- The Washington Times - Monday, October 8, 2001

When President Bush participated on Wednesday in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag in a New York City school, he was probably unaware that the recital to Old Glory began on another October day a little more than a century ago.
The occasion was the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' historic visit, with American clergyman and editor Francis Bellamy devising a statement in 1892 that he hoped would be a fitting tribute to the Great Discoverer.
Mr. Bellamy's name was not a household word at the time. Born in Mount Morris, N.Y., in 1855, he became a minister after his graduation from Rochester Theological Seminary in 1879. For several years, he plied his trade at various churches, but in 1891 decided to join the staff of a magazine, Youth's Companion.
One of his first major duties as a magazine editor was to be chairman of the National Public Schools Celebration of Columbus Day, an organization set up by Youth's Companion. Mr. Bellamy and staffer James B. Upham planned numerous activities for schoolchildren in observance of the quadricentennial.
One suggestion was for youngsters to recite the following statement that Mr. Bellamy devised:

I pledge allegiance to my flag
And to the Republic for which it stands
One Nation indivisible
With liberty and justice for all.


Not only was the statement recited on Columbus Day, but daily afterward because it seemed to be a fitting way to begin each school day.
Of course, slight modifications were made to the Pledge of Allegiance, as it came to be known, over the years. In 1923, the National Flag Conference held in Washington changed the words "my flag" to "the flag of the United States." A year later, it added "of America" after "United States."
Congress got into the act as well, approving the Pledge in 1945 and nine years later adding the words "under God" after "one Nation."
But as these changes were being affected, controversy raged over the authorship of the Pledge. After Mr. Bellamy died in 1931, the family of Mr. Upham contended that their namesake had actually written the Pledge.
Despite the Great Depression that overwhelmed the nation at the time, the United States Flag Association decided to settle the controversy. In 1939, it appointed a committee of three historians to ascertain authorship of the Pledge of Allegiance. The committee agreed that Mr. Bellamy had, indeed, penned the statement.
Controversy continued afterward as 17 states passed laws requiring public schoolchildren to salute the flag and recite the Pledge daily. When members of the Jehovah's Witnesses, a religious sect, took issue with the requirement, the Supreme Court in 1940 upheld such laws on the grounds that "national unity," the foundation for "national security," prevailed over individual religious preferences.
However, the court reversed itself three years later in a West Virginia case, again involving Jehovah's Witnesses. Said the court: "We think the action of the local authorities in compelling the flag salute and the pledge transcends constitutional limitations on their power and invades the sphere of intellect and spirit which is the purpose of the First Amendment … to reserve from all official control."
Although the court's decision was met with both support and disagreement from Americans, the most widely repeated view since 1892 about the flag and the Pledge came from President Woodrow Wilson in 1915: "The things that the flag stands for," said Wilson, "were created by the experiences of a great people. Everything that it stands for was written by their lives. The flag is the embodiment, not of sentiment, but of history. It represents the experiences made by men and women, the experiences of those who … live under that flag."

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