Francis Bellamy and his Pledge of Allegiance
Francis (1855-1931) and Edward (1850-1898) Bellamy were cousins of two brothers who had both been Baptist ministers. Edward was a writer who increasingly became involved in socialist causes, eventually writing "socialist utopian" novels (1888's Looking Backward was highly regarded and thought to be influential as well as being one of the best selling novels of the 19th century). From his works sprung the so-called "nationalist clubs" and the movement called "nationalism" (not nationalism as it generally is defined but meant as "nationalization" as in "public ownership and management of the economy"). That said, we can dispense with Edward, since it's his brother we are interested in.
One of Edward's chief supporters and a charter member of the Nationalist Club was Francis. Francis, like his father and uncle had gone to seminary and entered the Baptist ministry. From that background the Society of Christian Socialists was founded. Its principles were
that economic rights and powers were gifts of God, not for the receiver's use only, but for the benefit of all. All social, political and industrial relations should be based on the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man, in the spirit of the teachings of Jesus Christ. Capitalism was not based on Christian love but on a selfish individualism.
A major objective of the Christian Socialists was to show that the objectives of socialism were embraced in the goals of Christianity. The teachings of Jesus Christ lead directly toward some form of socialism and, in obedience to Christ, the Christian Church should apply itself to the realization of the Social Gospel of Christianity through Socialism.
His work in the society, as spokesman for Nationalism and socialism, and his sermons touching on these subjects that were so dear and important to him, eventually upset others within the ministry. In 1890, the (conservative) Committee on Christian Work of the Baptist Social Union reduced appropriations to his church.
Bellamy was justifiably upset since he fully believed that the bible, particularly the New Testament, taught the principles of socialism and that "he had become a Christian Socialist on the basis of the Scriptures alone." (Even George Bernard Shaw considered some of Jesus' doctrines to be socialist in nature.) In January of 1891, he wrote a letter explaining his case and stating that if funding was not reinstated, he would resign. In April, he did.
Bellamy went to his friend Daniel Ford and got a job on the magazine The Youth's Companion. It was a very popular family magazine of the time with one of the largest circulations of any American magazine. It was a time in America when patriotism was not only valued by thought of as matter-of-fact. Reverence for the flag was strong14 June 1885 began the observance of Flag Day.
Ford's nephew James Bailey Upham was an important part of the magazine and a great promoter of various patriotic campaigns (generally through the magazine). In 1888, he launched a campaign to get flags flown over school houses. He also promoted the sale of patriotic-themed pictures for the walls of classrooms, and other things of a similar nature. In 1891 and 1892, he was in charge of arranging the National Public Schools Celebration for Columbus. It was to be centered around schools and a flag ceremony (he originally asked child readers if they were interested in the proposition and got a very positive reaction).
With backing by the magazine and other educational and governmental institutions and groups (and with Bellamy appointed to head the National Public School Celebration for the Quadricentennial), Upham and Bellamy went ahead planning the celebration. Readers were urged to get their teachers interested and involved and mass mailings, circulars, and press releases were used to help get the word out. Enthusiasm was high.
The planned ceremony was fairly simple, in eight parts, Bellamy writing the "The Address for Columbus Day, The meaning of Four Centuries" and what was then referred to as the "flag salute" (which was when the children would recite what was to become known as the pledge). The latter after Upham made several unsuccessful attempts at writing (it was later challenged that he had written it rather than Bellamy, partly to blame because of the magazine's practice to not use bylines; it was later refuted).
Previously, the only well known flag salute was called the Colonel Balch's salute. It was short and simple: "We give our heads and our hearts to God and our country; one country, one language, one flag." (Note the reference to God, more later.) Bellamy and Upham felt it should be more than a salute, it should be a "vow of allegiance." Bellamy decided to use "pledge" rather than "vow" or "oath."
The pledge first appeared in its orginal wording in the 8 September 1892 issue of The Youth's Companion. It read:
I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
(The "to" the Republic was added in October of that year.) Pledging allegiance to the Flag and the Republic, "one nation," and "indivisible" were all things that would have resonated for many at a time when the Civil War was less than forty years prior.
The first apparent use of it in public was during New York City's massive three day Columbus Day celebration around October 12. Other schools recited it on the 21st (a somewhat more accurate date after the calendar changes are taken into consideration). It was on that date in Boston that Bellamy first heard and saw his Pledge used. On signal, the students would give the flag a military salute and begin the Pledge. At "to my flag" they would give what would become a standard salute consisting of raising the right arm, palm upward, toward the flag, then dropping it to their side when finished (this was apparently used in some places until almost 1950 and looks remarkably similar to the Nazi salute).
The words "my Flag" were changed to "the Flag of the United States of America" in 1924 by the National Flag Conference (partly led by the American Legion and the Daughters of the American Revolution). This was a change Bellamy was opposed to but he was ignored. In 1942, it became officially recognized by the United States government.
Then in 1954, partly due to campaigning by the Knights of Columbus, President Dwight D. Eisenhower managed to get Congress to legislate the addition of "under God" (probably not surprising during the Cold War and the Red Scare when American was busy demonizing the "Godless Communists"). According to Bellamy's granddaughter, that change would also have upset him, not only after being pressured out of the ministry but since his retirement to Florida, he ceased attending church, finding too much "racial bigotry" there.
Added to the 1954 legislation was the behavior with which to recite the Pledge. One must be upright, without any sort of head covering, and have one's right hand over his or her heart.
In June 2002, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in Newdow v. U.S. Congress that school children could not be forced to recite the pledge as a classroom, teacher led (thus school sanctioned) activity. Newdow was an atheist who
[claimed] that his daughter is injured when she is compelled to "watch and listen as her state-employed teacher in her state-run school leads her classmates in a ritual proclaiming that there is a God, and that our's [sic] is 'one nation under God.'
The recitation was school policy. The court determined that the establishment clause regarding religion and the government was violated, since this was, in essence, state endorsement of religion. If one wishes to take it further, it is endorsement of monotheism, and further still, of the Judeo-Christian God. Even though Islam is not only monotheistic, developed from the others, and Allah often claimed to be the same god, there is not really any reason to think this would be the issue it quickly became had it been "one nation under Allah." In fact, it would have been kicked out of the schools long ago.
In the ruling Judge Alfred T. Goodwin (interestingly, a Nixon appointee) pointed out that
Although [individual] students cannot be forced to participate in recitation of the pledge, the school district is nonetheless conveying a message of state endorsement of a religious belief when it requires public school teachers to recite, and lead the recitation of, the current form of the pledge,
A profession that we are a nation "under God" is identical...to a profession that we are a nation "under Jesus," a nation "under Vishnu," a nation "under Zeus," or a nation "under no god," because none of these professions can be neutral with respect to religion.
Almost as if to prove his point, US elected officials showed themselves to be nowhere near "neutral with respect to religion."
In what is probably only partially informed by the current (2001-2002) sense of patriotism-nationalism (things that have long been highly correlated with religion, particularly Christianity), pro-pledge people began circling wagons and issuing statements (and threats) almost immediately. Right after the ruling, the US Senate voted on a resolution in support of the pledge. It passed 99-0, with Jesse Helms (R-NC) absent.
The senate also advised legal counsel to "seek to intervene in the case to defend its constitutionality." Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) stated that "I think we need to send a clear message that the Congress disagrees," and that "The Congress is going to intervene, the Congress is going to do all that it can to live up to the expectations of the American people" (Reuters). He also called it "just nuts" (Washington Post). He urged senate members to show up at the beginning of session the next day to recite the pledge together (apparently not many do this on a regular basis). Members of the House of Representatives gathered on the steps of the Capitol and recited it together.
Trent Lott (R-MS) called the ruling "unbelievable," "incorrect," and "stupid," saying that if it was not overturned on appeal (as many expect) that Congress will take matters into its own hands. House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) stated that "A judge who believes the pledge of allegiance is unconstitutional doesn't belong on the bench" and "I hope the court returns all the taxpayer money they have been paid in currency marked 'In God We Trust'" (Reuters). House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX) described it as "sad" and "absurd." The president (through spokesman Ari Fleischer) called it "ridiculous."
Perhaps it should come as no surprise given Eisenhower's statement in 1954 that
From this day forward, the millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural schoolhouse, the dedication of our Nation and our people to the Almighty.
(Sources: John W. Baer's excellent detailed history found at www.vineyard.net/vineyard/history/pdgech0.htm as well as his "The Pledge of Allegiance A Short History," also therequotes from those pages; www.britannica.com; 2002 updates taken from the links and the wire service available at www.yahoo.com, also very helpful was Newdow v. U.S. Congress)