"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."

Do you recite the Pledge of Allegiance? Does it make you feel all warm and patriotic and stuff? Do you find yourself offended when people don't put their hand over their heart as it's recited, or worse, don't recite it at all?

Why is that?

Why do you, a sovereign individual with rights endowed by your Creator, swear loyalty and devotion to the central state? Why do you subject your children to this ceremony of subordination to the government? Why do you, a Christian, declare your allegiance to an earthly state, knowing that you cannot serve both Him and another master?

Probably because you don't know the history of the Pledge.

History of the Pledge of Allegiance

The Pledge of Allegiance was written by Francis Bellamy, a Christian Socialist and one-time Baptist minister who was removed from his post for pounding the pulpit with sermons such as "Jesus the Socialist." Bellamy was devoted to the ideas of his more famous cousin Edward Bellamy, author of 1888’s best seller "Looking Backward," a novel describing a future United States as a regimented worker’s paradise.

America has been turned into a rigorously centralized democratic society in which everything is controlled by a humane and efficient state. In little more than a hundred years, the horrors of nineteenth-century capitalism have been all but forgotten. Broad streets have replaced the squalid slums of Boston, and technological inventions have transformed people's everyday lives ... a thunderous indictment of industrial capitalism and a resplendent vision of life in a socialist utopia.

Edward and Francis Bellamy were the two most prominent advocates for what was called "Nationalism," by which they meant nationalization of all property under state control. Across America some 167 Nationalist Clubs were formed. In 1889, one of the Boston Nationalist Clubs formed an auxiliary called the Society for Christian Socialists, which preached the Marxist doctrine more vociferously than today's Sojourners.

Understanding that the first step toward his socialist utopia was a unified state, Bellamy wanted to break the American public's individualist tradition and admiration for the federalist system of the Founding Fathers. So in 1892, Bellamy wrote the Pledge of Allegiance for the popular children’s magazine The Youth’s Companion. Elaborating on his work, he said that the "true reason for allegiance to the Flag" was to inculcate American children in the false history of America’s founding espoused by Daniel Webster and Abraham Lincoln.

Webster and Lincoln declared that union created the states, and therefore, the states were never sovereign. In truth however, not only do the states predate the union, but in all of the American founding documents – Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and Constitution – the states refer to themselves as "free and independent." Furthermore, when King George III signed the treaty to end the Revolutionary War, it was signed as an agreement with each individual state, listed one by one, not with something called the "United States."

Despite Lincoln waging total war on the South in the name of a unified state, many American’s continued to believe in Jeffersonian state’s rights, viewing them as a safeguard against federal tyranny. But Francis Bellamy found this troubling, because if the individual states formed the union and not the other way around, secession from the union would indeed be legitimate. This meant that in order to build a socialist utopia, the Jeffersonian philosophy of federalism and states’ rights had to be destroyed.

With the "Oath of Allegiance" that was forced on the South after the Civil War in mind, Bellamy declared:

The true reason for allegiance to the Flag is the 'republic for which it stands.' ...And what does that vast 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?

The Youth’s Companion actively promoted loyalty to government and the Pledge of Allegiance in it's original form: "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." Wanting to advance their socialist agenda more rapidly, Francis Bellamy and the editor of the publication, Daniel Ford, set their sights on the public schools.

The Youth’s Companion had already begun selling American flags to the public schools a few years earlier as a compliment to their message of good citizenship and government loyalty. This was a novel and somewhat radical approach at the time, because flying the flag was almost exclusively the domain of military bases. Enjoying great success selling their flags to the schools, and with a published Pledge of Allegiance in hand, Bellamy and Ford contacted William Torrey Harris, the head of the National Education Association (NEA).

Harris, according to historian John Baer, "believed in a state controlled public education system. As the leading Hegelian philosopher in the United States he believed that the State had a central role in society. He believed youth should be trained in loyalty to the State and the public school was the institution to plant fervent loyalty and patriotism. Like many other American educators of his time, he admired and copied the Prussian educational system."

Believing that private education made it too difficult to indoctrinate children into accepting their proper role in society, Harris was eager to join Francis Bellamy’s crusade. After all, his goals were the same as the Nationalist Clubs. Using the celebration of the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' discovery of America, Harris and Bellamy then convinced the NEA to support a National Public School Celebration with their flag ceremony as its centerpiece. As chairman of the celebration, Bellamy told the audience, "the training of citizens in the common knowledge and the common duties of citizenship belongs irrevocably to the State."

For the flag ceremony itself, the original Pledge of Allegiance was recited as follows: Every pupil gives the Flag the military salute – right hand lifted, palm down, to a line with the forehead and close to it. At the words, "to my Flag," the right hand is extended outward in an uplifted salute and held there until the end of the affirmation, whence all hands are immediately dropped to the side.

If the salute sounds familiar to you, that’s because it should. Here’s a picture of American children reciting the original Pledge of Allegiance.

Weird, huh?

Here’s how you’re used to seeing it.

For obvious reasons, the original salute was replaced with today's hand-on-heart gesture during WWII, when the words "my flag" were also changed to "the flag of the United States of America" in fear that immigrant children would confuse "my flag" for the flag of their homeland. Persuaded by the Knights of Columbus in 1954, Congress then added the words "under God." It has remained unchanged since.

Far from honoring the ideals of America’s Founding Fathers, the Pledge of Allegiance is an oath of loyalty and devotion to the central state. Reciting the Pledge, along with its ceremony, was meant to instill a quasi-religious admiration for, and subordination to, a unified central government to which you irrevocably belong.

From the perspective of a Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, James Madison, or Samuel Adams, nothing could be more un-American than pledging allegiance to an omnipotent state. After all, they risked everything to fight a long and bloody war to break free of their forced allegiance to an overbearing state and it’s crappy oaths of loyalty – King George III and the British Empire.

So, the next time you place your right hand over your heart to recite the Pledge, think carefully about what you’re doing. Because you can roll with the Founders as a free and sovereign individual, or pledge your loyalty to Bellamy’s authoritarian state.

Sources and additional information:

  • http://www.discerningcitizen.org DiscerningCitizen

    You raise some interesting and good points, but this is not a big issue for me. I think we have much bigger issues to worry about - like getting spending under control.

  • http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=6 Corinthian Scales

    "Furthermore, when King George III signed the treaty to end the Revolutionary War, it was signed as an agreement with each individual state, listed one by one, not with something called the "United States.""

    Um, no. That'd be factually incorrect.

    The Treaty of Paris was actually signed on September 3, 1783 by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay representing the "United States", and David Hartley, a member of the British Parliament representing the British Monarch, King George III.

    But, your interpretation of history is amusing nonetheless...

    • theCL

      The following is Article 1 of the Treaty of Paris. First, notice that "said United States" is plural, acknowledging the fact that it's a union of independent states. Second, notice that each state is listed individually, one by one, exactly as I said. Third, and as plain as day, "His Britannic Majesty acknowledges" that each of the individually listed states are "free, sovereign and independent States." Again, notice the word "states" is plural.

      His Brittanic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz., New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be free sovereign and independent states, that he treats with them as such, and for himself, his heirs, and successors, relinquishes all claims to the government, propriety, and territorial rights of the same and every part thereof.

      So as you can see, I did not write an "interpretation" at all, but simply relied on the plain language of the treaty itself.

  • Lawrence Carroll

    Wow - excellent article.

    Of course, reading this makes it clear why - when we go back a few years or decades - the term "socialist" was more often associated with authoritarian types of socialism (Nazi Germany and "Communist" Russia", amongst others) rather than any type of Democratic Socialism (the predominant system called "Western" Europe during the USSR's existence - now just "Europe").

    This is why it has created - and continues to create - confusion and anger amongst many when people use terms like "socialism" and "capitalism" - The two words are applied so broadly to so many different types of government that it is practically useless to have any type of CLEAR discussion with most folks regarding what the other means or wants when they advocate one or the other . . . . .

    More informed folks, like say, Noam Chomsky or Ron Paul have delineated (for example) the difference between "corporate capitalism," "state capitalism," and "real" capitalism. Though there still seems to be too much vagueness in these terms, it is at least a good start. Unfortunately, most of the population, including educated folks, still seem largely oblivious to these distinctions. (At least, if they are aware of them, they seem unwilling to use them very often, or to explain what they mean when they do).

    And then there is that term "anarchism" - which to the popular mind means "chaos" - but which really means (when used correctly) that an anarchist is anyone who is wary of a strong central authority. The Merriam Webster online dictionary defines anarchism thusly: " a political theory holding all forms of governmental authority to be unnecessary and undesirable and advocating a society based on voluntary cooperation and free association of individuals and groups "

    This definition most closely corresponds to the modern libertarian philosophy more than probably any other one, though it certainly is part-and-parcel of the core attitude of all populist political philosophies, most particularly the left, or "libertarian socialist" groups and individuals.

    This article helps clarify the distinction between even those who often feel on the same "left" or "right" level but who differ fundamentally when it comes to the extent that state power should be allowed.