In Robert Morrison's 10/31/2013 Family Research Council article, George Washington’s “So Help Me God”: Did He or Didn’t He?, he writes:
Of late, they [the liberals] really got me scratching my head. George Washington didn’t say “So help me God” when he took the oath as our first President, they claim. Really?
I took my wife and little children to Lower Manhattan on April 30, 1989 for the re-enactment of Washington’s First Inaugural. I distinctly recall those words were repeated for that official bicentennial ceremony. (And no, my young friends, I wasn’t there for the events of 1789.)
Atheizers are claiming Washington never said it. Atheizers are folks who, whether they believe in God or not, are determined to eradicate every reference to the Almighty in our public life.
If I am wrong about Washington’s invoking God as he took the oath, as the atheizers maintain, then I have a lot of company in my error. Here are just some of the many sources I’ve consulted over the years.
Chief Justice John Marshall [Sep. 24, 1755 - July 6, 1835] was a contemporary of George Washington. His multi-volume biography, Life of Washington, Vol. IV, contains a plate showing Washington’s oath-taking. His hand is on the open Bible. And this inscription accompanies it.
[Soller notes there's a missing introductory segment here.] On one side stood Chancellor Livingston, who administered the oath. On the other side was Vice-President John Adams Washington solemnly repeated the words of the oath, clearly enunciating, “I swear”: adding in a whisper, with closed eyes, “So help me God.”Reverently, with closed eyes, in a whisper. Maybe that’s why the atheizers missed it.
The article continues by producing a list of "scholarly sources" with publication dates "that span a period of 124 years" going back to 1889. The book list could have been expanded by going back to 1854, and, still, Mr. Morrison, as a matter of historical interest, is no better off, since none of these sources produce a firsthand account from anyone who described George Washington as having added a religious codicil to his oath of office.
Now, understandably, a careful reader needs to ask, "What about Chief Justice John Marshall?" His book dates back to 1807.
Yes, John Marshall was a contemporary of Washington. Though not present at Washington's first inauguration Marshall proved himself a capable historian. With that said, the real questions are 1) why did Morrison skip over the introductory segment associated with the plate portraying Washington’s oath-taking ceremony, and 2) why did Morrison omit the publication date for his copy of John Marshall's book.
1) what follows is the missing introductory segment from the inscription that accompanies the plate:
On the balcony of the old City Hall, Broad and Wall Streets, New York, Washington was sworn in as first President of the United States, April 30, 1789. The artist here accurately depicts him wearing a suit of dark brown, at his side a dress sword, and his hair powdered in the fashion of the period. White silk stockings and shoes with simple silver buckles completed his attire.
"The artist here" is Alonzo Chappel (1828–1887). His fine illustration "showing Washington’s oath-taking" is from an engraving produced by him, which was published by Johnson, Frye & Company in 1859, and then copyrighted in 1866. Sadly for Robert Morrison, and those preoccupied with his same head-scratching mentality the page in question is twenty-four years too late for John Marshall to have seen it.
2) the missing publication date for John Marshall's book tells the reader that he needs to consult the actual text to find out how Marshall had narrated the inaugural scene. And for those who are interested, this is what the historian, John Marshall, wrote:
The ceremonies of the inauguration having been adjusted by congress; on the 30th of April, the president attended in the senate chamber, in order to take, in the presence of both houses, the oath prescribed by the constitution.
To gratify the public curiosity, an open gallery adjoining the senate chamber had been selected by congress, as the place in which the oath should be administered. Having taken it in the view of an immense concourse of people, whose loud and repeated acclamations attested the joy with which his being proclaimed president of the United States inspired them, he returned to the senate chamber where he delivered the following address. - - - ;