Where is the oath of office found in the Constitution?
The oath of office is found in Article II, section 1, clause 8 of the Constitution, which reads:
Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation: - - "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
George Washington's first inauguration took place at Federal Hall in New York City, where the first Congress was assembled. [National Archives, Still Pictures Branch, 148-CCD-92C]
The Presidential Oath of Office was set down in the Constitution by the Founding Fathers during the Constitutional Convention of 1787. The oath originally proposed was much shorter, requiring the President-elect to swear only to "faithfully execute the office of President of the United States." James Madison, a delegate to the Convention from Virginia, believed that the Chief Executive should be bound by oath to support the articles of the Unionthe very document the Convention was struggling to create. Along with George Mason, another Virginia delegate, Madison proposed that the President also be made to swear to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Midway through the Convention, a printed draft of the Constitution as it existed to that point was issued to each delegate. Delegates used them as working documents, filling the margins and other spaces with the changes continually being debated by the Convention. The copy shown here belonged to George Washington, President of the Convention. In article X of this draft, the changes Madison and Mason proposed for the oath of office are seen in the hand of the first person to utter those solemn, enduring words.
After taking the oath at his 1789 inaugural, Washington added, "So help me, God." Every subsequent President has also added that phrase.
Note: This original document, the printed draft of the Constitution of the United States (page 5), August 6, 1787, annotated by George Washington [Records of the Continental and Confederation Congresses and the Constitutional Convention, RG 360], will be on display in the Rotunda of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, from January 17 to 26, 1997.