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PROPOSED DIVISION OF UNION FLAG

Professor Samuel F B Morse (of code fame) was an opponent of war measures taken by the Government throughout the war, and as President for the Promotion of National Union before the war started, he favoured measures that might satisfy the demands of the South. If a National Convention failed in this respect then his second proposition was to agree to a temporary dissolution of the Union. He saw that this would involve "a total cessation on our part of the irritating process which for thirty years has been in operation against the South. If this system of vituperation cannot be quelled because we have 'freedom of speech'; if we cannot refrain from the use of exasperating and opprobrious language towards our brethren, and from offensive inter-meddling with their domestic affairs, then of course, the plan fails, and so will all others for a true union. If we cannot tame our tongues, neither union nor peace with neighbours, nor domestic tranquillity in our homes can be expected".

Part of his idea involved altering the national flag. He considered that it had historical and emotional significance for everybody, and therefore if the country were to be temporarily divided, so should the flag be. The blue field containing the stars was to be divided diagonally and contain the number of stars representative of the States in the Northern Confederation. The South was to have the lower half with their stars. Similarly, the thirteen stripes were to be divided longitudinally giving six and a half each. The two halves could be married again in either permanent union or for purposes of dealing with a foreign aggressor.

Although Morse's idea was an interesting one and had its practical merits, he underestimated the North's unwillingness to have the National flag tampered with, as well as the South's political desire for its own new one.

Information from: "Pictorial History of the Civil War in the United States of America" by Benson J Lossing.

Published Philadelphia 1866.

Joan Foxon, Washington Artillery


The above article first appeared in the ACWS Newsletter, October 1998