If you’ve been reading bluejayblog for any length of time, you know that I enjoy investigating arcane subjects. Sometimes I just like to dig up forgotten aspects of common subjects.
I have a vague recollection about the original version of the Pledge of Allegiance and the salute to the flag from my fifth grade instruction. The class had just recited the Pledge while holding our right hands over our hearts. The teacher then explained the origins of the pledge and the salute.
The pledge of allegiance was originally written in 1892 by the socialist magazine writer, Francis Bellamy, who was also a baptist preacher. When he authored the pledge, it was the subject of an article for a children’s magazine, “The Youth’s Companion”.
The original flag salute was inspired by one of the magazine editors, James Upham who allegedly emulated the ancient Roman legion salute. The instructions and pledge were first introduced in the magazine as this excerpt explains:
“…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….” –“The Youth’s Companion, 65, 1892.
In 1923, the pledge, itself was added to. When it appeared like this:
“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.”
As time wore on, the salute regionally simplified to keeping the palm down while saluting the flag. The basic form of having the right arm extended with either the palm down or up was practiced by school children and eventually the general public until around World War Two.
At that time, the Bellamy salute was thought to be too similar to the Fascist salute to Benito Mussolini and the Nazi salute to Adolf Hitler. President Franklin Roosevelt recommended the current practice of placing the right hand over the heart instead. To prevent controversy and confusion, Congress amended the Flag Code in December of 1942. The new code instituted the hand over heart pose as the official salute by civilians during the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem to replace the Bellamy salute.
One more alteration to the pledge, itself, was added as a reaction to the Red Scare. In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower recommended to Congress that the words “under God” be added to the Pledge. This was to distance the U.S. from communism which was considered to be atheistic. Interestingly Francis Bellamy’s daughter objected to the alteration saying that it compelled particular beliefs.
Regardless of objections to the alterations to the Pledge, the Flag Code was again changed in 1954. It now reads as:
“The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag: ‘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.’, should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. When not in uniform men should remove any non-religious 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.”
This is the official status of the Pledge and the salute to the Flag. This current state of affairs remains controversial and devisive to people believing various political and religious points of view. I wonder if there will be yet another alteration of the Pledge in the future. I also wonder if another salute will be adopted to conform to our changing attitudes and traditions.
The Blue Jay of Happiness wishes the elitism surrounding which political party owns the American Flag would fade away. The Flag belongs to All Americans. It is not exclusive to one point of view.