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Flag Desecration
"Shoot if you must, this old grey head, but spare your country's flag"
John Greenleaf Whittier
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Texas

v.

Johnson
Flag Desecration

Chief Justice Rehnquist Dissent
June 21, 1989
Seal Of The Supreme Court
Excerpt:

The American flag played a central role in our Nation's most tragic conflict, when the North fought against the South. The lowering of the American flag at Fort Sumter was viewed as the start of the war. G. Preble, HISTORY OF THE FLAG OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (1880). The Southern States, to formalize their separation from the Union, adopted the "Stars and Bars" of the Confederacy. The Union troops marched to the sound of "Yes We'll Rally Round The Flag Boys, We'll Rally Once Again." President Abraham Lincoln refused proposals to remove from the American flag the stars representing the rebel States, because he considered the conflict not a war between two nations, but an attack by 11 States against the National Government. By war's end, the American flag again flew over "an indestructible union, composed of indestructible states." Texas v. White (1869).

One of the great stories of the Civil War is told in John Greenleaf Whittier's poem, "Barbara Frietchie".

Poem Excerpt:

Barbara Frietchie
John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)
On that pleasant morn of the early fall
When Lee marched over the mountain wall,
Over the mountains winding down,
Horse and foot, into Frederick town.

Forty flags with their silver stars,
Forty flags with their crimson bars,
Flapped in the morning wind: the sun
Of noon looked down, and saw not one.

Up rose old Barbara Frietchie then,
Bowed with her fourscore years and ten;

Bravest of all in Frederick town,
She took up the flag the men hauled down;

In her attic-window the staff she set,
To show that one heart was loyal yet.

Up the street came the rebel tread,
Stonewall Jackson riding ahead.

Under his slouched hat left and right
He glanced: the old flag met his sight.

"Halt!" the dust-brown ranks stood fast,
"Fire!" out blazed the rifle-blast.

It shivered the window, pane and sash;
It rent the banner with seam and gash.

Quick, as it fell, from the broken staff
Dame Barbara snatched the silken scarf;

She leaned far out on the window-sill,
And shook it forth with a royal will.



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