So, Help Her God

Sarah Palin’s new book, America By Heart: Reflections On Faith, Family and Flag, repeats the debunked myth that George Washington, at his first inauguration, added the phrase “So help me God” to the oath of office. The myth was started by Washington Irving and repeated by Rufus Wilmot Griswold in his 1854 book The Republican Court, or, American Society in the Days of Washington.

Washington Irving told the story of how he was present at the first inauguration.

Submitted by -David Drumm (Nal) — guest editor

However, Irving was barely 6 years old at the time and had observed the proceeding from 200 feet away. There’s no way he could have seen, let alone heard what happened. There is no other report or evidence that George Washington said what Irving claimed.

But that’s enough for Sarah Palin, who is well-known for believing in myths.

Newdow v. Roberts, a federal lawsuit filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, sought to enjoin the Hon. John Roberts, Jr., Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, from adding the phrase, “So help me God,” to the Presidential oath of office. The dismissal was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit in 2009 as moot, and due to lack of standing for future inaugurations. Roberts did add the phrase, “So help me God” to the end of a flubbed oath.

From Peter R. Henriques, Professor of History, Emeritus, at George Mason University:

One of the most widely held myths about George Washington is that immediately after he took the prescribed oath to become the nation’s first President, he solemnly added the words, “So help me God” and thus began a tradition that has been followed ever since.

In fact, an examination of the historical evidence demonstrates that claim  [that Washington added the words, “So help me God”] is almost certainly false.

H/T: Talk To Action, Chris Rodda, American Creation, History News Network.

-David Drumm (Nal)

139 thoughts on “So, Help Her God”

  1. On a Craig Ferguson show this week the guest was Ben Stein, a man I generally loathe. When asked about the ability of those in power to help get us out of our current crisis, I’ll paraphrase his reply:

    What people don’t get is that most of the people making the decisions in Washington are just not that smart and usually incapable of understanding the problems, much less solving them. I’ve been involved with Washington since the Nixon Administration and I’ve found that nobody was that smart and the Presidents little more than egotists making up for their own lack of self esteem.

    When Craig asked him about Nixon he replied that this is a case in point considering how he was booted out of office. for the first time since I became aware of Stein I found myself in total agreement with him. We’ve been bamboozled into looking to leaders and their minions to steer the Ship of State, when in fact most lack the understanding to do so, or are filled with the need for their own self-aggrandizement.

    Obama may indeed have a good heart and have been a Harvard Whiz, but it also seems he is just another egotist incapable of leading
    or presenting a coherent agenda backed by a strategy to achieve it. The more I think about it, the more I begin to think that Palin fits in with many of our past Presidents like Harding, Hayes and Andrew Johnson. Can we really say she is any dumber than that crew and others who’ve held the office.

  2. Gyges,

    The Great Lakes Brewing Company Christmas Ale and not from a bottle mind you but straight from the tap. Unbelievably good.

    I think we’ve discussed it before and I thought Buddha was the one who didn’t particularly care for ales … was it you? I don’t, myself, but this one is just too fine to pass up.

  3. Mike S.
    Funny you should say,for that is exactly what I was thinking as I went over that article again:

    “The problem is that the prescient writer from 2006 seems to be describing the America of 2010. We are there already”

    More to ponder:

    Op-Ed Columnist
    All the President’s Captors
    Published: December 4, 2010

  4. He’s less man than he is chew toy. A squeaky one at that. One that has all the understanding of complex systems as an inert piece of plastic. Argue with the math all you like.

    d(f^τ(x),f^τ(y)) > exp(aτ)d(x,y) is still valid.

  5. Bdaman:

    Should we start calling you Buddhaman or maybe Bdavoltaire?

    great line:

    “And if you continue to look in the rear view mirror surely you’ll miss the road ahead.”

  6. Thanks everyone for your warm wishes. My MD’s tell me I’m doing very well, but my Jewish nature tends to bridle at the jinx glowing statements bring. Pessimism learned at my Mother’s knee.

    Thanks for that repost. The problem is that the prescient writer from 2006 seems to be describing the America of 2010. We are there already.

    I’m with you on your analysis, but feel even more pessimistic on finding a solution short of the chaos you predict.

    So how did I an old hippie leftist wind up agreeing with you an old LEO? Perhaps it’s because we both love this country and its’ concept and can’t abide with how far the reality has strayed from the promise.

    “What is interesting is the deep need the millions of voters that constructed the Obama myth, or bought into it, had for that myth.”

    What I find depressing and distressing is that the great majority of all humans live their lives based on myths which they are too afraid to question. It is what makes people malleable to the manipulaton of the sociopaths that seems to inevitably rise to the top.

  7. Gyges,

    “One small question, if “the original thirteen were very religious,” why was a compromise necessary?”

    In Massachusetts and Maryland you had to be a Christian. In New Hampshire, New Jersey, the Carolinas and Georgia, you had to be a Protestant Christian. In Pennsylvania you had to believe in God and the divine inspiration of the Scriptures. In Delaware you had to believe in the Trinity.

    Though the Convention was supposed to remain secret, Jonas Phillips sent a letter to the Convention. He was a Jew. Where would the religious test leave him?

    So, yes, it was compromise that was behind the exclusion of religious test. It was not because the delegates were against religion.

    Further, the Oath of Allegiance (resolved October 21, 1776) for the Continental Congress ended in “So help me God”. As such, I don’t find it so strange to believe that Washington may have ended his oath to the presidency with the same words.

    “It’s like saying “The original thirteen were very opposed to slaver, the 3/5ths compromise was about getting nine states to ratify the Constitution.”

    The 3/5ths compromise also had a lot to do with Gouverneur Morris’ opinion that the people of Pennsylvania would not accept being placed on equal footing with slaves.

    To understand the Framer’s intent, you need to read more than just the Constitution.

  8. BBB,

    We’ll never know if King Arthur had his sword thrown at him by a water tart either. Nor will we know if Kubla Khan threw a tea pot so hard that it flew until it hit an albatross, striking the bird instantly dead.

    The thing is, I can make all sorts of claims about historical figures that are impossible to prove or disprove. Why in this case should the default setting should be “believe the claim?”

    One small question, if “the original thirteen were very religious,” why was a compromise necessary? It’s like saying “The original thirteen were very opposed to slaver, the 3/5ths compromise was about getting nine states to ratify the Constitution.”

  9. I thought this thread was about George Washington saying “So help me God”.

    Did he or didn’t he? We will never know. Henriques says the claim is “almost certainly false”. Mespo indicates that he thinks it to be an “outright lie”.

    Me? I think he may have, but it doesn’t really matter much to me. On thing for sure is that it is not some “debunked myth”.

    The original thirteen were very religious. In fact, most had a religious test for office during the time of the Constitutional Convention. The reason there was to be no religous test for office in the new federal government had nothing to do with abandoning religion. It had to do with compromise. It had to do with getting nine states to ratify the Constitution.

    If Washington said “So help me God” at the end of his oath, perhaps it was for the benefit of Franklin who reminded those at the Convention of their call to God for assistance at the start of the Revolitionary War.

  10. What I find remarkable is the NeoCon Republican, TeaBaggers and Main line GOP operatives using the “Republican” Agenda of the 1850’s….How very 2000 Democratic is that….The names may have remained the same but the agendas have shifted 180 degrees….It is amazing…I will bet you, 90 per cent of the present GOP would have Voted Democratic and Lincoln and his Liberal Agenda would have been the last thing they would have supported….Something about States rights…that would have chapped their ass…..

    But hey who am I to say…..

  11. Blouise,

    To the contrary. I love ale. It is my preferred form of beer.

  12. Funny how a word/words gets you going in a different direction.

    mathematically + wishful thinking = Slartibartfast

    I found him, he’s a regular poster on a website called Dr. Conspiracy. Told him to get his but back over here.

  13. I am unabashedly ashamed….I can’t believe……and this is the season for believing….damn….

  14. Buddha

    Had a marvelous dinner tonight complete with a very tall mug of Christmas Ale … now I believe you said you weren’t an ale lover but this brew is superb. And … to complete the tale … I was given the honorary seat … the one that bears the plaque … “President Bill Clinton was seated here for lunch on Friday, January 13, 1995”.

    Contain your envy!

  15. Pithy perhaps, but only one of us using mathematically axiomatic logic. The other is using wishful thinking.

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