Francis Bellamy – Life and Legacy

There has been confusion as to the author of the United States Pledge of Allegiance, and his origin. Several newspapers, including the Kansas City Star of Kansas City, Kansas and the Dennison Review of Dennison, Iowa, have inaccurately passed on the notion that the author of the pledge was a Kansan. They indicate that the birth of the Pledge took place in Cherryvale, Montgomery County, Kansas, near Coffeyville. This couldn’t possibly be further from the truth.

The legend goes as follows:

A little more than twenty years ago Mrs. Lillian A. Hendricks of Cherryvale, Kan., was an untiring worker in the Women’s Relief corps, an auxiliary of the G. A. R., and held the office of patriotic instructor in the Cherryvale organization. The mother of two boys, she wanted them to grow up with the spirit of her ancestry, which led back to John Cary of Revolutionary war fame, and she entered- upon her duties as patriotic instructor with enthusiasm.  She followed the custom of her official predecessors in visiting the schools and talking to the pupils about the glories of the country and its traditions. But she went farther. She introduced the principal of the high school to set aside a recitation hour, during which the sixteen members of the class of 1896 wrote their ideas of their debt to their country and their duty to its government.

One member of the class was Frank E. Bellamy. His tribute impressed Mrs.  Hendricks so much, when it was gathered up with the others and sent to her for inspection, that she preserved it.

With 1898 came the Spanish-American war, and one of the first to volunteer his services to the country was Frank Bellamy, then twenty-one years old. He joined the Twentieth Kansas Infantry as a member of the regimental band and went to the Philippines, where he remained until the Kansas fighting force returned to the United States and was mustered out.

But in the meantime, in 1899, with the fervor of patriotism which the war with Spain aroused, came the decision of a conference of representatives of the patriotic organizations of the country that a pledge of allegiance was necessary to inculcate a love of country in the generations to come. Throughout the states the submission of suitable sentiments was invited, and the W. R. C., through its state departments and through local corps like the one at Cherryvale, took it up. Mrs. Hendricks, whose love of the Stars and Stripes was something very much like worship, thought at once of the pledge of allegiance written by the high school boy who now was with Uncle Sam’s fighting men across the Pacific, and she submitted it to the national committee which was to make the selection. Out of thousands upon thousands of manuscripts which reached the committee  and were read and passed on, the pledge of Frank Bellamy was chosen as the one expressing in fewest words and  strongest phrases the loyalty of an American to his flag and to the land of his ‘birth or adoption. So it came to pass that the Kansas boy author of the “flag pledge” is numbered with Francis  Scott Key, author of “The Star Spangled  Banner, Joseph Rodman Drake, author of “The American Flag, Dr. S. S. Smith, author of “America,” and others from whence pens have come undying expressions of loyalty to our country.

Frank Bellamy returned from the Philippines shattered in health by his stay in the tropics. It is an interesting fact that he knew nothing of the adoption .of his pledge of allegiance by the patriotic societies of America until Mrs. Hendricks told him when he arrived in his home town.

“We are proud of you, Frank,” she said “and the national W. R. C. has passed a resolution thanking you for writing it.”  The boy flushed. “It didn’t express half “what I tried to write,” he said.

The physicians who examined him on  his arrival home found that the white plague already had him In Its grip and ordered him to the mountains. He went to Colorado, and, since he could no longer follow music as a vocation, he took up art, for which he also had a talent, and, his own mother having died, he looked to Mrs. Hendricks for advice and corresponded with her throughout his residence in the west

Mr. Bellamy never recovered his health, but his last days were made easy because of the fact that through Mrs. Hendricks’ efforts he obtained a liberal pension as a Spanish-American war veteran. He died in Denver March 31, 1915. His body was taken to Cherryvale and rests in Fairview cemetery there, not far from the shaft which marks the grave of Mrs. Hendricks.

In fact, Frank E. Bellamy was Spanish-American War veteran from Cherryvale, Kansas, and was once thought to have written the now famous American Pledge of Allegiance. However, it has been shown that the actual author was Francis Julius Bellamy, a New York Baptist preacher and Christian Socialist. In 1957, the Library of Congress supported Dr. Margarette S. Miller’s study which found that preacher Francis Bellamy wrote the pledge which was published by the magazine The Youth’s Companion by publisher James B. Upham. Francis Bellamy wrote the pledge in 1892, and he died in 1931.

was born 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 was part of 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. It was there that he penned the “Pledge of Allegiance” for a campaign by the “Youth’s Companion;” a patriotic circular of the day. Bellamy “believed in the absolute separation of church and state” and did not include the phrase “one nation under God” within his original 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

In 1954, at President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s urging, the Congress legislated that “under God” be added, making the pledge read:

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.

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.

Bellamy commented on his thoughts as he created the pledge, and his reasons for choosing the careful wording:

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 married Harriet Benton in Newark, New York in 1881. They had two sons: John, who lived in California, and David, who lived in Rochester, New York. His first wife died in 1918, and he later married Marie Morin (1920).

Bellamy ran for Governor of New York, but lost. His daughter-in-law Rachael (David’s wife) lived in Rochester until Feb/Mar of 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” nee Edwards. They had three children, Harriet (1911–1999), Barbara (1913–2005) and John Benton Bellamy, Jr. (1921–2015).

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.

The Society of Christian Socialists, a grassroots organization, was founded in Boston 1889. Francis Bellamy served as founding vice president and wrote several articles for the Society of Christian Socialists’ newspaper, the Dawn. The newspaper was run by his cousin Edward and Frances Willard, president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. In one article, Francis Bellamy wrote that Christian socialists had the obligation to live out the golden rule, to act toward contemporary society as did Jesus. He quoted Bible passages that revered Moses and Jesus as denouncing the evils of greed and lust for money (ibid). Francis Bellamy (hereafter Bellamy) was also chairman of the Boston chapter of the Society of Christian Socialists’ education committee.

Francis 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 where they were buried in a family plot in a cemetery in Rome

Included below are gravesite photos of socialist minister Francis Bellamy, born in Rochester New York and buried in Rome New York.

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