December 28 – The Pledge of Alliegance

Most of us who have grown up in the United States started every school day by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.  However, it might be surprising to find out that the Pledge of Allegiance was not even recognized as any more important than other pledges.  This pledge is attributed to Francis Bellamy and was first published anonymously in the September 1892 issue of The Youth’s Companion.  At that time, the pledge read, “I Pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands; one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All.”  Along with the pledge was published specific hand motions to go along with the words in the pledge.  However, these motions did not include the not common hand over the heart motion.  The pledge was not a formal pledge that was performed by school children though.  It wasn’t until 1898 that children were even required to say a pledge in school.  On the day after the U.S. declared war on Spain, though, the New York state passed a statute requiring children to recite a pledge to the flag.  The New York state superintendent published a pamphlet with five possible pledges to use, since Bellmy’s was not the only pledge to be written.  In fact, in the pamphlet, Ballamy’s pledge was placed last.  In 1940, the Supreme Court created even more of a standard around the pledge of allegiance.  They ruled that schools could expel students who did not recite the pledge, but the pledge could still be any of the five.  Finally, on December 28, 1945, Congress officially designated Bellamy’s pledge as the official Pledge of Allegiance.  Even so, his words were not perfectly kept.  During the Red Scare of the 50’s, the phrase “under God” was added to combat the fears of the people.  Today, most school children grow up reciting the words to the only Pledge of Allegiance we know: “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.”  Perhaps it is considered one of the most patriotic things one can do aside from singing the national anthem.  However, it is interesting that the path these thirty some words took to become the official pledge were based on fear.  It was taught to children to spread patriotism when the U.S. was at war.  The words were changed and it became mandatory for children to say in school because of fear of communists.  Over time, what Bellamy may only have meant for a pledge to inspire patriotism has become a thing of contention for people who all can agree that they are happy to live in the U.S.

Sources:

https://rhapsodyinbooks.wordpress.com/2008/12/28/december-28-1945-congress-officially-recognized-the-pledge-of-allegiance/

http://www.senate.gov/reference/Sessions/Traditions/Pledge_Allegiance.htm

http://www.ushistory.org/documents/pledge.htm

https://www.va.gov/opa/publications/celebrate/pledge.pdf

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