Wednesday, July 10, 2002

A little research for you Since I do work in a law library, I took it upon myself to look into the origins of "under God," in the pledge. This shit is not online, except for summaries in Westlaw (1954 WL 3058 = 1954 U.S.C.C.A.N. 22339), and presumably Lexis. The law passed by the 83rd Congress was H. J. Res. 243 (68 Stat 249), authored by L. C. Rabaut, D-Mich. -- but he himself says that sixteen other measures were introduced in the House alone (the relevent "debate" is in Congressional Record 100/6 (1954): 7757-7766). Rabaut introduced his resolution in April 1953, as he is eager to point out on the floor, but nothing came of it until Feb. 7, 1954. George M. Docherty, pastor of the New York Ave. Presbyterian church, which Eisenhower frequented (as had Lincoln), said this in his sermon:
I could sit down and brood upon it, going over each word slowly in my mind. and I came to a strange conclusion. there was something missing in the pledge, and that which was missing was the characteristic and definitive factor in the American way of life. Indeed, apart from the mention of the phrase, "the United States of America," it could be the pledge of any republic. In fact, I could hear little Moscovites repeat a similar pledge to their hammer-and-sickle flag in Moscow with equal solemnity. Russia is also a republic, that claims to have overthrown the tryranny of kingship. Russia also claims to be indivisible.
After this, the Protestants rushed to join Rabaut (a Catholic) and the competing resolutions flooded the House (and Senate). I will spare you the sordid details of our Congress's enthusiasm for God. The House soon returned to more pressing matters, like the Communist Control Act of 1954 (1954 U.S.C.C.A.N. 3145). How like the glorious Roman Republic is our own -- only, under God, of course:
So corrupted indeed and debased was that age by sycophancy that not only the foremost citizens who were forced to save their grandeur by servility, but every ex-consul, most of the ex-praetors and a host of inferior senators would rise in eager rivalry to propose shameful and preposterous motions. Tradition says that Tiberius as often as he left the Senate-House used to exclaim in Greek, "How ready these men are to be slaves." Clearly, even he, with his dislike of public freedom, was disgusted at the abject abasement of his creatures. [Tacitus, Ann. 3.65]
[As far as I can tell, the media has not bothered to look into this, with 2 exceptions: David Greenberg and David Morris. Hertzberg pointed it out in last week's New Yorker too, but the link is already gone.]


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