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Jim Zwick <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Tue, 8 Jul 1997 00:06:18 +0000
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> Does anyone know if MT wrote anything about the US Pledge of Allegiance?

There are a few writings that deal with it in my anthology, _Mark
Twain's Weapons of Satire: Anti-Imperialist Writings on the
Philippine-American War (Syracuse U Press, 1992).

On March 16, 1901, he addressed the Male Teachers Assn of New York
City along with Charles R. Skinner, State Superintendent of Public
Instruction.  Skinner was responsible for the _Manual of Patriotism
for Use in the Public Schools of New York_ that was published in 1900
under the terms of a law passed in New York two days before the
Spanish-American War began that required (for the first time in New
York) that the national flag be displayed on public schoolhouses and
that it be saluted.  Additional "patriotic exercises" were also
recommended as written up in Skinner's volume.  At the time, there
were several variations on the pledge of allegiance as used when
saluting the flag and they are included in the _Manual_ -- I don't
think it was set in stone until the WWI era.  The movement toward
creating a pledge, and for displaying the national flag and requiring
that it be saluted, started almost immediately after the Civil War
but did not gain much ground until the Spanish-American and
Philippine-American wars.  All of the patriotic societies experienced
tremendous growth during that period, and the concurrance of that
form of patriotism and imperialism was not lost upon the
anti-imperialists.  When _The Nation_ reviewed Skinner's manual, it
suggested that "the Empire State should be permitted to have a
monopoly of that kind of common school instruction."

In his speech, Twain said "I would throw out the old maxim,
'My country, right or wrong,' etc., and instead I would say, 'My
country when she is right.'"  He also said that "If Mr. Skinner and I
had to take care of the public schools I would raise up a lot of
patriots who would get into trouble with his."

In "Dialogue on the Philippines," a _What Is Man?_-type dialog
written around 1902-1903, he writes (after a discussion of how
aggressive wars would not take place if the people voted on them):

"Young Person: In our schools, latterly, they teach the boys to
salute the flag and pledge themselves to follow it -- that is all.

"Old Person: Meaning, 'right or wrong.'  I know it.  Nothing could
be more vicious.  It is treason, pure and simple."

Still later, in a 1907 interview about the Children's Theater, he

"When a country is invaded it is because it has done some wrong like
the United States did in taking the Philippines -- a stain upon our
flag that can never be effaced.  Yet today in the public schools we
teach our children to salute the flag, and this is our idea of
instilling in them patriotism.  And this so-called patriotism we
mistake for citizenship; but if there is a stain on that flag it
ought not to be honored, even if it is our flag.  The true
citizenship is to protect the flag from dishonor...."

He wrote quite a lot more about the flag as a misused and dishonored
symbol during that period that might also be useful in assessing his
views about the pledge of allegiance.

Jim Zwick