Why are people flying the Don't Tread on Me Flag?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock since 2008, you’ve probably seen the Don’t Tread on Me flag in someone’s yard, or on someone’s hat or shirt. It’s brilliantly eye-catching with its primary yellow color and cool snake design on it, but of course there’s more to it than simply being a cool piece of artwork. So we’re going to go over the history of the Don’t Tread on Me flag, tell you what it means and then tell you where you can pick up some awesome Don’t Tread on Me merch.

Don’t Tread on Me Flag History

The Don’t Tread on Me flag is also called the Gadsden flag because it was created by Christopher Gadsden. Gadsden was a politician and soldier from South Carolina. 

It was first flown and debuted on an American warship on the first naval mission of the American Revolutionary War. This first mission involved a group of Marines intercepting British ships full of supplies for war, which the Second Continental Army needed. So, the flag was flown to tell the British army basically that America was not to be messed with.

During that time it was the snake, not the eagle, that represented America and this flag became the symbol for the Revolutionary War, and America at large. Benjamin Franklin was particularly fond of the flag because he said that a rattlesnake wouldn’t back down when provoked, and he felt the flag embodied the “temper and conduct of America”.

In fact, the snake imagery being associated with America was Franklin’s idea. He jokingly (we hope) wrote that maybe Americans should repay Britain’s shipment of convicted criminals to the colonies by sending them a shipment of snakes, “particularly in the gardens of the Prime Ministers, the Lords of Trade, and Members of Parliament; for to them we are most particularly obliged.” Franklin also used snake imagery when he published the country’s first political cartoon that read “Join or Die” with a picture of the American colonies represented as pieces of a segmented snake. 

There’s a bit of a negative connotation behind the flag among Liberals right now because in 2014 a black federal employee filed a complaint against another employee for frequently wearing clothing depicting the flag and stated that Gadsden “was an owner and trader of slaves” and that the flag had become “a historical indicator of white resentment against blacks stemming from the Tea Party.” 

There’s a rainbow version of the flag, too. It was used in the 1990s by a self defense group that was part of Queer Nation/San Francisco. Then it was flown again after the 2016 Florida nightclub shootings, and it had the words “#shootback” on the bottom. 

What Does the Don’t Tread on Me Flag Mean?

First, let’s talk about the words used in the phrase “Don’t Tread on Me”. In this context, “tread” doesn’t just mean “walk”, but to “trample or crush something with the injurious intent”. It’s an old-school way to say “step off”. 

Somewhere during the 2000’s, the Gadsden flag started being used by the Libertarian party, as well as many conservative groups. It’s flown by anyone who doesn’t appreciate their liberties being taken away, their rights infringed upon, or loads of big government interference in their lives. These people are all for a small government with less power and reach.

Best Don’t Tread on Me Flag Merchandise

Neck Gaiter- Don't Tread On Me Gaiter

If you’re looking for a way to express your opposition to vaccine and mask mandates while still following the law, this is the product for you! It’s also a great choice for motorcycle and cycling enthusiasts, or people who enjoy jogging or nature walks, but don’t want to breathe in loads of pollution. It perfectly depicts the Gadsden flag, with a yellow background, a coiled rattlesnake, and the words “Don’t Tread On Me”. It’s made from a stretchy polyester microfiber, so one size will fit most people. And it’s made with quality supplies, making it a great value for the price!

Yellow Gadsden Flag- Don't Tread On Me Flag

Of course, this wouldn’t be a good list if we didn’t include at least one actual yellow Gadsden flag, and we chose the best one on the market! It’s a 3x5 foot flag with a yellow background that depicts a rattlesnake and the famous words “Don’t Tread On Me”. You can display this flag either indoors or outdoors, and it makes a great gift.

Enough is Enough Don't Tread on Me- Yellow Gadsden Flag Decal

In a really neat bit of collaboration, artists have combined both the Gadsden flag with the Thin Blue Line flag to create a flag with symbolism that both tells people to back off, and also supports the men and women in blue. This 5 inch round reflective decal depicts the iconic black rattlesnake with a blue belly, a yellow background with the blue line through it, and the words “Enough Is Enough Don’t Tread On Me”. It’s a great gift for police officers or their families, and it’s also a great way to show your support!

Police T-Shirt- Don't Tread on Me Shirt- Police Officer Gift

This is a really interesting take on the Gadsden flag. It has the traditional black rattlesnake on it, but rather than a yellow background, it has a distressed American flag with red stripes and the thin blue line. The snake has a blue belly, representing the thin blue line, and it reads “Enough Is Enough Don’t Tread On Me”. This is an excellent gift for police officers or current police officers, and it’s a great way to back the blue!

Police Officer Gift- Don't Tread on Me Coffee Mug- Thin Blue Line Coffee Cup

This coffee mug depicts a black rattlesnake with a blue underbelly, a distressed American flag with the thin blue line, and the words “Enough Is Enough Don’t Tread On Me”. This is a great statement piece for anyone in the criminal justice career field. It makes a great gift for police officers, current or former, and it can be a way for family members to show off their proud support of the police officers in their lives!


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