In A Nutshell
The Pledge of Allegiance is a cornerstone of modern America, recited by children across the country and revered by the GOP and right-wing groups. However, it was originally written as a piece of pro–big government propaganda by Francis Bellamy, a radical socialist.
The Whole Bushel
In 1892, the editor of Youth’s Companion was looking to bring new talent to the magazine. Having heard that the radical socialist Edward Bellamy’s cousin was looking for work, he hired him to write “patriotic propaganda”—possibly in the hope that he might stir up some controversy.
Francis Bellamy was after all a divisive figure: A committed nationalist preacher, he’d been thrown out of his Baptist church for insisting Jesus was a socialist. He’d also founded Boston’s first “Nationalism Club,” based on the principles laid down in his cousin’s bestseller Looking Backward (a utopian novel set in the year 2000, featuring an America that has blossomed into a Marxist paradise). By pressuring for the nationalization of industry and for government control of the entire economy, Francis was hoping to make Edward’s vision a reality—a hope that even creeps into that famous slice of propaganda he wrote:
“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
For Francis, “the republic” was synonymous with “the State.” When he sat down to write the Pledge, it was with the stated intent of reigniting the flame of patriotism, which he felt had almost vanished under a tide of individualism, business enterprise, and materialism. In short, his idea of “patriotism” was intimately connected with socialist ideals of a benign big government—almost the opposite of what a modern-day “patriot” would profess. He even considered including a reference to “equality,” but felt it might not play well with those who opposed African-American integration.
Finally, despite being a (former) Baptist minister, he made no reference to God in the Pledge. The words “under God” were added in 1954, proposed by radical right-wing Catholics to differentiate between America and the “Godless” Soviet Union. In other words, the beloved pledge of right-wing, Christian groups was actually neither of those things, but actually a piece of “Godless” propaganda from the pen of a committed American socialist.