The Irony of the Pledge of Allegiance

I haven’t written a history post in awhile because I’ve started a new manuscript that’s a little outside my normal American Colonial and Revolutionary focus. I decided to take one of the very minor characters from Le Chevalier, Christiana, Mont Trignon’s youngest sister and write her story.

If you read LeChevalier, you may recall that Christiana’s makes her debut in a painting that
Le Chevalier
Alexandra thinks is of Mont Trignon’s lover. She ends up having a one-sided conversation with Christiana about midway through the story. Toward the end, she finally meets up with the angelic teenager.

Fast-forward almost fifteen years. The American Revolution has ended and the fledgling United States is off to a fairly solid start. By 1793, they’ve ditched the Articles of Confederation and structured a Constitution. Things aren’t perfect, but the Americans have proven it can be done.

BTW, for those of you who want to know why the Pledge of Allegiance is ironic, bear with me. I’m getting there.

Inspired by the success of the Americans and in deep in debt because of their support for the American Revolution, the French have launched their own revolutionary cause. Based on the philosophy of natural rights, things started out well enough, but by 1993, they’ve turned decidedly sour.

All of Mont Trignon’s sisters, except Christiana, have emigrated to the US. Christiana stayed behind with her husband. Fifteen years and her first-hand experience with the Reign of Terror have changed Christiana in ways that only Captain Neil Blakely can heal. Yes, Neil is the younger brother of Amanda Blakely, the heroine of Caution to the Wind, but he’s all grown up now. J

Caution to the Wind
Quick side note: There is no adultery in this story. I manage to dispatch Christiana’s first husband in the prologue in a uniquely French Revolutionary fashion, if you know what I mean.

While I’m reasonably familiar with the story of the French Revolution – as in I’ve read Tale of Two Cities and The Scarlet Pimpernel – that’s not nearly enough to leverage it as a backdrop for the story. Hence, the reason for my limited posts. I’ve been studying!

This morning, I was pedaling away on the elliptical and listening to Great Courses: Living theFrench Revolution and the Age of Napoleon. (If it weren’t for Audible, I’d probably never get a workout in.) The author mentioned that French children were proudly reciting the pledge to the new nation. Nothing wrong with that. U.S. school children have been doing it for decades – although perhaps not as much anymore.

But then it got me to thinking. I know nothing about the origins of the United States Pledge of Allegiance. Was it something modeled after the French? Well, that would be a little ironic. You see, if you study the French Revolution, you’d have to be a pretty big ideologue not to notice some pretty big discrepancies between French and American philosophy.

The American Revolution was based on representation in government. It wasn’t that the Americans objected to the current system of government so much as they wanted a say in it.  As those who are proponents of aggressive taxation have a tendency to argue, “they didn’t actually complain about the taxes, just the lack of representation.” After independence looked to be the only option, much of what the Americans said and did showed their determination never to be ruled in such a way again. I’m simplifying things, of course, but in a blog post, it’s hard to do otherwise!

The French Revolution started in much the same way, but it took on, for lack of a better word, a Marxist twist. Of course, Marx wouldn’t grace the world with his gloomy presence for another twenty-five years, so they wouldn’t have called it that. Besides, liberté, égalité, fraternité sounds so innocuous, doesn’t it? Perhaps until you realize that some were agreeing with the demands of the sloganeers at the point – or should I say blade – of the guillotine.

So back to the Pledge of Allegiance for those of you who are still with me. A quick Google search for it’s origins led me to posts like this one that claim the pledge was introduced in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, a Christian Socialist leader. (I didn’t know there were any of those, but then, this was 1892.) It sounds like he clearly had

The irony – in case you really don’t see it – is that those who usually recite the Pledge today tend to be on the opposite spectrum from the socialists. And the socialists I know would never utter anything that included the words “under God” on principle alone. Some don’t even know that you’re supposed to put your hand over your heart – or maybe they do. By the way, according to Wikipedia, the “under God” part wasn’t added until 1948, and the socialists appear to have nothing to do with it by then.

Anyway, the writer of this post is just as stumped as I am as to how the Pledge could have been so abandoned by its founders and adopted by their polar opposites. Actually, I have some theories, but they will have to wait for another day.

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