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John Quincy Adams' Oath of Office:

From a Washington Foreign Press Center briefing Donald R. Kennon, Chief Historian at the United States Capitol Historical Society:

There's an interesting thing about John Adams and John Quincy Adams -- they were both very religious men, and John Quincy Adams were so religious that he is one of probably only one or two American presidents who did not take the Oath of Allegiance on a Bible. Now, it's kind of ironic that John Quincy Adams, being such a religious man, would not have used the Bible, but he said that he thought the Bible should be reserved for strictly religious purposes. So he took the Oath of Office on a book of laws, the Constitution and American laws. That's really what he was swearing allegiance to was the Constitution, so he didn't use the Bible.

Thanks to reader Pennywit for the pointer.

Hattio (mail):
BTW,
Does anybody have reviews of the debate yesterday? I have no cable so couldn't catch it.
12.1.2006 1:27pm
guest:
a link to the video was posted (see post #2 in related posts above)
12.1.2006 1:40pm
A.S.:
For completeness' sake, can we get a defintive word on whether (a) Members of Congress swear on any book at all and (b) Keith Ellison ever said that intended to swear on the Koran? My understanding is that both these things are now in dispute.

It is, of course, not EV's fault for discussing the matter based on Prager's column stating both of those things, but I would think that EV might want to provide an update if they are not, in fact, true.
12.1.2006 2:19pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Well, (a) my understanding is that while the group oath doesn't involve a book, the members often repeat the oath in a one-on-one ceremony, and (b) Ellison does seem to plan to swear on the Koran: A McClatchy Newspapers article reports that "Ellison defended his plan to use the Quran, Islam's holy book, in an interview with Abdi Aynte, a reporter from Minneapolis who writes for Minnesota Monitor. 'The Constitution guarantees for everyone to take the oath of office on whichever book they prefer,' Ellison was quoted as saying. 'And that's what the freedom of religion is all about.' [Ellison spokesman Dave] Colling confirmed the quote." Rob Hotakainen, Chattanooga Times-Free Press, Dec. 1, 2006.
12.1.2006 2:30pm
Joe7 (mail):
Could you use a copy of "Where the Wild Things Are?" (The greatest children's book ever written.)
12.1.2006 2:33pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
Even good historians are fallible. Kennon states:


The oath -- I'll just make a few closing remarks. The oath is usually taken on a bible. George Washington, again, set the tradition of taking an oath of office on the bible in 1789. They had to borrow a bible from a nearby Masonic lodge in order to take that oath and in fact, the so-called Washington Masonic bible has been used on four occasions since that time. And it's here in town at the National Archives on display. I don't know if it's planned to be used at this inaugural or not, but I wouldn't be surprised if it is. Many presidents use a family bible and often borrow the Washington bible to take the oath of office, put their left hand on the bible, raise their right hand, and take the oath.

Now, Washington also set a precedent by adding, after he said the oath of office, the words: "So help me, God." Now, if you go on the website of the Presidential Inaugural Committee today, they will give you the text of the oath of office and they say it's as specified in the Constitution. And then they have the text. And then they put the, "So help me, God." [But] "So help me, God" is not in the Constitution. It's not specified. It's something that was added by Washington and has been said by almost every president since then. There have been a couple of occasions when that didn't happen.


The Library of Congress states this is true. However, the issue is currently being investigated and the primary sources cannot prove that Washington ever said "So help me God." See this post which links to sources involved in the debate.
12.1.2006 3:00pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Joe7:

And after the oath was sworn, the new Congressperson could announce, "Let the Wild Rumpus begin!"
12.1.2006 3:16pm
Pennywit (mail):
And after the oath was sworn, the new Congressperson could announce, "Let the Wild Rumpus begin!"


If we're going to go in that direction, I favor "Can you smell what the Congress is cooking!"

--|PW|--
12.1.2006 3:26pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):

There's an interesting thing about John Adams and John Quincy Adams -- they were both very religious men, and John Quincy Adams were so religious that he is one of probably only one or two American presidents who did not take the Oath of Allegiance on a Bible.


Another point to note, what does it mean to say the Adams' were "religious?" John Adams was certainly "religious," but in a very unconventional way: He was a theological unitarian and universalist. JQA, on the other hand, vacillated between his father's brand of Unitarianism and Calvinism for most of his adult life. I've read some of their correspondence on religion and it's quite interesting to see the elder Adams' reaction to his son's more conservative theological views. See here.
12.1.2006 4:00pm
David Maquera (mail) (www):
If I'm ever elected to Congress I think I'll just swear on a copy of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" and exclaim after taking the oath "Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war!"
12.1.2006 6:24pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
And after the oath was sworn, the new Congressperson could announce, "Let the Wild Rumpus begin!"

I think that was done at Andy Jackson's first inaugural, as the command to broach the whiskey kegs on the white house lawn.
12.1.2006 7:45pm
Ray Soller (mail):
Dr. Kennon, who probably picked up his presidential trivia from Boller, "Presidential Inaugurations," also said that FDR, 1933, forgot to add "So help me God" to his oath of office. Kennon is just plain wrong. The fact is that all Presidents starting with FDR have said "So help me God." (Herbert Hoover is the last President who did not.) Kennon was wrong again when he said, "Franklin Pierce is one of only two presidents who affirmed the Oath of Office, rather than swore the Oath of Office." Pierce is the only President who did not swear to his oath of office. (Hoover, and Eisenhower actually swore to their oath of office.)

Oddly enough, it is not known whether George Washington, March 4, 1793, used a Bible at his Second Inauguration. He certainly didn't make a reference to God or Providence in his Inaugural Address on that date.

Their are four other Presidents besides John Quincy Adams who did not place their hand on a Bible when they took their oath of office.

Franklin Pierce, March 4, 1853, like Adams used a book of the law.

Theordore Roosevelt, Sept. 14, 1901, held his left hand at his side.

Calvin Coolidge, Aug. 3, 1923, did not place his hand on the family Bible, even though it was nearby. (See http://www.historicvermont.org/coolidge/oathrm.html)

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jan. 20, 1961, held his left hand at his side while the Duoay Bible rested on top on the podium. (See video at www.c-span.org - Presidential Inauguration - Related Events: Inauguration Ceremonies from Pres. Franklin Roosevelt in 1933 to Pres. Bill Clinton in 1997. Start viewing at 1:17:58 into the video.)
12.3.2006 3:19pm