The phrase “Appeal to Heaven” is a particular expression of the right to revolution used by British philosopher John Locke in his book “Second Treatise on Civil Government” which was published in 1690. The statement refutes the theory of the divine right of kings. Locke’s words were well-known and often quoted by colonial leaders prior to the fight for American independence in 1776.

Those words, “An Appeal to Heaven” were used on a flag designed by General George Washington’s secretary, Colonel Joseph Reed. The flag contained those words at the top of the flag in black letters on a white background. In the middle of the flag was a large green pine tree. This flag first flew over a squadron of six ships commissioned under George Washington’s authority as commander in chief of the Continental Army.

The pine tree has long been a symbol for the colonies of New England. The white pine trees found in New England often exceeded heights of 150 feet and were highly desirable for constructing masts in shipbuilding. As a result, England reserved 24-inch diameter trees and marked them as property of the Crown. Colonists were required to purchase a royal license to harvest trees not marked. The colonists resented the strictures on the timber used for their needs and livelihoods and disregarded the statutes. This led to the Pine Tree Riot in 1772, one of the first acts of forceful protest against British policies leading to the Revolutionary War.

Having just celebrated the 243rd anniversary of our independence as a nation, let us appeal to heaven frequently for our country. May we pray especially that the United States of America may return to the Christian roots upon which it was founded and protect all human life and all religious liberty. 

The Rev. Ken Schuckman is pastor of Holy Name Catholic Church in Winfield.

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