Francis Julius Bellamy

Francis Julius Bellamy (1855–1931) was an American Christian socialist minister and author, best known for writing the original version of the US Pledge of Allegiance in 1892.

Francis Julius Bellamy was born on May 18, 1855, in Mount Morris, New York. His family was deeply involved in the Baptist church and they moved to Rome, New York, when Bellamy was only 5. Here, Bellamy became an active member of the First Baptist Church; which his father was minister of until his death in 1864. He attended college at the University of Rochester, in Rochester, New York, and studied theology and belonged to the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity.

As a young man, he became a Baptist minister and, influenced by the vestiges of the Second Great Awakening, began to travel to promote his faith and help his community. Bellamy’s travels brought him to Massachusetts, where he penned the “Pledge of Allegiance” for a campaign by the Youth’s Companion, a patriotic circular and magazine. Bellamy “believed in the absolute separation of church and state” and did not include the phrase “under God” in his pledge.

Bellamy married Harriet Benton in Newark, New York, in 1881. They had three sons: John, who lived in California; David, who lived in Rochester, New York; and Brewster, who died as an infant. His first wife died in 1918, and he married Marie Morin (1920). His daughter-in-law Rachael (David’s wife) lived in Rochester until February/March 1989 when she died at the age of 93. David and Rachael had two children, David Jr. and Peter. His son, John Benton Bellamy, married Ruth “Polly” (née Edwards). They had three children, Harriet (1911–1999), Barbara (1913–2005) and John Benton Bellamy, Jr. (1921–2015).

Bellamy ran for the office of Governor of New York, but lost.

Bellamy spent most of the last years of his life living and working in Tampa, Florida. He died there on August 28, 1931, at the age of 76. His cremated remains were brought back to New York and buried in a family plot in a cemetery in Rome.

Pledge of Allegiance

In 1891, Daniel Sharp Ford, the owner of the Youth’s Companion, hired Bellamy to work with Ford’s nephew James B. Upham in the magazine’s premium department. In 1888, the Youth’s Companion had begun a campaign to sell US flags to public schools as a premium to solicit subscriptions. For Upham and Bellamy, the flag promotion was more than merely a business move; under their influence, the Youth’s Companion became a fervent supporter of the schoolhouse flag movement, which aimed to place a flag above every school in the nation. Four years later, by 1892, the magazine had sold US flags to approximately 26,000 schools. By this time the market was slowing for flags, but was not yet saturated.

In 1892, Upham had the idea of using the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus reaching the Americas / Western Hemisphere in 1492 to further bolster the schoolhouse flag movement. The magazine called for a national Columbian Public School Celebration to coincide with the World’s Columbian Exposition, then scheduled to be held in Chicago, Illinois, during 1893. A flag salute was to be part of the official program for the Columbus Day celebration on October 12 to be held in schools all over the US.

The pledge was published in the September 8, 1892, issue of the magazine, and immediately put to use in the campaign. Bellamy went to speak to a national meeting of school superintendents to promote the celebration; the convention liked the idea and selected a committee of leading educators to implement the program, including the immediate past president of the National Education Association. Bellamy was selected as the chair. Having received the official blessing of educators, Bellamy’s committee now had the task of spreading the word across the nation and of designing an official program for schools to follow on the day of national celebration. He structured the program around a flag-raising ceremony and his pledge.

His original Pledge read as follows:

I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all

The recital was accompanied with a salute to the flag known as the Bellamy salute, described in detail by Bellamy. During World War II, the salute was replaced with a hand-over-heart gesture because the original form involved stretching the arm out towards the flag in a manner that resembled the later Nazi salute. (For a history of the pledge, see Pledge of Allegiance).

In 1954, in response to the perceived threat of secular Communism, President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the words “under God,” creating the 31-word pledge that is recited today.

Bellamy described his thoughts as crafted the language of the pledge:

It began as an intensive communing with salient points of our national history, from the Declaration of Independence onwards; with the makings of the Constitution… with the meaning of the Civil War; with the aspiration of the people…

The true reason for allegiance to the Flag is the ‘republic for which it stands’. …And what does that last thing, the Republic mean? It is the concise political word for the Nation – the One Nation which the Civil War was fought to prove. To make that One Nation idea clear, we must specify that it is indivisible, as Webster and Lincoln used to repeat in their great speeches. And its future?

Just here arose the temptation of the historic slogan of the French Revolution which meant so much to Jefferson and his friends, ‘Liberty, equality, fraternity’. No, that would be too fanciful, too many thousands of years off in realization. But we as a nation do stand square on the doctrine of liberty and justice for all…

Bellamy “viewed his Pledge as an ‘inoculation’ that would protect immigrants and native-born but insufficiently patriotic Americans from the ‘virus’ of radicalism and subversion.”

Political views

Bellamy was a Christian socialist who “championed ‘the rights of working people and the equal distribution of economic resources, which he believed was inherent in the teachings of Jesus.'” In 1891, Bellamy was “forced from his Boston pulpit for preaching against the evils of capitalism”, and eventually stopped attending church altogether after moving to Florida, reportedly because of the racism he witnessed there. Francis’s career as a preacher ended because of his tendency to describe Jesus as a socialist. In the 21st century, Bellamy is considered an early American democratic socialist.

Francis Bellamy was a leader in the public education movement, the nationalization movement, and the Christian socialist movement. He united his grassroots network to start a collective memory activism in 1892.

French philosopher Henri de Saint-Simon’s “new Christianity”, which stressed using science to tackle poverty, influenced Bellamy and many of the “new St. Simonians.” They saw nationalization (de-privatization) and public education as the policy solutions.

In 1889, Francis Bellamy served as founding vice president and wrote several articles for the Society of Christian Socialists, a grassroots organization founded in Boston. The newspaper Dawn was run by his cousin Edward and Frances Willard. Francis Bellamy wrote about the Golden Rule and quoted Bible passages that denounced greed and lust for money. He was also chairman of the education committee.

Bellamy offered public education classes with topics such as “Jesus the socialist”, “What is Christian Socialism?”, and “Socialism versus anarchy”. In 1891, Bellamy was asked to write down this last lecture, which called for a strong government and argued that only the socialist economy could allow both the worker and the owner to practice the golden rule. This essay, along with public relations experience, allowed him to coordinate a massive Columbus Day campaign.

On immigration and universal suffrage, Bellamy wrote in the editorial of The Illustrated American, Vol. XXII, No. 394, p. 258: “[a] democracy like ours cannot afford to throw itself open to the world where every man is a lawmaker, every dull-witted or fanatical immigrant admitted to our citizenship is a bane to the commonwealth.” And further: “Where all classes of society merge insensibly into one another every alien immigrant of inferior race may bring corruption to the stock. There are races more or less akin to our own whom we may admit freely and get nothing but advantage by the infusion of their wholesome blood. But there are other races, which we cannot assimilate without lowering our racial standard, which should be as sacred to us as the sanctity of our homes.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s