The Pledge of Allegiance was first recited by students in many U.S. public schools today in 1892, as part of a celebration marking the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s voyage to America. Now WE know em

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Francis Julius Bellamy was born May 18, 1855 in Mount Morris, NY.

Francis-Bellamy1

His family was deeply involved in the Baptist church and they moved to Rome, NY when Bellamy was only 5. Here, Bellamy became an active member of the First Baptist Church; which his father was minister of until his death in 1864.

Bellamy attended college at the University of Rochester, in Rochester, NY and studied theology and was part of the Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity.

As a young man, he became a minister, and began to travel to promote his faith and help his community. Bellamy’s travels brought him to Massachusetts.

He married a Harriet Benton in Newark, NY in 1881. They went on to have two sons.

In 1891, Daniel Sharp Ford, the owner of the Youth’s Companion, hired Francis Bellamy to work with his nephew James B. Upham in the magazine’s premium department.

Three years earlier, the Youth’s Companion had begun a campaign to sell American flags to public schools as a premium to solicit subscriptions. For Upham and Bellamy, this flag promotion became 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 with the market slowing for flags, but not yet saturated.

In 1892, James Upham had the idea of using the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus reaching the Americas 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.

Bellamy then went to speak to a national meeting of school superintendents to promote the celebration; the convention liked the idea and selected a committee of leading educators to implement the program, including the immediate past president of the National Education Association. Bellamy was selected as the committee chairman.

By June 29, 1892, Bellamy had arranged for Congress and President Benjamin Harrison to announce a proclamation making the public school flag ceremony the center of the Columbus Day celebrations (this was issued as Presidential Proclamation 335).

Having received the official blessing of the nation, Bellamy’s committee now had the task of spreading the word across the nation and of designing an official program for schools to follow on the day of national celebration.

The Pledge of Allegiance

In August of 1892, Francis Bellamy wrote a pledge to help promote the flag promotion.

His original pledge read as follows:

“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and (to*) the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”

(* ‘to’ was added in October of 1892).

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James Upham and Francis Bellamy then published the pledge in the September 8, 1892, issue of the Youth’s Companion magazine, and immediately put the pledge to use in their flag campaign.

Bellamy and the committee structured the program around a flag-raising ceremony and his new pledge.

The recital of the pledge was to be accompanied with a salute to the flag they named the Bellamy salute.

James Upham came up with the salute described this way:

At a signal from the Principal the pupils, in ordered ranks, hands to the side, face the Flag. Another signal is given; every pupil gives the flag the military salute — right hand lifted, palm downward, to a line with the forehead and close to it. Standing thus, all repeat together, slowly, “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands; one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.” At the words, “to my Flag,” the right hand is extended gracefully, palm upward, toward the Flag, and remains in this gesture till the end of the affirmation; whereupon all hands immediately drop to the side.

— From The Youth’s Companion, 65 (1892): 446–447.

During the period when this salute was used with the Pledge of Allegiance, it was known as the “flag salute”.

 

Children performing the Bellamy salute to the flag of the United States.

Children performing the Bellamy salute to the flag of the United States.

Bellamy wrote the Pledge to be quick and to the point. Bellamy designed it to be recited in 15 seconds.

Subsequently, the Pledge was first recited by students in many U.S. public schools on October 12, 1892, according to Bellamy’s published instructions for the “National School Celebration of Columbus Day” organized to coincide with the opening of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois.

Later Bellamy commented on his thoughts as he wrote the pledge, and his reasons for choosing the careful wording:

“It began as an intensive communing with salient points of our national history, from the Declaration of Independence onwards; with the makings of the Constitution… with the meaning of the Civil War; with the aspiration of the people…

“The true reason for allegiance to the Flag is the ‘republic for which it stands’. …And what does that last 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. And its future?

“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…”

As a self-proclaimed socialist, Bellamy had initially considered using the words equality and fraternity but decided against it – knowing that the state superintendents of education on his committee were against equality for women and African Americans.

Bellamy also stated that he “viewed his pledge was an ‘inoculation’ that would protect immigrants, as well as native-born but insufficiently patriotic Americans, from the ‘virus’ of radicalism and subversion.”

In 1923, the National Flag Conference called for the words “my Flag” to be changed to “the Flag of the United States”, so that new immigrants would not confuse loyalties between their birth countries and the United States. The words “of America” were added a year later.

Francis Bellamy spent most of the last years of his life living and working in Tampa, FL. He died there on August 28, 1931 at the age of 76. His cremated remains were brought back to New York where they were buried in a family plot in a cemetery in Rome.

The United States Congress officially recognized the Pledge for the first time, in the following form, on June 22, 1942:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

During World War II, Italian fascists and Nazis adopted a salute which had the same form as the Bellamy salute, resulting in controversy over the use of the flag salute in the United States. It was officially replaced by the hand-over-heart salute when Congress amended the Flag Code on December 22, 1942.

Then in 1954, in response to the perceived threat of secular Communism, President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the words “under God,” creating the 31 word pledge that we recite today.

“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.”

 

Now WE know em

 

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