The Pledge of Allegiance

On December 28, 1945, the Pledge of Allegiance was declared by Congress to be the official national pledge to the U.S. Flag. The Pledge to the Flag was initially penned by Mr. Francis Bellamy for the official program of the National Public School Celebration of Columbus Day in October 1892.

The wording of the Pledge has been modified three times since it was originally written. On June 14, 1923, “my flag” was changed to “the flag of the United States.” In 1924, the words “of America” were added. On June 14, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved adding the words “under God.” Ever since then, the pledge has been read as: “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.”

During the Civil War, the Reverend Henry Ward Beecher published several discourses in Freedom and War (1863), one of which was “The National Flag.” In the following excerpt, he tells of some of the history surrounding the birth of our American flag and then reminds us of the meaning of the flag.

The Meaning Of Our Flag, by Henry Ward Beecher

If one asks me the meaning of our flag, I say to him: It means just what Concord and Lexington meant, what Bunker Hill meant. It means the whole glorious Revolutionary War. It means all that the Declaration of Independence meant. It means all that the Constitution of our people, organizing for justice, for liberty and for happiness, meant.

Under this banner rode Washington and his armies. Before it Burgoyne laid down his arms. It waved on the highlands at West Point. When Arnold would have surrendered these valuable fortresses and precious legacies, his night was turned into day and his treachery was driven away by beams of light from this starry banner.

It cheered our army, driven out from around New York, and in their painful pilgrimages through New Jersey. This banner streamed in light over the soldiers’ heads at Valley Forge and at Morristown. It crossed the waters rolling with ice at Trenton, and when its stars gleamed in the morning with a victory, a new day of hope dawned on the despondency of this nation.

Our Flag carries American ideas, American history and American feelings. Beginning with the Colonies, and coming down to our time, in its sacred heraldry, in its glorious insignia, it has gathered and stored chiefly this supreme idea: divine right of liberty in man. Every color means liberty; every thread means liberty; every form of star and beam or stripe of light means liberty – not lawlessness, but organized, institutional liberty – liberty through law, and laws for liberty!

This American Flag was the safeguard of liberty. Not an atom of crown was allowed to go into its insignia. Not a symbol of authority in the ruler was permitted to go into it. It was an ordinance of liberty by the people, for the people. That it meant, that it means, and, by the blessing of God, that it shall mean to the end of time!

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