Oct. 25, 2013
Every year there are lawsuits attempting to remove the phrase “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance or to remove “One Nation Under God” from our coins. But where did the phrase originate? Anyone who was supposed to memorize Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address could probably answer that question.
When Lincoln traveled to that Pennsylvania town in November 1863 to dedicate a national cemetery, he used the opportunity to define (we might even say, to redefine) the nature and purpose of this “great Civil War.” He concluded his speech by saying “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
There is some indication that Lincoln added the words “under God” while sitting on the stage since they are not found in the copy of the speech he carried to the ceremony. All who heard the speech agree that he used the words “under God” and it is found in subsequent copies of the speech that he wrote out in longhand.
It is possible that Lincoln adopted those words from George Washington (either indirectly or directly). One of Lincoln’s favorite books as a child was Parson Ween’s biography The Life of George Washington. The phrase is used in a description of Washington’s death.
It is also possible that Lincoln also knew of George Washington’s orders to the Continental Army. Washington’s written orders said “The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army.” On July 9, 1776 he directed that Declaration of Independence be read aloud to the troops so that they would know “that now the peace and safety of the Country depends, under God, solely on the success of our arms.”
Today we often use the phrase “under God” and it worth knowing about its rich history. Let us pray that the anti-God forces never remove it from our country. I’m Kerby Anderson and that’s my point of view.