The Oath Of Office
I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or 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.
Why do we swear the Oath?
As federal civil servants, we take an oath of office by which we swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. The Constitution not only establishes our system of government, it actually defines the work role for federal employees-- “to establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty”
The history of the oath for federal employees can be traced to the Constitution, where Article II includes the specific oath the president takes – to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Article VI requires an oath by all other government officials from all three branches, the military, and the states. It simply states that they “shall be bound by oath or affirmation to support the Constitution.” The very first law passed by the very first congress implemented Article VI by setting out this simple oath in law. “I do solemnly swear or affirm (as the case may be) that I will support the Constitution of the United States.”
The wording we use today as Executive Branch employees is now set out in Chapter 33 of Title 5, United States Code. The wording dates to the Civil War and what was called the Ironclad Test Oath. Starting in 1862, Congress required a two-part oath. The first part, referred to as a “background check,” affirmed that you were not supporting and had not supported the Confederacy. The second part addressed future performance, that is, what you would swear to do in the future. It established a clear, publicly sworn accountability. In 1873, Congress dropped the first part of the Ironclad Test Oath, and in 1884 adopted the wording we use today.
Preparing to take The Oath
Understanding the content and coverage of the Constitution and its amendments, including the Bill of Rights, is good preparation for taking the Oath of Office. Review them through the links below: