The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Article II, Section 1, Clause 8: "Before [the President] enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation: -- `I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.'" The Framers of our Constitution included this clause to guarantee to the citizens of our nation that any new President would commit himself by a sacred vow to uphold the office of President and safeguard the Supreme Law of our land.
"The Framers fittingly placed the Oath of Office Clause between preceding clauses that set forth the organization of the executive department and succeeding clauses that specify the contours of the President's executive power. The President takes the oath after he assumes the office but before he executes it….
"The location and phrasing of the Oath of Office Clause strongly suggest that it is not empowering, but that it is limiting - the clause limits how the President's `executive power' is to be exercised." (See Vasan Kesavan in The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, p. 194.)
"The oath was designed as a formal commitment on the part of a new president to perform the duties which the Constitution and the legal agencies of the government assigned to him. It also commits him to defend the Constitution of the
, meaning the principles enunciated in
this national charter." (See W.
Cleon Skousen in The Making of United
States - The
Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, p. 539.) America
George Washington was the first President to take this oath of office. With his hand on the Bible and following the oath, President Washington added the words, "So help me God!"
's example was
followed by each succeeding President until 1862 when Congress made those words
an official part of the ceremony. Washington
President Washington took the oath on the balcony of the Federal Hall in
on April 30, 1789, the earliest date that the new government could be
organized. Thomas Jefferson was the
first President to be inaugurated in New York City His inauguration took place in the Senate
chamber of the partially completed north wing of the Washington,
on March 4, 1801, as required in the Constitution. Capital Building
The Twentieth Amendment, adopted in 1933, changed the date of inauguration to January 20. The formal taking of the oath today "usually occurs on a stand built over the east steps of the Capitol. Tens of thousands attend and the inauguration is presented as a worldwide television spectacular.
"However, the oath may be taken at any place and before any officer empowered by law to administer oaths…. When President Roosevelt died unexpectedly, Harry Truman was sworn in at the White House, and when President Kennedy was assassinated, Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in aboard the presidential aircraft by a local federal judge" (The Making of America, pp. 538-539).