Friday, June 13, 2008

George Washington's Inauguration

As fellow blogger Ray Soller has noted, there is a great deal of skepticism over whether or not George Washington uttered the phrase, "So help me God" at the conclusion of his oath of office. To be honest, this is an issue that I have never before considered. Like most people, I probably just assumed that the historical record accurately accounted for the authenticity of this event. However, as Mr. Soller has pointed out in his excellent article (Freeman's Oath - reference), there is strong reason to not only question but doubt the legitimacy of the "So help me God" claim.

Like most history nerds, I was a devout follower of HBO's hit miniseries, John Adams. One of the most powerful scenes of the entire series is the inauguration of George Washington as the republic's first president. Not only does the scene attempt to recreate the oath of office -- including Washington uttering "So help me God," -- but the whole clip effectively arouses a sense of Christian patriotism, which I am sure was extremely effective in invoking a "spiritual" response from the average viewer.

To be perfectly honest, I have absolutly no idea if Washington did or did not conclude his oath of office with, "So help me God." I do believe that Ray has shed light on some very important evidence that should be considered in detail. Hopefully we can continue this discussion, including the views of those who support the "So help me God" claim.

Here is the Washington Inauguration according to HBO's John Adams:


Ray Soller said...

You'll notice that HBO shows Washington as having raised his right hand during his oath. I haven't found any contemporary support for this claim. Most reports only say that Washington placed a hand on the Bible. Among later artistic portrayals, Washington is typically shown with his right hand on the Bible, and, in more than one instance, he is holding his hat in the left hand.

Phil Johnson said...

I want to weigh in here; because, of the issue your short article brings into focus.

And that is the fact that there is so much to do about trying to prove our nation was founded on Christian principles. Rabble rousing efforts to do so have been going on for as long as I can remember and I'll be rolling double sevens on the 3rd of this coming July. It should be a very lucky year for me.

The facts are that the United States was NOT founded on ANY religious principles, Christian or any other religious persuasions.

Much can be said about the quality of the articles being published at this site; but, the entire theme seems related to the idea that the United States was founded as a Christian nation specific.

But, some papers that are presented seem more accurate.

I wonder what it meant for a person to say, "So help me God", back during George Washington's time.

Ray Soller said...


You have a good question. I just came across a posting on the Internet Infidels Discussion Board that addresses this same question. A contributor with the handle, Loomis, started a thread, Research project: History of oaths with “so help me God.” You should take a look over there.