Not School has a piece today about the Pledge of Allegiance and its history. (Do follow the link and find out what the Bellamy salute was; it was changed in 1942 because it looked so much like the Nazi salute. Hmmm ....) On a homeschooling blog, the post is about the role of the schools in establishing the Pledge firmly among symbols of nationalism.
But I was interested in some other aspects of the Pledge. First of all, few people know that its author, Francis Bellamy, was a socialist. His brother was Edward Bellamy, who wrote a utopian novel (which actually looks mighty dystopian), Looking Backward, that posited a society where all were equal and under the control of the state.
Francis Bellamy was a Baptist minister. He was hired in 1891 by Daniel Sharp Ford, the owner of Youth's Companion, to write the Pledge as part of a drive to sell flags to schools as a premium to peddle subscriptions. In other words, Bellamy the socialist was hired in a purely capitalist scheme. Ironic, eh?
For Bellamy (and co-worker James B. Upham), however, and in all fairness,
the flag promotion was more than merely a business move; under their influence, the Youth's Companion became a fervent supporter of the schoolhouse flag movement, which aimed to place a flag above every school in the nation. By 1892, the magazine had sold American flags to approximately 26,000 schools. However, by this time the market was slowing for flags, but not yet saturated.
The previous year, Upham had the idea of using the anniversary of Christopher Columbus's discovery of America to further bolster the schoolhouse flag movement. The magazine called for a national Columbian Public School Celebration to coincide with the World's Columbian Exposition. A flag salute was to be part of the official program for the Columbus Day celebration to be held in schools all over America.
The Pledge was published in the September 8, 1892, issue of the magazine, and immediately put to use in the campaign.
Bellamy sold the idea of a Columbus Day celebration to school superintendents and structured a program around a flag-raising and the recitation of the Pledge.
Here's the original Pledge:
I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to* the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all" (* 'to' added in October 1892).
According to John Baer,
He considered placing the word, 'equality,' in his Pledge, but knew that the state superintendents of education on his committee were against equality for women and African Americans.
Bellamy himself claimed
Just here arose the temptation of the historic slogan of the French Revolution which meant so much to Jefferson and his friends, 'Liberty, equality, fraternity.' No, that would be too fanciful, too many thousands of years off in realization. But we as a nation do stand square on the doctrine of liberty and justice for all...
The Pledge has been changed twice. In the 1920s "my flag" was changed to "the flag of the United States of America," which Bellamy disliked. He also would have disliked the change in 1954, which added the words "under God." According to his granddaughter, Bellamy had stopped attending church because he couldn't stand the racial bigotry he found there.
So all those flag-wavers out there who like to recite the Pledge of Allegiance really ought to know that it was written by a socialist who believed in equality for all and who objected to bigotry and intolerance.
They should know that it was written as part of a drive to solicit more magazine subscriptions.
They should take a look at the Bellamy salute. No, those school kids weren't Nazis, nor do I mean to suggest that our nation was Nazi-like. I do think we should ask ourselves just what this dedication to the State entails and why a patriot should have to declare herself as such in a militaristic fashion. Reciting the pledge in unison, making your little salute--it all smacks of lock-step obedience and brainwashing.
And they really need to know that the words "under God" weren't part of the original. For sixty years the pledge did without those words. Injecting God into this whole business is quite offensive, and would be just as offensive to me were I a Christian. I don't think we have any business mixing religion and matters of State. But that's an opinion that gets short shrift in these times.