THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
On September 8, 1892 a Boston-based youth magazine “The Youth’s Companion” published a 22-word recitation for school children to use during planned activities the following month to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of America. Under the title “The Pledge to the Flag”, the composition was the earliest version of what we now know as the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE.
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 October 12, 1892 Columbus Day celebration of the 400th Anniversary of the discovery of America was planned for years in advance, and anticipated much as modern Americans look forward to and plan for the advent of a new century. The United States had recovered from most of the effects of its Civil War that began 30 years earlier, and people from around the world were flocking to the “Land of Opportunity”. The previous year almost a half million immigrants had entered the United States through the Barge Office in Battery Park, New York and on New Years day of 1892 the new Federal Bureau of Receiving’s station at Ellis Island had opened.
Two men interested in both education and planned Columbus Day celebrations around our Nation’s 44 states were Francis Bellamy and James Upham. To this day it is still unknown which of the two men actually authored the words that were to become the Pledge of Allegiance. It was published anonymously and not copyrighted. James Upham was an employee of the Boston publishing firm that produced “The Youth’s Companion” in which it first appeared. Francis Bellamy was an educator who served as chairman of the National committee of educators and civic leaders who were planning the Columbus Day activities. What we do know for certain is that the words first appeared in the September 8, 1892 issue of “The Youth’s Companion”, and a month later more than 12 million school children recited the words for the first time in schools across the nation. Our Pledge of Allegiance was born, but like anything new, it took many years to “reach maturity”, and underwent several changes along the way.
The Pledge of Allegiance continued to be recited daily by children in schools across America, and gained heightened popularity among adults during the patriotic fervor created by World War II. It still was an “unofficial” pledge until June 22, 1942 when the United States Congress included the Pledge to the Flag in the United States Flag Code (Title 36). This was the first Official sanction given to the words that had been recited each day by children for almost fifty years. One year after receiving this official sanction, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that school children could not be forced to recite the Pledge as part of their daily routine. In 1945 the Pledge to the Flag received its official title as:
The Pledge of Allegiance
The last change in the Pledge of Allegiance occurred on June 14 (Flag Day), 1954 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved adding the words “under God”. As he authorized this change he said:
“In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war.”
In 1892, 1923, 1924 and 1954 the American people demonstrated enough concern about the actual words in the Pledge to make some necessary changes. Today there may be a tendency among many Americans to recite “by rote” with little thought for the words themselves. Before continuing with our tour, let’s examine these 31 words a little more thoroughly.
I Promise to be faithful and true (Promise my loyalty) to the emblem that stands for and represents all 50 states, each of them individual, and individually represented on the flag yet formed into a UNION of one Nation. And I also pledge my loyalty to the Government that is itself a Republic, a form of government where the PEOPLE are sovereign, this government also being represented by the Flag to which I promise loyalty. These 50 individual states are united as a single Republic under the Divine providence of God, “our most powerful resource” (according to the words of President Eisenhower) and can not be separated. (This part of the original version of the pledge was written just 30 years after the beginning of the Civil War and demonstrates the unity sought in the years after that divisive period in our history)
The people of this Nation being afforded the freedom to pursue “life, liberty, and happiness”, And each person entitled to be treated justly, fairly, and according to proper law and principle, And these principles afforded to EVERY AMERICAN, regardless of race, religion, color, creed, or any other criteria. Just as the flag represents 50 individual states that can not be divided or separated, this Nation represents millions of people who can not be separated or divided.
Thus it is that when you Pledge Allegiance to the United States Flag, You:
Promise your loyalty to the Flag itself
Promise your loyalty to your own and the other 49 States.
*Promise your loyalty to the Government that unites us all,
*Recognizing that we are ONE Nation under God,
* That we can not or should not be divided or alone,
*And understanding the right to Liberty and Justice belongs to ALL of us.