, the year the Revolutionary War began. It appeared simultaneously among militia units from Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Virginia. One famous early appearance of this imagery occurred when the Second Continental Congress sent a group of Marines to help the Navy intercept and capture some British supply ships. The Marines carried drums that were painted yellow, with the words “Don’t Tread on Me” and the rattlesnake image. 

The same year, Christopher Gadsden — who represented South Carolina in the Continental Congress — chose Esek Hopkins to be commander-in-chief of the Continental Navy. Gadsden presented Hopkins with a personal standard: a yellow rattlesnake flag, with the words “Don’t Tread on Me.” He also presented the flag to his home state’s legislature in Charleston. Today, the rattlesnake flag’s yellow iteration (other colors were also used) is commonly known as the Gadsden flag

The design soon became a universal symbol of the Revolution; everyone from Minuteman militias to the New Continental Fleet used it. However, Betsy Ross’s Stars and Stripes was adopted as the official American flag in 1777.  

Left wing outlets accused the star of wearing a tee shirt that has ties to white supremacy – and that’s because members of the Tea Party used the image to represent them at the height of their popularity.  But the image – a sign of rebellion – has also even been used by gay rights activists.

No one owns it, no one can co-opt it.  

But don’t let a little thing like history get in the way of a good public shaming, right liberals?  

Image Credit: Gage Skidmore on Flickr

About The Author

Mark was a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, and served as the national coordinator. He left the organization to work more broadly on expanding the self-governance movement beyond the partisan divide. Mark appears regularly on television in outlets as diverse as MSNBC, ABC, NBC, Fox News, CNN, Bloomberg, Fox Business and the BBC. He’s highly sought after for the tea party perspective from print and electronic media outlets, from the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, L.A. Times, Washington Examiner, Politico and the The Hill. Mark blogs at, and his opinion editorials regularly run in many of the leading political newspapers both on and offline. Mark has a BA in English from San Diego State University and graduated with honors from University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in 1988. He practiced real estate and business law for almost a decade. For the last eleven years of his legal career he specialized in Internet advertising law. When not fighting for the future of our nation, Mark is an avid horseman, and lives in rural northern California with his wife Patty and two children.

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