Should Pledge of Allegiance Change to Reflect Political Trends?
The Pledge of Allegiance has mom-and-apple-pie authority for most of us, with a wholesomeness and traditionalism that cannot be questioned. It’s good to have lots of sacrosanct beliefs and values in our lives, isn’t it? The Pledge certainly fits, being a simple affirmation of patriotism that speaks for itself.
The Founding Fathers and writers of the US Constitution actually never heard of the Pledge, however, since it was invented by Francis Bellamy in 1892 to give voice to the newly fashioned spirits of nationalism and socialism that were sweeping the country back then.
The Pledge is also indebted to the fracturing of the American psyche brought about by the Civil War, which represented a before-after watershed in values, beliefs, traditions, and heritage. The country that existed before the war interpreted the Constitution differently in matters relating to the power of the states in relation to the federal government.
States rights were once assumed, but today only a rare person has even heard of the Tenth Amendment. The right to secede from the Union was intact before the Civil War (and followed directly from the right to secede from the British Empire). At first, it was hard to tell just how costly “saving the Union” would be (such tallies are always unimaginable) but 620,000 died with over 1,100,00 casualties.
The Pledge words “one nation” and “indivisible” were important in 1892 to reaffirm that the North was right in sending federal troops into the South–and as a warning to all future would-be revolutionaries.
It seems surprising that Francis Bellamy, though a Christian socialist himself, didn’t inject the “under God” wording at the time, leaving this phrase up to President Eisenhower decades later. At least 17 states have their own local pledge of allegiances today. The Wikipedia graphic below hints at how our Pledge of Allegiance has changed over time, the danger being that each new trend period will offer a revised version to reflect new political fashion.
Any chance we might write or interpolate a Pledge of Allegiance as it would have been devised right after the Declaration of Independence, before the rise of monolithic federalism and the Bellamy salute?