On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress selected the flag of the United States.
President Woodrow Wilson designated "National Flag Day."
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"I ... call your attention to the approach of the anniversary of the day upon which the flag of the United States was adopted by the Congress as the emblem of the Union. ... I therefore ... request that throughout the nation ... the fourteenth day of June be observed as Flag Day with special patriotic exercises ... to give significant expressions to our thoughtful love of America, our comprehension of the great mission of liberty and justice ... for an America which no man can corrupt, no influence draw away from its ideals, no force divide against itself. ... Done at the City of Washington ...in the year of Our Lord one thousand nine hundred and sixteen."
On June 14, 1783, General George Washington sent a "circular letter" to the thirteen governors of the newly independent states: "I am now preparing to resign. ... Before I carry this resolution into effect, I think it a duty ... to make this my last official communication, to congratulate you on the glorious events which Heaven has been pleased to produce in our favor. ... The Citizens of America are from this period to be considered as the actors of a most conspicuous theater, which seems to be particularly designed by Providence for the display of human greatness and felicity. ... Heaven has crowned all its other blessing, by giving a fairer opportunity for political happiness, than any other nation has ever been favored with. ..."
Washington continued, warning: "According to the system of policy the States shall adopt at this moment, they will stand or fall; and by their confirmation or lapse, it is yet to be decided, whether the Revolution must ultimately be considered as a blessing or a curse ... not to the present age alone, for with our fate will the destiny of unborn millions be involved. ..."
Washington concluded: "I now make it my earnest prayer that God would have you, and the state over which you preside, in His holy protection; that He would incline the hearts of the citizens ... to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another ... and particularly for their brethren who have served in the field; and finally, that He would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation."
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President Calvin Coolidge stated May 31, 1926: "Our condition today is not merely that of one people under one flag, but of a thoroughly united people who have seen bitterness and enmity which once threatened to sever them pass away, and a spirit of kindness and good will reign over them all."
President Calvin Coolidge stated May 25, 1924, at the Confederate Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia: "It is the maintenance of our American ideals, beneath a common flag, under the blessings of Almighty God. ... We know that Providence would have it so."
President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated November 13, 1935: "Our flag for a century and a half has been the symbol of the principles of liberty of conscience, of religious freedom and equality before the law; and these concepts are deeply ingrained in our national character."
During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated on Flag Day, June 14, 1942: "The belief in man, created free, in the image of God – is the crucial difference between ourselves and the enemies we face today. ... We ask the German people, still dominated by their Nazi whip-masters, whether they would rather have the mechanized hell of Hitler's 'New' Order or – in place of that, freedom of speech and religion. ... We ask the Japanese people, trampled by their savage lords of slaughter, whether they would rather continue slavery and blood or – in place of them, freedom of speech and religion. ... We know that man, born to freedom in the image of God, will not forever suffer the oppressors' sword. ..."
Franklin Roosevelt continued: "I am going to close by reading you a prayer. ... 'God of the free, we pledge our hearts and lives today to the cause of all free mankind. Grant us victory over the tyrants who would enslave all free men and Nations. ... Grant us patience with the deluded and pity for the betrayed. ... Grant us ... valor that shall cleanse the world of oppression and the old base doctrine that the strong must eat the weak because they are strong.'"
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Ben Franklin warned June 2, 1787: "There is scarce a king in a hundred who would not, if he could, follow the example of Pharaoh – get first all the people's money, then all their lands, and then make them and their children servants forever. ... There is a natural inclination in mankind to kingly government. ... I am apprehensive ... that the government of the states may, in future times, end in a monarchy."
Yale President Ezra Stiles commented May 8, 1783, on how rare America's freedoms are in history: "That symbol of union, the American flag with it increasing stripes and stars, may have an equally combining efficacy for ages. The senatorial constitution and consulate of the Roman Empire lasted from Tarquin (last Roman king, 509 B.C.) to Caesar (Roman dictator, 49 B.C.). ... The Assyrian endured without mutation through a tract of one thousand three hundred years from Semiramis (legendary ancient Babylonian queen) to Sardanapalus (alleged last Assyrian ruler, 627 B.C.). ... Nor was the policy of Egypt overthrown for a longer period from the days of Metzraim (upper and lower Nile kingdoms, c.3,300 B.C.) till the time of Cambyses (Persian conqueror of Egypt, 525 B.C.) and Amasis (last great Egpytian ruler, 526 B.C.). ... The Medo-Persian (550-330 B.C.) and Alexandrine Empires (356-323 B.C.), and that of Timur (1370-1405 A.D.), who once reigned from Smyrna to the Indus, were ... of short and transitory duration. ... Pragmatic sanction ... secured the imperial succession in the House of Austria for ages (Habsburgs, 1020-1780). ... Whatever mutations may arise in the United States, perhaps hereditary monarchy and a standing army will be the last."
Yale President Ezra Stiles continued: "This great American revolution, this recent political phenomenon ... will be ... contemplated by all nations. Navigation will carry the American flag around the globe itself; and display the thirteen stripes and new constellation at Bengal and Canton, on the Indus and Ganges, on the Whang-ho and the Yang-tse-kiang; and with commerce will import the wisdom and literature of the east. That prophecy of Daniel is now literally fulfilling – there shall be a universal traveling to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. This knowledge will be brought home and treasured up in America: and being here digested and carried to the highest perfection, may re-blaze back from America to Europe, Asia and Africa, and illumine the world with truth and liberty. ..."
Ezra Stiles added: "John Adams ... observes ... 'But the great designs of Providence must be accomplished ... The progress of society will be accelerated by centuries by this revolution. ... American ideas of toleration and religious liberty ... will become the fashionable system of Europe very soon. Light spreads from the dayspring in the west; and may it shine more and more until the perfect day. ...'"
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Stiles concluded: "The United States will embosom all the religious sects or denominations in Christendom. ... The Presbyterian, the Church of England ... the Unitas Fratrum ... Moravian bishops ... Ancient Bohemian churches ... the Baptists, the Friends, the Lutherans, the Romanists ... the Dutch, and Gallic, and German reformed or Calvinistic churches. ... There is a Greek church brought from Smyrna. ... There are Wesyans, Mennonites ... all ... who will give the religious complexion to America ... Episcopal ... Greek and Armenian patriarchates. ... With a most generous benevolence ... of a friendly cohabitation of all sects in America, proving that men may be good members of civil society, and yet differ in religion. ... Little would civilians have thought ages ago, that the world should ever look to America for models of government."
President James Buchanan stated March 4, 1857: "We ought to cultivate peace, commerce, and friendship with all nations ... in a spirit of Christian benevolence toward our fellow-men. ... The people, under the protection of the American flag, have enjoyed civil and religious liberty."
In 1865, President Abraham Lincoln commented to State Senator James Scovel of New Jersey: "If God gives me four years more to rule this country, I believe it will become what it ought to be – what its Divine Author intended it to be – no longer one vast plantation for breeding human beings for the purpose of lust and bondage. But it will become a new Valley of Jehoshaphat, where all the nations of the earth will assemble together under one flag, worshiping a common God, and they will celebrate the resurrection of human freedom."
When Abraham Lincoln died, President Andrew Johnson stated April 25, 1865: "In order to mitigate that grief on earth which can only be assuaged by communion with the Father in heaven. ... I ... appoint ... the 25th day of May next, to be observed, wherever in the United States the flag of the country may be respected, as a day of humiliation and mourning, and I recommend ... citizens ... assemble in their respective places of worship, there to unite in solemn service to Almighty God."
President Rutherford B. Hayes noted in his diary that during the Civil War: "Archbishop John Baptist Purcell strung the American flag, in the crisis of our fate, from the top of the Cathedral in Cincinnati April 16, 1861! The spire was beautiful before, but the Catholic prelate made it radiant with hope and glory for our country!"
When Rutherford B. Hayes died, President Benjamin Harrison described him, Jan. 18, 1893: "He was a patriotic citizen, a lover of the flag and of our free institutions, an industrious and conscientious civil officer, a soldier of dauntless courage, a loyal comrade and friend, a sympathetic and helpful neighbor, and the honored head of a happy Christian home."
President Andrew Johnson stated while serving as a Senator from Tennessee ("The Life and Public Services of Andrew Johnson – State Papers, Speeches and Addresses," by John Savage, NY: Derby & Miller, 1866, p. 247, appendix p. 87, Jan. 31, 1862): "Let us look forward to the time when we can take the flag of our country and nail it below the Cross, and there let it wave as it waved in the olden times, and let us gather around it and inscribe for our motto: 'Liberty and Union, one and inseparable, now and forever,' and exclaim, 'Christ first, our country next!'"
In dedicating the Oregon Trail, President Warren G. Harding stated July 3, 1923: "Never in the history of the world has there been a finer example of civilization following Christianity. The missionaries led under the banner of the cross, and the settlers moved close behind under the star-spangled symbol of the nation."
President Benjamin Harrison stated July 21, 1892: "Let the national flag float over every schoolhouse in the country and the exercises be such as shall impress upon our youth the patriotic duties of American citizenship.... Let there be expressions of gratitude to Divine Providence."
On Flag Day, June 14, 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower signed Public Law 396 adding the phrase "One Nation Under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance: "Sec. 7. The following is designated as the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag: '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.' Such pledge should be rendered by standing with the right hand over the heart. However, civilians will always show full respect to the flag when the pledge is given by merely standing at attention, men removing the headdress. Persons in uniform shall render the military salute."
President Eisenhower then stood on the steps of the Capitol Building and recited the revised Pledge of Allegiance for the first time. The Pledge of Allegiance was first written in 1892 by a Baptist minister from Boston named Francis Bellamy, who was ordained in the Baptist Church of Little Falls, New York. Francis Bellamy was a member of the staff of The Youth's Companion, which first published the Pledge on September 8, 1892, in Boston, Massachusetts.
Public-school children first recited it during the National School Celebration on the 400th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of America, October 12, 1892, at the dedication of the 1892 Chicago World's Fair.
The words "under God" were taken from Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address: "... that this Nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom."
In 1979, a publication approved by and printed under authority of Congress titled "The Capitol – A Pictorial History of the Capitol and of the Congress" (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1979), p. 24, commented regarding the Pledge: "This Pledge attests what has been true about America from the beginning. Faith in the transcendent, sovereign God was in the public philosophy-the American consensus. America's story opened with the first words of the Bible, In the beginning God. ... We are truthfully one nation under God 'and our institutions presuppose a Divine Being,' wrote Justice William O. Douglas in 1966. Only a nation founded on theistic presupposition would adopt a first amendment to ensure the free exercise of all religions or of none. The government would be neutral among the many denominations and no one church would become the state church. But America and its institutions of government could not be neutral about God."
When someone pledges allegiance to the U.S. flag, they are saying that they do not want to be ruled by a king; that they insist on ruling themselves; that they are equal to everyone else before the law; that they have freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion; and that they have rights from the Creator, which they can defend and that no government can take away.
President Eisenhower stated on June 14, 1954: "From this day forward, the millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural school house, the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty. To anyone who truly loves America, nothing could be more inspiring than ... this re-dedication of our youth, on each school morning, to our country's true meaning."
President Eisenhower ended: "In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America's heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country's most powerful resource, in peace or in war."
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