On this 4th, the unknown history of American patriotism, in The Nation:
Ironically, the Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 by a leading Christian socialist, Francis Bellamy, who was fired from his Boston ministry for his sermons depicting Jesus as a socialist. Bellamy penned the Pledge of Allegiance for Youth’s Companion, a magazine for young people published in Boston with a circulation of about 500,000.
A few years earlier, the magazine had sponsored a largely successful campaign to sell American flags to public schools. In 1891 the magazine hired Bellamy–whose first cousin Edward Bellamy was the famous socialist author of the utopian novel Looking Backward–to organize a public relations campaign to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s discovery of America by promoting use of the flag in public schools. Bellamy gained the support of the National Education Association, along with President Benjamin Harrison and Congress, for a national ritual observance in the schools, and he wrote the Pledge of Allegiance as part of the program’s flag salute ceremony.
Bellamy thought such an event would be a powerful expression on behalf of free public education. Moreover, he wanted all the schoolchildren of America to recite the pledge at the same moment. He hoped the pledge would promote a moral vision to counter the individualism embodied in capitalism and expressed in the climate of the Gilded Age, with its robber barons and exploitation of workers. Bellamy intended the line “One nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all” to express a more collective and egalitarian vision of America.