Pledge of Allegiance


In 1892, America celebrated the “400th Anniversary” of Americas discovery by Christopher Columbus. To celebrate, a Baptist minister named Francis Bellamy decided to write these words: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Francis Bellamy

Francis Bellamy was the son of a Baptist minister, and grew up to be a Baptist minister. After graduating from Rochester Theological Seminary, he began his own church in Little Falls, New York. His congregation was mainly made up of factory workers, and he often welcomed the chance to preach and to help “solve” the problems of many workers.

In 1885, Bellamy left New York to preach to more workers in Boston. Bellamys church grew and was supported by the Baptist Social Union of Boston. People enjoyed his passionate sermons about “liberty, fraternity, and patriotism.” However, by 1891, Bellamys support was dwindling due to his being a “Christian Socialist,” and he resigned as minister once funds were not restored.

The Youth Companion

One of Bellamys Boston congregates was Daniel Ford. Ford was the editor of The Companion. He also became a friend and “advisor” to Bellamy. He gave him a job working with James Upham, who wanted American students to learn the importance of the flag and come to appreciate what it represents. His ultimate goal was to help students love their country even more.

With the coming of the 400th Columbus Day celebration, Uphams desire to create more of an appreciation for the American Flag became stronger. Children in America were already able to cite sections of important documents and had a firm, or at least, basic understanding of Americas founding. However, they did not necessarily learn much about the American flag and had no saying or way in which to salute it.

The flag had long been a well known symbol, but had recently become more of a focus since the beginning of the first “Flag Day” in 1885. Therefore, Upham asked Bellamy to create a formal salute for the children to recite on Columbus Day, 1892.

Writing The Pledge of Allegiance

Bellamy must have felt lots of pressure as he tried to write a patriotic salute to the nations flag. Even so, Bellamy was extremely patriotic, and he was determined to write an easy to remember yet memorable to salute.

As Bellamy wrestled with what to include and what not to include, one phrase was not debated. The phrase, “liberty and justice,” seemed inevitable. After all, America was founded by men who sought liberty and justice from a radical king. Also, the words “liberty” and “justice” appear in many of Americas most famous documents including the Declaration of Independence and The Preamble to the Constitution.

Despite his Christianity, Bellamy was not the one to pen “under God” into the pledge, and he also wrote “my flag” not “to the flag.” The original pledge, was “I pledge allegiance to my flag,” but in 1923 the words were changed to, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.” Perhaps the main reason was to point the focus away from self and more to the flag, and in 1954 the words “under God” were added due to “Communist threats.” Even so, the changes have not altered Bellamy nor Uphams intentions, which were to create a meaningful salute for America.

Reciting The Pledge of Allegiance

Bellamy did not just want the words to be spoken, he wanted them to be presented in a meaningful way. He gave specific instructions on how the pledge should be said. He noted that the students should stand straight, with “hands at side.” Upon the signal, they would give the flag “a military salute.” When the words “to my Flag” were spoken, hands would be lifted with palms up towards the flag.

Unfortunately, despite the popularity of the salute, the palms up turned into palms down. During World War II, the salute seemed too much like that of the Nazis. Therefore, it was decided the right hand would simply stay over the heart during the pledge.

The Pledge of Allegiance Today

The majority of Americans just know the pledge as a way to honor America. Most do not know that the hand was not always over the heart, that Congress did not “officially recognize” the pledge until 1942, that the name “Pledge of Allegiance was adopted in 1945, or that certain words were added or taken away as the years went by.

The fact that such a simple pledge can mean so much to so many, is amazing. In that regard, Bellamy did accomplish his goal of creating a “memorable salute.” Today, Americans take great pride in saying the pledge and recognizing such a meaningful symbol of America.

The pledge is recited during football games, national and local events, military gatherings, American holidays (4th of July, Veterans Day, Memorial Day), and at numerous events throughout the year. Despite the fact that Bellamy may not have been the most conservative fish in the pond, he truly created one of the most patriotic and meaningful salutes for the United States of America.