The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Article VI, Section 3: “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution….” This provision is known as the Oaths Clause and gives Americans the right to have leaders who support and defend the Constitution of the United States.
“At the time the Constitution was adopted there were many Americans who had a much stronger sense of loyalty toward their own states than toward the Union. In their minds the national government was not yet the `supreme’ government of the land. This provision was designed to remind all officials, both state and federal, that their first loyalty was to the federal Constitution.
“The presidential oath is set forth in the Constitution as follows:
“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.
“It is interesting, as we have mentioned earlier, that when Washington was asked to take the oath at the time of his inauguration on April 30, 1789, he did so, and then added the words, `So help me God!’ This was not an official part of the oath, but every newly elected President thereafter did the same. In the midst of the war between the states, Congress decided to make this an official part of the oath. Therefore, on July 2, 1862, the official oath had the words added at the end, `So help me God.’
“All United States officers lower in rank than the President take oaths similar to the presidential oath….
“The military oath is somewhat more detailed and elaborate than the presidential oath….
“The best known oath is the judicial oath required of all who testify in the American courts….” (See W. Cleon Skousen, “The Making of America – The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution. pp. 663-664.)
Matthew Spalding of The Heritage Foundation explained the Oaths Clause: “Although the practical application of the Constitution is largely in the hands of state judges, the primacy of the Constitution ultimately depends on officers of the law – in particular, officers of each branch of government – being equally bound to its support. In this sense, the Oaths Clause is the completion of the Supremacy Clause.
“In England, subjects were required to swear loyalty to the reigning monarch; many early American documents included oaths of allegiance to the British king. During the American Revolution, General George Washington required all officers to subscribe to an oath renouncing any allegiance to King George III and pledging their fidelity to the United States. Most of the new state constitutions included elaborate oaths that tied allegiance to and provided a summary of the basic constitutional principles animating American constitutionalism. There was no oath in the Articles of Confederation.” (See “Oaths Clause,” The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, pp. 294-295.)