The Constitutional Principle: Separation of Church and State
Welcome Contents What's New Search this site
View Our Stats
Visitors since 7/15/1998
Links   Guest Book Contact Us
This site is eye friendly: Use your browser's view options to increase or decrease font size

So Help Me God: Did George Washington or Any Other President Say Those Words When Being Sworn in as President?

Author, etc.

The answer to that question is pretty much covered in the excellent in-depth and highly documented article,

So Help Me God in Presidential Oaths

by Matthew Goldstein.

As he points out in the Preface, a number of people contributed the information that makes up the article he has written.

There has been a great deal of resistance and denial, by the "establishment", to the evidence as given in Matthew's article.

My own experience with this is in the following series of emails regarding a 2006 program on A&E Network

I sent the following email to The History Channel (owned by A&E Network it turns out)

The following program aired on Sunday September 3, 2006 at 5:00 PM [on the history Channel]:

The Revolution: 12 - Road to the Presidency.

It contained inaccurate information near the end. This is also being sold as a DVD which contains the same inaccurate information.

The information I refer to is that Geo Washington added "So Help Me God" to his swearing in. That is a myth. There is absolutely no contemporary evidence that supports that myth.

The first mention of that myth appears in the 1840s in two books published at that time. There is no evidence that any President ever uttered those words until approx. the 1880s

Dr. Michael Newdow and a group of others researching this have all the evidence that shows beyond any doubt that Washington and the So Help Me God addition is a myth and not factual at all.


I received the following replies:

Date: Mon, 4 Sep 2006 10:42:00 -0400 (EDT


Subject: AE Help Desk


Dear Mr. Alison

Thank you for submitting a QUESTION/COMMENT through our automated FAQ Wizard. We will do our best to send your inquiry to appropriate contacts at A&E Television Networks. Thanks again for clicking with us!


Viewer Relations

A&E Television Networks

The Viewer Relations department followed up with this:

Date: Mon, 11 Sep 2006 13:49:00 -0400


From: "viewer relations (EXCHANGE)"

Subject: Re: AE Help Desk

Dear Mr. Alison,

Thank you for your recent e-mail pointing out a possible error in our program THE REVOLUTION: A PRESIDENT AND HIS REVOLUTION.

We have forwarded your e-mail to our programming department for review.


Viewer Relations

This was followed by:

Date: Tue, 12 Sep 2006 16:34:54 -0400


From: "viewer relations (EXCHANGE)"

Subject: Fwd: Re: AE Help Desk

Dear Mr. Alison,

Again, we appreciate your interest in The History Channel program THE REVOLUTION: A PRESIDENT AND HIS REVOLUTION. We forwarded your remarks to the producer, who responded as follows:

"I am not sure what Mr. Alison means by "There is no contemporary evidence that supports this myth" but there seems to be a consensus that extends well beyond Bruce Chadwick, our historian, who told us this story on camera.

I would refer Mr. Alison to the U.S. Senate, the National Archives publications, the White House website and even the sites for PBS and the BBC.

Exact links are:"


Viewer Relations

This is my reply to the above:

To: "viewer relations (EXCHANGE)"

Subject: Re: Fwd: Re: AE Help Desk

Date: Wed, 13 Sep 2006 16:30:47 -0400

You can tell the producer that (1) Consensus is not evidence, nor proof nor is it primary source documentation. (2) There is no contemporary evidence that supports this myth" means exactly that. There is no contemporary evidence that supports Geo Washington saying "So help me God."

There are no letters written by anyone present on the balcony, no newspaper reports, no journal or diary entries that say he ever said those words. No official reports from diplomats back to their countries mentioning he ever said those words.

That producer will not be able to find one valid primary source document that supports the myth that G Washington ever said those words. On the other hand we can provide a huge amount of valid primary source evidence supporting the fact no one ever said he said those words. The story of him saying those words never surfaced until long after the event with the source of the story being a person who was only six years old at the time and was standing a block away from the events and who is not above inventing such things.

We are aware of those sites the producer listed and every one of those are incorrect. Not a single one of those sources provides a single contemporary document that upholds their position.

Here is a very brief summation of the evidence:

As already stated above, there is not a single valid report from that day stating that Washington ever said those words. That includes anything from anyone on the balcony with him and from anyone within hearing distance from the balcony. That includes witnesses reports including those officials from other countries etc.

No biography written about Washington, prior to the 1854, that includes the swearing in ceremonies makes any mention of Washington altering the US Constitution by adding those words.

In the 1850s two books were published that tell a revised story and the very first appearance of the story that Washington said "So help me God" appears in American History.

The author and book title was Rufus W. Griswold, The Republican Court; or, American Society in the Days of Washington. ( 1854 55 )

Griswold states in his book that he was told the story by another person who also published the story in his book when his set of books were published a year or so later. That man's name was Washington Irving and the set of books five-volume The Life of George Washington(1855-59).

Washington Irving was supposed to have been a eye witness and is supposed to have heard Washington say those words.

However, Washington Irving had just turned 6 years of age two weeks prior to this event and furthermore placed himself in the crowd at street level a block away from the balcony where the swearing in took place.

We have copies of letters or diary entries written by people just across the street from the balcony at the same level as the balcony or higher saying they couldn't clearly hear what was being said on the balcony.

Thus no boy a block away would have heard anything that was said.

For general information, part of the myth is that every President after Washington also said So help me God when sworn in. That too is a myth. The evidence shows that no President ever uttered such words until the late 1800s and even then not every President did so. There were several who didn't.

You can give the producer my email address directly if you like so that he may contact me, or I can provide the email address for Dr. Michael Newdow who began this research and who basically has all the research.

It's is up to the producer if they are interested in facts or myths.