History of the Pledge of Allegiance
By Bill Petri
By Bill Petri
The US Supreme Courts recent decision to review the constitutionality of the "under God" wording in the Pledge of Allegiance provides an occasion to educate Americans about the ideological purpose of the Pledge. A good place to start would be John Baers book, The Pledge of Allegiance: A Centennial History, 1892-1992 (Free State Press, 1992). In it one would learn that the author of the Pledge was one Francis Bellamy, a defrocked Baptist minister from
Bellamy was the cousin of Edward Bellamy, author of the extremely popular 1888 socialist fantasy, Looking Backward. In this novel the main character, Julian West, falls asleep in 1887 and awakens in the year 2000 when the socialist "utopia" has been achieved: All industry is state owned, Soviet style; everyone is an employee of the state who is conscripted at age 21 and retires at age 45; and all workers earn the same income.
Francis Bellamy said that one purpose of the Pledge of Allegiance was to help accomplish his lifelong goal of making his cousins socialist fantasy a reality in
Despite governmental effort to destroy the system of federalism and states rights that was championed by Jefferson and other founders by waging total war on the South, many Americans still believed in the Jeffersonian states rights ideal as of the 1880s. Despite all the death and destruction of the war, and several subsequent decades of propaganda about the alleged evils of states rights, many Americans still viewed federalism and states rights as a safeguard against federal tyranny just as the American founding fathers, especially
Francis Bellamy was alarmed by this, for he understood perfectly well that the first step along the way to his socialist utopia was a consolidated or unitary state, just like the one
The true reason for allegiance to the Flag is the "republic for which it stands." ... And what does that vast thing, the Republic mean? It is the concise political word for the Nation the One Nation which the Civil War was fought to prove. To make that One Nation idea clear, we must specify that it is indivisible, as Webster and Lincoln used to repeat in their great speeches.
Bellamy considered the "liberty and justice for all" phrase in the Pledge to be an Americanized version of the slogan of the French Revolution: "
Few if any Southern men would dare to take this public pledge in the post-war years. Francis Bellamy first published the Pledge of Allegiance in the September 1892 issue of The Youths Companion, which has been described as "the Readers Digest of its day."
By that time, Bellamy had been forced to leave his
The Bellamy cousins held that Agriculture and handicraft, with perhaps small shop keeping, are the only admissible occupations. Trade and speculation are superfluous, injurious, and evil. Factories and large-scale industries are a wicked invention of the "Jewish spirit"; they produce only bad goods which are foisted on buyers by the large stores and by other monstrosities of modern trade to the detriment of purchasers.
The Bellamy cousins decided that American youth needed to be taught "loyalty to the state" because they realized that the individualism and the love of liberty of the American founding fathers would always stand in the way of achieving the socialist utopia that was described in Looking Backward.
The "one nation, indivisible" wording was especially important to the Bellamy cousins, for if secession were legitimized, their pipe dream of socialism through a consolidated, monopoly government would be destroyed. This was the thinking of all the worst tyrants of the twentieth century, including Hitler and Stalin. (Hitler even quoted approvingly
The public schools must be used to teach blind obedience to the state, the Bellamys reasoned, and the National Education Association was pleased to help them accomplish this goal. They planned a "National Public School Celebration" in 1892, which was the first national propaganda campaign on behalf of the Pledge of Allegiance. It was a massive campaign that involved government schools and politicians throughout the country. The government schools were promoted, along with the Pledge, while private schools, especially parochial ones, were criticized. Students were taught to recite the Pledge with their arms outstretched, palms up, similar to how Roman citizens were required to hail Caesar, and not too different from the way in which Nazi soldiers saluted their Fhrer. This was the custom in American public schools from the turn of the twentieth century until around 1950, when it was apparently decided by public school officials that the Nazi-like salute was in bad taste. The Pledge of Allegiance is an oath of allegiance to the omnipotent state. Its purpose was never to inculcate in children the ideals of the American founding fathers, but those of two eccentric nineteenth-century socialists.
The Pledge itself is an oath of allegiance to the central state, and the "under God" language only serves to deify the state. From the perspective of a Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, or James Madison, nothing could be more un-American. After all, they and their contemporaries had fought a long and bloody war of secession to sever their forced allegiance, complete with loyalty oaths, to another overbearing and tyrannical state, namely the