Lecture 1 – July, 2023
When our Grand Knight asked if I would accept appointment as Lecturer, I determined to review the duties of that office as put forth by the Supreme Council. There are four points under the duties of the Lecturer. The first is that he is appointed annually by the grand knight. Number three is to stay abreast of the council’s charitable, membership and social programs. The last is to perform such duties as the grand knight may direct. I saved number two for the last as it defines the lecturer’s responsibility to provide suitable educational and entertainment programs under the “Good of the Order”. This I shall attempt to do via our website.
July is the month in which we celebrate our independence from Great Britain. We acknowledge the founding of a nation of former colonies and the change from a struggle for “our rights as Englishmen” to a war for complete independence from the British crown.
Our founding documents not only created a country dedicated to basic freedoms but also established goals for the nation that we pursue to this day.
When I began school in kindergarten one of the first things I was taught was “The Pledge of Allegiance.” For the next six years every school day began with the recitation of “The Pledge.” We begin our meetings with a recitation of “The Pledge” as does the Congress and state legislatures. We begin our meetings with a recitation of the pledge. There is no requirement to do so in law nor is the wording for the pledge in any of our founding documents.
There was no Pledge prior to 1885 when Union Army Captain George Thatcher Balch determined that some form of oath was desirable. He wrote an early version. “We give our heads and hearts to God and our country; one country, one language, one flag!” Interestingly this wording included a reference to God. Something subsequent versions omitted until 1954.
There is some controversy over who wrote the current Pledge. It was either a 13 year old Kansas school boy named Frank E. Bellamy who submitted a pledge similar to the current pledge to a magazine contest or the Reverend Francis Bellamy who submitted an almost identical pledge for publication in the September 8, 1892 issue of “A Youth’s Companion.” Although their names are similar the student and the Reverend were not related, as far as we know.
Both the Balch and the Bellamy pledges or variations thereof were used in schools and by organizations until 1923 when the National Flag Conference made minor changes to the Bellamy pledge. The 1923 to 1924 revised NFC version was finally recognized by Congress on June 22, 1942. This version was used until 1954 when the words “under God” were added. A chart showing the various changes is included.
Louis Albert Bowman, a chaplain for the Illinois chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution suggested adding the phrase “under God” to the pledge in 1948. He claimed the words came from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Although the words do not appear in the “manuscripts” of that address, every newspaper account includes them. President Lincoln apparently went off script.
The Knights began to add the phrase, “under God” to the pledge in 1951. Several attempts were made to make the addition official without success. At that time it was traditional for the US President to attend the Sunday service closest to February 7th at the church President Lincoln attended. On February 7th President Eisenhower was sitting in Lincoln’s pew at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. The sermon that day was based on Lincoln’s address at Gettysburg. George MacPherson Docherty, the pastor, said that the nation’s strength lay not in its military might but in its spirit and higher purpose as expressed by our founding fathers. The Pledge, as it was, could be applied to any nation. It lacked something to set this nation apart from any other nations. He argued that President Lincoln’s speech at Gettysburg included, the phrase “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom”. These dozen words were enough to set this nation above all other nations. President Eisenhower was impressed and on June 14, 1954 “under God” was officially added to the Pledge.
Originally, we were directed to raise our right hands as we would when being sworn in a court. During World War II it was felt that this was too like the salute being used in Nazi Germany at the time. We were advised to instead to stand, face the flag, and put your right hand over your heart. Gentlemen should remove their hat and hold it over their heart. Military and now veterans, will render a hand salute. If under arms they will render a salute appropriate to their weapon.
The next time you recite the Pledge of Allegiance think of what you are saying and the meaning behind those thirty-one words. You are swearing an oath, promising to give your total support to the ideals as set forth in the documents that form the bases of the United States of America. Truly, a worthy undertaking.
Pledge of Allegiance
(changes are bolded and underlined)
1892 (first version)
“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
1892 to 1923 (early revision by Bellamy)
“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
1923 to 1924
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
1924 to 1954
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
1954 (current version, per 4 U.S.C. §4)
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”