Women of Washington

Communicating America’s Founding Principles

Women of Washington is an educational organization with a focus on understanding local, national, and global issues that are critical to our world today.

CONSTITUTION CORNER - Article 9

June 1, 1789 - First Congress, First Session, Volume 1
The Oath of Office - The First U.S. Law Passed by Congress
by Judy Leithe

We all know our Constitution is unique in providing for a free and just society, and the oaths taken by our representatives are important. We love our English cousins but, let's contrast their oaths of office, taken since 1868, with our own:

Great Britain: "I swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will as in duty bound, honestly and faithfully defend Her Majesty, Her Heirs and Successors, in Person, Crown and dignity against all enemies, and will observe and obey all orders of Her Majesty, Her Heirs and Successors, and of the Air Officers and other Officers set over me." Note: The official oath is a promise to be loyal to the monarch-of-the-day.

United States: "I, (name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. That I will bear the true faith and allegiance to the same. That I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation of purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God." Note: Our official oath is to the U.S. Constitution -- principle over personality.

The phrase, "So help me God" is not written in the Constitution, but was added by George Washington at his first inauguration, and has become part of oaths taken ever since. The role faith played in Washington's life is evident in his quote: "It is impossible to reason without arriving at a "Supreme Being."

Since our founding in 1789, there have been a few changes in the Oaths of Office; including tailoring it for the Executive Branch, Senators and Representatives, and the branches of our military.

Our military places high value on integrity and honor to ones country. Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale gave a wonderful perspective on integrity for us all, stating: "A person's integrity can give him something to rely on when his perspective seems to blur, when the rules and principles seem to waiver, and when he's faced with hard choices of right and wrong."

All of our elected representatives have taken the Oath of Office to our Constitution. It's up to us to make sure they understand and uphold their pledges. How are they doing?