Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Pledge of Allegiance Was Written by a Socialist – to Sell a Children's Magazine

Today is Saturday, February 1, 2014.

If you ask people where the Pledge of Allegiance came from, you will very likely be told that it was probably written about the same time as the original flag was introduced.  If that's what you think, I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but it was written to sell magazines.

Yes, sir, that's what I said, to sell magazines.  In fact, it was meant to sell a children's magazine called Youth's Companion.  Not only that, but it was written by a man who was a member of the Christian Socialist movement.  He believed in economic and social justice based on Jesus' teachings.  Spreading the wealth, in other words.  (And did you know that there is now an actual Christian Socialist Party in the United States?  There is – go ahead and look it up.)

Francis Bellamy (1855-1931) was a Baptist minister from New York, and it was he who wrote the original pledge.  But how did he get involved in selling magazines?  

Well, it seems that he got tired of being in the pulpit for some reason, so he left his ministry and accepted a job from Daniel S. Ford, a member of his congregation, who was the owner of the above-mentioned magazine.  Bellamy worked in the "premium" department.  The idea was to sell United States flags to public schools in order to solicit subscriptions to the magazine from the students.

The company came up with the idea of arranging a patriotic program for the schools that coincided with the opening of the 1892 Columbian Exposition in October of that year, in celebration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus' "discovery" of the New World.  This "exposition" was more popularly known as the Chicago World's Fair.  Part of that opening program was to include a short recitation by the children in unison.  By the way, this was the year that President Benjamin Harrison declared October 12 as Columbus Day.

This was the original salute meant to be used with the Pledge of Allegiance.
Here was the original pledge, as written for the ceremony:  "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."  The really amazing thing was that this pledge was to be accompanied by a salute in which the children were to extend their right arm straight out with the palm facing down, so that the hand was in line with the forehead.  At the words "my Flag," they were to turn their palm up toward the flag for the remainder of the pledge.

In the 1920s, there were a lot of immigrant children in the public schools, so in 1923, the American Legion and the Daughters of the American Revolution together decided that the words "my flag" should be changed to "the flag of the United States," so that immigrant kids would be very clear about whose flag they were pledging their loyalty to.  The following year, they decided it should be "the flag of the United States of America.

The pledge, as amended, went like this:  "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

By 1942, the pledge had been said in schools for fully fifty years, but the salute started to bother people, because it looked an awful lot like the Nazi salute.  This is when people started saluting the flag with their hands over their hearts.

The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization, had been using the pledge in their own meetings, but they added "under God" after "one nation."  They began to lobby Congress to make the change universal, and they were backed by other fraternal and religious organizations.  In 1953, Rep. Louis Rabaut (D-MI) proposed the alteration in a bill before the House.  This was the first of several similar bills, one of which finally passed in 1954.  The bill was signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on June 14 of that year, also known as Flag Day.  (Eisenhower had been urged to sign the bill by the pastor of his church.)

Now, the official version of the pledge was the one that is said today: 

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

The sponsors of the bill that ultimately passed wrote the following disclaimer about the new wording, to disabuse people of the notion that the separation of church and state was being violated:  "A distinction must be made between the existence of a religion as an institution and a belief in the sovereignty of God.  The phrase 'under God' recognizes only the guidance of God in our national affairs."

Since the time it was formally adopted by Congress, the Pledge of Allegiance has been said in schools across the nation, and many of us remember reciting it every day, or nearly so, especially in elementary school.  Also since that time, various people have mounted legal challenges to the wording, although nothing has been changed.  

I just thought it was very interesting that many of those who insist that it should be said daily in schools would be shocked, absolutely shocked, to know that it was written by a Socialist.   And as an advertising ploy, to boot - to con children into subscribing to a magazine.  :-)

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