Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Swearing in Using a Bible (It Started with George Washington)

The U.S. National Archives is a tremendous repository of historical information. If you are interested in seeing if America really had no Christian roots, it doesn't take too long in searching the Archives to learn otherwise. Consider this section from the Archives' Prologue magazine:

The Bible— From Coronations to Inaugurations

One element of the swearing-in ceremony not required by the Constitution is the ritual of the President placing his left hand on the Bible and raising his right hand toward heaven. The practice of taking oaths upon Bibles stemmed from English and American colonial history. Bibles were used in the coronations of Britain's kings and queens and in the administration of oaths in civil and ecclesiastical courts.

Just before George Washington's swearing-in on the balcony at the Federal Hall in New York City, Chief Justice of the New York state judiciary, Chancellor Robert R. Livingston, who would administer the oath, raised the question, "would legitimacy be lacking if the oath was administered without a Bible?" A search ensued. When no Bible could be found in the building, the inquiry spread to St. John's Masonic Lodge No. 1, a few blocks away on Wall Street. A Bible secured, the ceremony proceeded as scheduled

Read the whole article in the U.S. Archives Prologue Magazine, Winter 2000, Vol. 32, No. 4

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