The Copywriter Who Wrote the Pledge of Allegiance

A few weeks ago, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals declared the contemporary version of the Pledge "unconstitutional" …

Making it one of the most controversial pieces of advertising copy ever written.

That's right.

The Pledge of Allegiance wasn't written by our Founding Fathers. It's not the holy relic of history so many seem to think it should be. Rather, it's a piece of ad copy. Literally.

The author of the original Pledge was a fallen Baptist minister, Francis Bellamy. The year was 1892. Bellamy had recently lost his preaching job for giving sermons with titles like "Jesus Was a Socialist."

His friends James Upham and Daniel Ford had hired Bellamy to write for their magazine, "Youth Companion." One of the things the magazine did was sell flags.

On the magazine's reputation, Bellamy was able to convince President Harrison to ask for flag-flying at every public schoolhouse. Three months letter, Bellamy wrote the Pledge to help promote that idea in the magazine.

It was a smash success.

It wasn't until 1954 – during the height of anti-communism rhetoric – that Congress added the words "under God," thanks to pressure from Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Knights of Columbus.

The irony that Bellamy was a Socialist who spoke regularly about the evils of capitalism … and a fallen preacher … was apparently lost on the powers that were. Just as today, the irony is lost on those 150 Congressmen who stood on the Capitol steps last week, reciting the 1954 version for the TV cameras.

Gentleman, don't we have more important things to do?

God – or someone – bless America.

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Published: August 5, 2002

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