A LONG TIME AGO there was a man whose name was John Paul Jones. This was not the name he’d been born with; he was in a bit of legal trouble, so he changed it
He happened to be in America about the time that the colonies decided not to be part of England anymore. Therefore they needed a navy.
“I can totally do this,” said John Paul Jones, so he did. He took a ship called Bonhomme Richard and sailed to England and started fucking up British warships.
The British were like “UM EXCUSE WE HAVE BEST NAVY WHOMST”
And sank Bonhomme Richard
Not before John Paul Jones had captured a much nicer, bigger ship called Serapis
So Jones is like “toodles.” He took Serapis to the Netherlands, where he could hang with other folks who don’t like the British and get his ship fixed so he could take it home.
But there was one small problem: He didn’t have a flag.
If you show up in a friendly port with a ship that’s only “yours” because you “killed its crew and took it” and you have a flag, and also you and the ship’s previous owners are at war, no harm no foul.
But no flag? That’s PIRACY. And everyone hangs pirates.
But the Dutch were like “listen we don’t like the British either, and we know your nation is very new, maybe we can sort this out. What does the flag of the United States look like?”
So they dug up Ben Franklin’s description of the flag:
“It is with pleasure that we acquaint your excellency that the flag of the United States of America consists of thirteen stripes, alternately red, white, and blue; a small square in the upper angle, next the flagstaff, is a blue field, with thirteen white stars, denoting a new constellation”
And the Dutch were like “great, we can whip up one of those”
It was red, white, and blue. It had a blue field with stars. And I imagine John Paul Jones looking at this, looking back at the proud Dutch person who had just presented it to them, and who was eagerly awaiting his response.
“Will this let me leave without getting hanged as a pirate?”
“Then I love it.”