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Old April 30th, 2008, 02:19 PM   #1

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Did George Washington really add "so help me God" to his oath of office?


Did George Washington really add "so help me God" to his oath of office? I say no. What say y'all?
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Old April 30th, 2008, 03:39 PM   #2
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Re: Did George Washington really add "so help me God" to his oath of office?


I say.... it's pretty obscure, was recorded 60 years after the fact, and there is an undue amount of attention to the intentions of the founding fathers anyways. If he said it - fine.

Just because washington said something doesn't give it any further credence. He also said no tangling alliances with Europeans, but as we have found, wasn't the best course of action.

The founding fathers don't know the best courses of actions for today and we shouldn't pretend like they did, or do.

Sorry if that went off on too much of a tangent.
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Old May 1st, 2008, 04:53 AM   #3

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Re: Did George Washington really add "so help me God" to his oath of office?


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I say.... it's pretty obscure, was recorded 60 years after the fact...
Even then, it was hearsay. Also, the six year boy who supposedly heard Washington say the words was, according to the account, was standing a block and a half down the street from the balcony of Federal Hall.

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...and there is an undue amount of attention to the intentions of the founding fathers anyways. If he said it - fine.
According to Supreme Court Justice Scalia, George Washington's actions change the words of the Constitution to give the government authority over religion.
Religion is to be strictly excluded from the public forum. This is not, and never was, the model adopted by America. George Washington added to the form of Presidential oath prescribed by Art. II, §1, cl. 8, of the Constitution, the concluding words “so help me God.” See Blomquist, The Presidential Oath, the American National Interest and a Call for Presiprudence, 73 UMKC L. Rev. 1, 34 (2004).

-- Scalia's dissent in MCCREARY COUNTY V. AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIESUNION OF KY. (03-1693) 545

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Old May 1st, 2008, 05:43 PM   #4
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Re: Did George Washington really add "so help me God" to his oath of office?


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Even then, it was hearsay. Also, the six year boy who supposedly heard Washington say the words was, according to the account, was standing a block and a half down the street from the balcony of Federal Hall.

According to Supreme Court Justice Scalia, George Washington's actions change the words of the Constitution to give the government authority over religion.
Religion is to be strictly excluded from the public forum. This is not, and never was, the model adopted by America. George Washington added to the form of Presidential oath prescribed by Art. II, §1, cl. 8, of the Constitution, the concluding words “so help me God.” See Blomquist, The Presidential Oath, the American National Interest and a Call for Presiprudence, 73 UMKC L. Rev. 1, 34 (2004).

-- Scalia's dissent in MCCREARY COUNTY V. AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIESUNION OF KY. (03-1693) 545
puhhh. don't remind me of the sad state of affairs in the supreme court.
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Old May 1st, 2008, 09:32 PM   #5

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Re: Did George Washington really add "so help me God" to his oath of office?


He may have said it, but honestly, it's about as valid as him saying he can't tell a lie.
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Old May 2nd, 2008, 03:55 PM   #6

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Re: Did George Washington really add "so help me God" to his oath of office?


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Did George Washington really add "so help me God" to his oath of office? I say no. What say y'all?
The experts say:

Philander D. Chase, Senior Editor, The Papers of George Washington, University of Virginia , wrote in a November 17, 2005 email "... Washington as president was a remarkably strict constructionist of the Constitution, and it seems to me very unlikely that he would have altered or amended the constitutional oath regardless of whatever views he may have had on the subject, and his personal views as far as they are known seem to have been pretty comfortable with the oath as it appears in the Constitution." Charlene Bickford, Director, First Federal Congress Project, George Washington University , also confirms that there is no contemporaneous account of George Washington saying those words. In a November 29, 2004 email she wrote "In fact, the only contemporaneous account that repeats the oath, a letter of the French consul, Comte de Moustier, April 30, 1789 (PDF), states only the constitutional oath. We now believe that Washington consciously (he rarely did something that wasn't very calculated) repeated only the prescribed oath with no reference to God to show strict adherence to the Constitution."

Politician George Bush National Day of Prayer statement said on May 1:

The fidelity to faith has been present in our nation's leaders from its very start. Upon assuming the presidency, George Washington took the oath of office and then added the famous plea, "So help me God." On John Adams's first day in the White House, he wrote a prayer that is now etched in marble on the fireplace in the State Dining Room, and he prayed, "May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof." Now we'll leave it to the historians to judge whether or not that happened throughout our history. (Laughter.)
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Old May 3rd, 2008, 09:30 AM   #7

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Re: Did George Washington really add "so help me God" to his oath of office?


Best I can tell, all these stories about the founding fathers being Jesus freaks were cooked up 50-100 years after their death.
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Old May 3rd, 2008, 12:07 PM   #8

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Re: Did George Washington really add "so help me God" to his oath of office?


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Best I can tell, all these stories about the founding fathers being Jesus freaks were cooked up 50-100 years after their death.
Many people appear to be less inclined to question the historical accuracy of claims that the founding fathers, while performing their secular government duties, interjected an expression of religious faith when the expression of faith is not specifically Christian. In this case the myth originated 65 years after the event which was long after all of the people known to have shared the balcony with George Washington were dead. President Bush has asserted that his own monotheism is at least partially syncretist (Islam worships the same God as Christians, etc.) which is consistent with syncretist monotheistic talk common to (at least) the first four presidents. The lack of Jesus content may be another reason so many people, including some prominent historians, appear to continue to accept this shmG myth as valid history years after it has been debunked.

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Old May 4th, 2008, 01:43 PM   #9
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Re: Did George Washington really add "so help me God" to his oath of office?


As others here have indicated, there is no way to know with certainty whether or not Washington really added those words. Many historians have fallen into the trap of assuming that GW said those words, solely because we've been hearing for so long that those words were added. One can accurately call the story a legend, or perhaps one could call it a myth, but we have no way of knowing whether or not it is a fact that GW added the words.
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Old May 5th, 2008, 08:20 PM   #10

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Re: Did George Washington really add "so help me God" to his oath of office?


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As others here have indicated, there is no way to know with certainty whether or not Washington really added those words. Many historians have fallen into the trap of assuming that GW said those words, solely because we've been hearing for so long that those words were added. One can accurately call the story a legend, or perhaps one could call it a myth, but we have no way of knowing whether or not it is a fact that GW added the words.
The history misrepresentation problem here seems to me to go well beyond GW. The biography of John Adams that was recently shown on HBO depicts both GW and John Adams appending shmG to their oath of office recitation. However, there appears to be no contemporaneous evidence that any president appended shmG until the Civil War at the earliest, and even then the evidence for shmG appears to be very weak and contradictory. Chester Arthur appended shmG (the evidence for him is consistent and strong). He could have been the first (not counting Jefferson Davis, who also appended shmG) and he may have been the only one prior to the 20th century.

Last edited by NAP; May 5th, 2008 at 08:24 PM.
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