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The History of the Pledge of Allegiance

Posted by Samuel Arbesman  October 11, 2010 10:11 AM

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Melanie Kirkpatrick reviews The Pledge, a book about the origins and history of the Pledge of Allegiance by Jeffrey Owen Jones and Peter Meyer, in the Wall Street Journal. There are many facts in here that I was entirely unaware of. For example, the Pledge of Allegiance was created in 1892, in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the expedition of Christopher Columbus. Or how much it has changed over the years:

The original Pledge contained 22 words, compared with 31 today, and Messrs. Jones and Meyer trace the development of each iteration. The first change occurred when Bellamy, dissatisfied with how the Pledge sounded when he heard it recited, aimed to improve the rhythm by adding the word "to" in front of "the Republic." In 1923, some Americans worried that the Pledge didn't name the U.S. and worked to change the original "I pledge allegiance to my flag" to "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States." In 1924, the words "of America" were added to the same phrase. Also in 1924, the Pledge began to be accompanied by a raised-arm salute, a practice that was abandoned as Hitler rose to power.

The fourth change came in 1954, when the Knights of Columbus lobbied for the addition of the words "under God." Congress passed a resolution authorizing the change, and it was signed into law by President Eisenhower. In the 1970s there was a failed proposal to change the ending of the Pledge to "with liberty, justice and responsibilities for all." Nice idea—citizenship carries duties—but it sounded lousy.


(Wall Street Journal)

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