Pledge of Allegiance

The Pledge of Allegiance written in the hand of its author, Francis Bellamy.

The Pledge of Allegiance is as iconic to the United States as the flag and the founding fathers, however, it may be surprising that the Pledge is neither as old as the flag, nor was it written by a prominent or influential founding father. Instead, it was created by Francis Bellamy, a Rome, New York resident in 1892. Bellamy, an editor for the educational publication, The Youth’s Companion, wanted the country’s public schools to commemorate that year’s Columbus Day by reciting a collective verse.

“Bellamy Salute” (Mental Floss)

Appearing in the September 8th issue of The Youth’s Companion, the Pledge was recited by an estimated ten million schoolchildren Bellamy’s original Pledge read: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands – one nation indivisible – with liberty and justice for all.” Bellamy also included that the Pledge should be accompanied with a salute. Starting with a military salute and end with the arm extended towards the flag.

At a signal from the Principal the pupils, in ordered ranks, hands to the side, face the Flag. Another signal is given; every pupil gives the flag the military salute — right hand lifted, palm downward, to a line with the forehead and close to it. Standing thus, all repeat together, slowly, “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands; one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.” At the words, “to my Flag,” the right hand is extended gracefully, palm upward, toward the Flag, and remains in this gesture till the end of the affirmation; whereupon all hands immediately drop to the side.

The Youth’s Companion, 1892

“Students salute the flag during pledge of allegiance at P.S. 116 Elementary School, New York City in 1957. The Pledge was first used in American public schools on October 12, 1892.” (Fox News)

He originally intended for the Pledge to be recited once, but its popularity turned it into an annual Columbus Day tradition. Soon, it became a daily recitation. During World War II, the salute was seen to resemble the Nazi salute too much. So, on June 22, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved House Joint Resolution 303. This resolution arranged the existing rules that governed the flag and how the Pledge of Allegiance was to be delivered. According to the statue the person “should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart.”

The wording of Bellamy’s pledge has been adjusted twice over the years. In 1923, “my flag” was changed by the United States Flag Association into “the Flag of the United States of America.” It was not until 1954, under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, did the religious addition of “under God” become part of the pledge. Bellamy’s granddaughter objected to this addition and stated that her grandfather was against changing the “my flag” stanza and would not want “under God” inserted as well.

Charles Panati, Panati’s Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things, New York: Harper, 1989, 250-251.
John R. Luckey, “The United States Flag: Federal Law Relating to Display and Associated Questions,”, February 7, 2011.
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  • David LaVallee

    Why did Rev. Bellamy’s granddaughter think her grandfather would not have liked the insertion of “under God” in his Pledge of Allegiance? Thank you! David LaVallee Alpharetta, GA USA

    • Zim

      Thank you for your question David!

      I believe there are two reasons Bellamy would not like the “under God” addition. The first, the main one his granddaughter brought up, is the fact that he had become disillusioned with organized religion by his death. When he was young, Bellamy was an active member in the Baptist church and eventually became a minister. He was also a Christian socialist. He was eventually pressured to leave his church in 1891 because of his socialist sermons. Bellamy retired to Florida, where he stopped attending church because of the racism he found there.

      And secondly, no one wants their words changed. I think Bellamy would see these changes as quite profound. Instead of the Pledge of Allegiance being a patriotic oath as he intended, it became a public prayer of sorts.

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