The answer is yes, but it is buried in a footnote in the back of his book. (From looking at the text, the publisher gives no hint that footnotes are available.) Here's Jon Meacham's reference listed on page 287:
14. Washington improvised "so help me, God."Continuing on, Freeman's Oath - reference is detailed in Ch. viii, Inauguration Day is Not Without Clouds, (April 24-30, 1789), page 192. From here, one has to examine what appears to be the nearest associated footnote (fn. 50) to Washington having recited his oath of office. The cryptic footnote 50 (Lear's letter; Duke Univ. MSS) refers to a Tobias Lear letter dated May 3, 1789 to George Augustine Washington. The sender is Tobias Lear, Washington's personal secretary. The recipient, George Augustine Washington, is Washington's nephew, who was managing the Mount Vernon estate in Washington's absence. The reference to the Lear letter is described as residing at Duke University. I suspect most researchers stopped here, but I didn't. I e-mailed a request for a copy of the Lear letter to the Duke University Library. The pertinent part of the librarian's reply, dated November 11, 2005, follows:
Douglas Southall Freeman, George Washington: A Biography, vol. 6 (New York, 1954), 192.
I quickly browsed the [Tobias Lear] letter [to George Augustine Washington, dated May 3,1789] and found on page 4, "They received the President in the most respectful manner; and the Vice President conducted him to a spacious elevated seat at the head of the Room. ---- A dead and solemn silence prevailed! ---- In a few moments the Vice President arose, and informed the President all things were prepared to administer the OATH, whenever he saw fit to proceed to the Balcony to take it. He immediately descended from his seat and advanced through the middle door of the hall into the Balcony. ---- The Oath was administered in Public by Chancellor Levingston ---- and the moment the Chancellor proclaimed him President of the UNITED STATES of AMERICA! the air was rended by repeated shouts and hurrars ---- God Bless our Washington!"A full copy of the original letter is posted here: Lear's letter of May 3, 1789 to George A. Washington. It is posted with the permission of Duke University.
As anyone can see, there's no reference to Washington adding a religious codicil to his oath. That hasn't mattered. A number of national institutions like the Library of Congress, and a large number of authors like Jon Meacham, and Michael P. Riccards, author of A Republic If You Can Keep It (1987), have simply trusted Freeman's reference as being reliable.
At this point it's easy to say, "What's so important?" Well, here is what's so important. Take a look at this document posted by the Hall Institute of Public Policy. Here is a brief snippet:
[T]he Supreme Court refused to hear a parent's [Michael Newdow's] appeal that the Pledge of Allegiance violated his daughter's First Amendment at school. The majority on the court side-stepped the issue saying that the father had no standing to litigate.Rehnquist continued with an expanded litany of "analogous" examples, but it is disheartening to realize that a Chief Justice of the United States can fall under the influence of, what is at best, an apocryphal description of Washington's inauguration, or, what is most likely, a glorified American legend without checking for a primary source.
As part of the court's opinion, Rehnquist cited Riccards' "A Republic If You Can Keep It," which narrated George Washington's inauguration and how he swore on the bible:
"The phrase 'under God' in the Pledge seems, as a historical matter, to sum up the attitude of the Nation's leaders, and to manifest itself in many of our public observances," Rehnquist wrote. "Examples of patriotic invocations of God and official acknowledgements of religion's role in our Nation's history abound.
"At George Washington's first inauguration on April 30, 1789, he:
'stepped toward the iron rail, where he was to receive the oath of office.' ... 'The Chancellor proceeded with the oath: "Do you solemnly swear' ... '[to] protect and defend the Constitution of the United States?" The President responded, "I solemnly swear," and repeated the oath, adding "So help me God." He then bent forward and kissed the Bible before him.'
M. Riccards, A Republic, If You Can Keep It: Foundation of the American Presidency, 1700.1800, pp.73.74 (1987)."