Everyone said 'So help me God' at the end of the oath is false.

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The Senate Rules Committee administers the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) website.  Since about March 2007 the JCCIC website has been hosting a "So help me God" video featuring Beth Hahn, Historical Editor of the Senate Historical Office, asserting that President George Washington, during his first oath of office recitation, appended "So help me God and then kisses the bible and those are actually two traditions that carried on by future presidents, everyone has since said 'so help me God' at the end of the oath." 

There is no known contemporaneous eyewitness account of that phrase being appended to any presidential oath of office recitation until at least the Civil War.  Myself and others have consulted American presidential historians, examined the primary source documents, and published our findings on http://www.nonbeliever.org/commentary/inaugural_shmG.html.  We have written to the Senate Historical Office and I personally spoke with Beth Hahn and with Matthew McGowan, Senate Rules Committee Professional Staff, on the telephone about this.  The Senate Historical Office offers no evidence to support their claims about George Washington and all other presidents yet the video has neither been corrected nor removed.  Professor J.C.A. Stagg, Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia, who is the Editor in Chief of The Papers of James Madison confirms that there is no evidence that James Madison appended that phrase.  The Director of the First Federal Congress Project at George Washington University, Charlene Bickford, and the Senior Editor of the Papers of George Washington, Philander D. Chase of the University of Virginia, both George Washington experts, confirm that there is insufficient evidence to support the claim that George Washington appended that phrase and furthermore they don't think he did.  The Hoover library has an audio of Hoover's oath recitation that proves he did not append "so help me God".  Some of the 18th and 19th century eyewitness accounts quote the oath recitation, some don't quote the oath recitation, yet there appears to be no contemporaneous eyewitness account of any president appending "so help me God" until the Civil War.  Not one.  Zero.  How does the Senate Historical Office jump from the evidence showing no one appending that phrase to "everyone"?

The lack of evidence for the video's claim and lack of response by the Senate Historical Office to our complaints about this lack of evidence suggests that the prestige of the U.S Senate is being misused by the Senate Historical Office to misrepresent ahistorical propaganda as historical fact.

The federal govt incorrectly stating history!?!?! I'd never imagine in a million years they'd do such a thing!

Quote from: Original Patriot on July 05, 2008, 09:57:10 PM

The federal govt incorrectly stating history!?!?! I'd never imagine in a million years they'd do such a thing!

No,silly, they've only been doing that since the end of the civil war.

J. J.:
It's probable Washington did use the term.  It is a traditional masonic intonation.

This is an interesting thread, since I had not heard of this being challenged before.

I did a quick check in some sources I have, and here is what I found.

The first source I have that specifically says that the president said "so help me God" was Chester Arthur in 1881. The New York Times reported on 9/23/1881 that at after repeating the oath, he kissed the Bible and said "I will, and so help me God."

A good early 19th century political resource was a newspaper with the poorly chosen title of the "Farmer's Cabinet." This paper reported on 3/22/1849 that Zachary Taylor "kissed the sacred volume" but did not mention what words he said when taking the oath.

As far as the phrase "so help me God," a search of newspapers finds numerous uses of the phrase. For example, the "New York Daily Gazette" on 4/13/1789 gave the text of the oath that King George IV took when he became Regent, and the words "so help me God" are included at the end. Early American newspapers used the phrase over 200 times during the years 1789-1825, mostly in connection with oaths though never in connection with a presidential inaugural. The "Independent Chronicle & Boston Patriot" reported on 8/20/1825 of the phrase "this expression has become quite the rage in England." The paper did not state how common it was in the USA.

Another issue not raised thus far in the thread is that Jesus forbade His followers from swearing an oath (Matthew 5:32).


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