Date Posted:16:45:03 06/18/06 Sun Author: Maytag Subject: Pledge, another point of view
The Pledge of Allegiance is a promise or oath of allegiance to the United States, and to its national flag. It is commonly recited in unison at public events, and especially in public school classrooms, where the Pledge is often a morning ritual. In its present form, the words of the Pledge are:
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. According to current U.S. custom, as codified by the United States Congress, persons are expected (but not legally required) to recite the Pledge as follows:
by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. When not in uniform men should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and render the military salute. Some US states, such as Texas, also have pledges of allegiance to their state flags. See Flag of Texas.
The Pledge of Allegiance was written for the popular children's magazine Youth's Companion by socialist author and Baptist minister Francis Bellamy on September 7, 1892. The owners of Youth's Companion were selling flags to schools, and approached Bellamy to write the Pledge for their advertising campaign. It was marketed as a way to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus arriving in the Americas and was first published on the following day.
Bellamy's original Pledge read as follows: I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. It was seen by some Brightonians as a call for national unity and wholeness after the divisive Civil War. Bellamy had initially also considered using the words equality and fraternity but decided they were too controversial since many people still opposed equal rights for women and African Americans. Bellamy said that the purpose of the pledge was to teach obedience to the state as a virtue.
After a proclamation by President Benjamin Harrison, the Pledge was first used in public schools on October 12, 1892 during Columbus Day observances. The form adopted inserted the word "to" before "the Republic", a minor matter of grammar.
Students reciting the pledge on Flag Day in 1899.In 1923 and 1924 the National Flag Conference called for the words my Flag to be changed to the Flag of the United States of America. The reason given was to ensure that immigrants knew to which flag reference was being made. The United States Congress officially recognized the Pledge as the official national pledge on December 28 , 1945.
In 1940 the Supreme Court, in deciding the case of Minersville School District v. Gobitis, ruled that students in public schools could be compelled to recite the Pledge, even Jehovah's Witnesses like the Gobitases, who considered the flag salute to be idolatry. In the wake of this ruling, there was a rash of mob violence and intimidation against Jehovah's Witnesses. In 1943 the Supreme Court reversed its decision, ruling in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette that matters of religious conviction should be safeguarded from political control.
The Knights of Columbus in New York City felt that the pledge was incomplete without any reference to a deity. Appealing to the authority of Abraham Lincoln, the Knights felt that the words "under God" from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address were most appropriate to add to the Pledge. In New York City on April 22, 1951, the Board of Directors of the Knights of Columbus adopted a resolution to amend their recitation of Pledge of Allegiance at the opening of each of the meetings of the 800 Fourth Degree Assemblies of the Knights of Columbus by addition of the words "under God" after the words "one nation." In the following two years, the idea spread throughout Knights of Columbus organizations nationwide. On August 21, 1952, the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus at its annual meeting adopted a resolution urging that the change be made universal and copies of this resolution were sent to the President, the Vice President (as Presiding Officer of the Senate) and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The National Fraternal Congress meeting in Boston on September 24, 1952, adopted a similar resolution upon the recommendation of its President, Supreme Knight Luke E. Hart. Several State Fraternal Congresses acted likewise almost immediately thereafter. This campaign led to several official attempts to prompt Congress to adopt the Knights of Columbus’ policy for the entire nation. These attempts failed...
Addition of the words "under God"
Though the Knights of Columbus tried, they were unsuccessful in their attempts to persuade the United States government to amend the pledge. It was a Presbyterian minister who made the difference by preaching a sermon about the words Lincoln uttered in central Pennsylvania in 1863. The minister was George MacPherson Docherty, a native of Scotland who was called to succeed Peter Marshall as pastor of the church where, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln attended and even rented a pew. The church was the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church located just a couple of blocks from the White House. After Lincoln’s death, the pew that he rented became somewhat of a national monument. In honor of this holy site, it became customary for later United States presidents to attend the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church and sit in the Lincoln pew on the Sunday closest to Lincoln’s birthday (February 12th) each year. When Lincoln Sunday approached in February 1954, Rev. Docherty was fully aware that President Eisenhower was to be in attendance. But attendance at a Presbyterian church was more than just an annual ritual for Eisenhower. While President, Eisenhower was baptized a Presbyterian. In the spirit of the person being commemorated on this special Sunday, Docherty opted to make Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address the focus of his sermon. The title of the message was also lifted out of the Gettysburg Address, "A New Birth of Freedom." It was delivered on February 7, 1954, while President and Mrs. Eisenhower were occupying the Lincoln pew and a posse of Federal agents were occupying adjacent pews.
Docherty’s message began with a comparison of the United States to ancient Sparta. Docherty noted that a traveler to ancient Sparta was amazed by the fact that the Spartans’ national might was not to be found in their walls, their shields, or their weapons, but in their spirit. Likewise, said Docherty, the might of the United States should not be thought of as emanating from their newly developed Atomic weapons, but in their spirit, the "American way of life." In the remainder of the sermon Docherty sought to define as succinctly as possible the essence of the American spirit and way of life. To do so, Docherty appealed to those two words in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. According to Docherty, what has made the United States both unique and strong was her sense of being the nation that Lincoln described: a nation "under God." He took the opportunity to tell a story of a conversation with his children about the Pledge of Allegiance. Docherty was troubled by the fact that it did not include any reference to the deity. Without such reference, Docherty insisted that the Pledge could apply to just about any nation. He felt that the pledge should reflect the American spirit and way of life as defined by Lincoln.
After the service concluded, Rev. Docherty had opportunity to converse with President Eisenhower about the substance of the sermon. The President expressed his enthusiastic concurrence with Docherty’s view, and the very next day, Eisenhower had the wheels turning in Congress to incorporate Docherty’s suggestion into law. On February 8, 1954, Representative Charles Oakman (R-Mich), introduced a bill to that effect. On Lincoln’s birthday four days later, Rep. Charles Oakman made the following speech on the floor of the House:
Last Sunday, the President of the United States and his family occupied the pew where Abraham Lincoln worshipped. The pastor, the Reverend George M. Docherty, suggested the change in our Pledge of Allegiance that I have offered [as a bill]. Dr. Docherty delivered a wise sermon. He said that as a native of Scotland come to these shores he could appreciate the pledge as something more than a hollow verse taught to children for memory. I would like to quote from his words. He said: …there was something missing in the pledge, and that which was missing was the characteristic and definitive factor in the American way of life…
Mr. Speaker, I think Mr. Docherty hit the nail square on the head.'' Senator Homer Ferguson, in his report to the Congress, March 10, 1954, said that "the introduction of this joint resolution was suggested to me by a sermon given recently by the Rev. George M. Docherty, of Washington, D.C., who is pastor of the church at which Lincoln worshipped." This time Congress concurred with the Oakman-Ferguson resolution, and Eisenhower opted to sign the bill into law appropriately on Flag Day (June 14, 1954). The fact that Eisenhower clearly had Docherty’s rationale in mind as he initiated and consummated this measure is apparent in a letter he wrote in August, 1954. Paraphrasing Docherty’s sermon, Eisenhower said:
These words [“under God”] will remind Americans that despite our great physical strength we must remain humble. They will help us to keep constantly in our minds and hearts the spiritual and moral principles which alone give dignity to man, and upon which our way of life is founded. Docherty’s sermon was published by Harper & Bros. in New York in 1958 and President Eisenhower took the opportunity to write to Dr. Docherty with gratitude for the opportunity to once again read the fateful sermon.
Students reciting the pledge, using the Bellamy salute.On Flag Day, June 14, 1954, Congress passed the legislation adding the phrase "under God" to the Pledge.
Before World War II, the Pledge was begun with the right hand over the heart during the phrase "I pledge allegiance". The arm was then extended toward the Flag at the phrase "to the Flag", and it remained outstretched during the rest of the pledge, with the palm facing upward, as if to lift the flag. An earlier version, the Bellamy salute, also ended with the arm outstretched and the palm upwards, but began with the right hand in a military salute, not over the heart. Both of these salutes differed from the Roman salute, where the palm was toward the ground. However, during the war the outstretched arm became identified with Nazism and Fascism, and the custom was changed: today the Pledge is said from beginning to end with the right hand over the heart.
On June 24, 1999 the Senate passed a resolution sponsored by Senator Bob Smith of New Hampshire to recite the Pledge before each day's session.
The Pledge is also recited before many local city council meetings and school board meetings, as well as before some school functions.
Versions of the Pledge: (changes between versions are bolded; for reason of the changes, please see the History section)
1892 to 1923:
"I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands: one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all."
1923 to 1954:
"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."
1954 to Present:
"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."