At an early age, most of us were taught the Pledge of Allegiance. However, what many people don't realize is that the Pledge we currently recite isn't the original version. In fact, it's been revised twice since it was first written.
The First Version
The first version was written in August 1892 by a socialist minister named Francis Bellamy and published in the September 8, 1892, issue of The Youth Companion.
The original prose is as follows:
I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Perhaps because he was a socialist, Bellamy originally intended that the Pledge be something that people of any country could feel comfortable saying. It was, but that flexibility led to some problems a few years later.
Originally, people would recite the Pledge with the Bellamy Salute, which started with a military-style salute. However, after saying the words "to my flag," one would extend the right arm toward the flag.
The Second Version
In 1923, the National Flag Conference changed the words to:
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 you can see, the words "my flag" were replaced with "the flag of the United States of America." This change occurred because many people were concerned that foreign-born citizens might pledge their allegiance to the flag of their native country instead of the flag of the United States.
In 1942, the Pledge's 50th anniversary, Congress incorporated the Pledge into the U.S. Flag Code, which established standards for the way the flag should be handled and displayed.
After the start of WWII, many Americans objected to the Bellamy Salute, saying that it was too similar to the Nazi salute.
As a result, on December 22, 1942, Congress amended the U.S. Flag Code (specifically Section 172) to its present form, dictating that the Pledge "should be rendered 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."
The Third Version
In 1954, largely in response to the spread of Socialism, President Eisenhower asked Congress to add the words "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance. They did, and the result is the version of the Pledge that millions of Americans say every day:
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.
More Pledge of Allegiance Facts
- "The Youths Companion Flag Pledge" was the original title of the Pledge of Allegiance.
- The Youth Companion was a national magazine for kids. Based in Boston, the magazine was published from 1827 to 1929. During its later years, it became known as The Companion and contained material for the whole family.
- In 1942 the Pledge of Allegiance was officially added to the U.S. Flag Code.
- In 1943 the Supreme Court ruled that citizens could not be forced to say the Pledge of Allegiance.
- The name "Pledge of Allegiance" didn't become the Pledge's official title until 1945.
- Oddly, some Atheists and advocates for religious tolerance have fought to remove the words "under God," saying that they are unfairly biased, either against those who don't believe in God or against those who believe in a different type of deity that couldn't be described as "God."
Updated by Armin Brott, May 2016