Who Wrote the Pledge of Allegiance: The Story Behind America’s Patriotic Oath

The Pledge of Allegiance was written by Francis Bellamy in 1892, influenced by his cousin Edward Bellamy and the Youth's Companion magazine.

Origins and Authorship

The Pledge of Allegiance, an emblem of American patriotism, was penned by Francis Bellamy in 1892.

This section delves into Bellamy’s background, the essential contribution of the Youth’s Companion magazine, and the influence exerted by Bellamy’s cousin, Edward Bellamy.

Francis Bellamy’s Background

Francis Bellamy, the author of the Pledge of Allegiance, was born in Mount Morris, New York.

Raised in a family with strong Baptist links, his father was a well-respected Baptist minister.

Bellamy followed a path of religious and moral education, which eventually led him to the role of a preacher himself.

He studied at the University of Rochester, honing his intellectual prowess.

His foray into the world of Christian socialism reflected his endeavor to merge his religious beliefs with his concerns for social justice and economic equality.

Youth’s Companion’s Role

The Youth’s Companion magazine, under the leadership of Daniel Sharp Ford, played a pivotal role in the creation and promotion of the Pledge of Allegiance.

The magazine, concerned with the moral and patriotic education of the youth, identified an opportunity to instill a sense of allegiance and unity among American children.

It was in conjunction with a campaign to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s arrival in the Americas that the magazine commissioned Bellamy to compose a pledge recitation for schoolchildren.

This effort culminated in a pledge, first published in the magazine, that is still recited today.

Influence of Edward Bellamy

Edward Bellamy, a cousin of Francis and an eminent figure in his own right, was a famous author and an advocate of socialistic ideas.

His seminal work, “Looking Backward,” presented a vision of a utopian socialist future, which resonated with many at the time, including Francis.

The climate created by this book and Edward’s ideas are believed to have influenced Francis Bellamy’s composition of the Pledge, reflecting the latter’s hope for a society that espoused both freedom and equality for all its members.

Through his creation of the Pledge of Allegiance, Francis Bellamy left a lasting impact on American culture and patriotism.

His roots in upstate New York, his education and religious background, and the influence of his cousin’s socialist ideas were all intricately woven into the patchwork of his life and the history of the Pledge itself.

Evolution and Legal Aspects

A quill pen writes "Pledge of Allegiance" on parchment, surrounded by symbols of evolution and legal documents

The Pledge of Allegiance has undergone several changes since its inception, and its usage has been subject to legal scrutiny, particularly in regards to the inclusion of religious language and its recitation in schools.

Changes to the Text

Originally composed by Francis Bellamy in 1892, the Pledge’s text has been modified over time.

The first significant change came in 1923 during the National Flag Conference, when “the Flag of the United States” replaced the original phrase “my Flag”.

Another change followed in 1924, establishing the phrase “the Flag of the United States of America”.

Legal Challenges and Rulings

The Pledge has faced various legal challenges primarily focused on the constitutionality of its recitation in public schools.

A landmark case was West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette in 1943, where the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that students could not be forced to recite the Pledge, upholding individuals’ First Amendment rights.

Inclusion of ‘Under God’ and Revisions

The term “Under God” was added to the Pledge in 1954, signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower as a response to the Cold War, to emphasize the ideological differences between the United States and the Soviet Union.

This inclusion has prompted debates about the separation of church and state, leading to legal challenges questioning its constitutionality.

Recitation and Flag Code

The United States Flag Code, first codified in 1942, outlines proper etiquette for the Pledge’s recitation, including standing at attention and placing the right hand over the heart.

While not legally enforceable, these guidelines reflect the historical tradition and the sentiment of respect and patriotism towards the American flag.

Public school recitation varies by state, with some states mandating a daily recitation and others providing students the choice to opt-out, reflecting the principles of free-speech and the diverse perspectives on national oaths in America’s heritage and future.