‘So Help Me God’ and the Presidential Oath

 By David B. Parker / History News Network Did George Washington really add the words to…

Georgia (Feb 15, 2016) —  By David B. Parker / History News Network


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Did George Washington really add the words to the end of his oath, or did the addition come later?

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. The article below was originally published at HNN in 2015.

In 2009, Peter Henriques made a startling announcement in an oft-cited piece for History News Network: There is “absolutely no extant contemporary evidence,” he wrote, to support the traditional story that George Washington added the phrase “so help me God” to the presidential oath of office at his first inauguration. In fact, this story did not even exist until 1854, when Rufus Griswold included it in a book titled The Republican Court. (Griswold got the story, Henriques said, from Washington Irving, who as a six-year-old boy had watched the event from two hundred feet away.)

In a recent piece in Common-Place, the online journal of the American Antiquarian Society, I showed how quickly the “so help me God” story caught on after Griswold “reported” it.  …


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