A Broader Oath for Those in National Power Today

“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. . .so help me God” Part of the Oath of Office for military officers, cabinet members, members of Congress, civilian appointees, other civil servants. Article VI, United States Constitution.

“I will. . . to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Part of the Presidential Oath of Office, Article II, section 1, United States Constitution. George Washington added, “So help me God.”

These limited Oaths are important in helping to explain our history. The added words “so help me God” transfer the promise from a promise to the nation to a promise to God. What is that promise? It is a narrow promise, a specific promise, a promise to defend the US Constitution, a part of what is called Positive Law—one of four bundles of Law that constitute the Rule of Law in America.

For members of the armed forces, the promise means, in part, loyalty to the notion of civilian control of the military. For the President, the promise means, in part, loyalty to the parameters of power relative to the Office of President of the United States and respect for the stated and reserved powers of the states and the reserved powers and rights of the People. Amendments IX and X, United States Constitution. See also this essay about the notion of Federalism.

Why this narrow commitment? The reason is practical and strategic. The document that emerged from the Constitutional Convention in 1787, and was ratified in 13 state conventions, included elements of compromise in conflict with other bundles of American Rule of Law. The dangerous and fragile times dictated the measures, in the opinion of some of the Founders, and they wanted the new Constitution supported.

George Washington felt strongly that there would be no independent America without a more muscular set of rules than was provided by the Articles of Confederation, our first constitution. So, instead of amending the Articles of Confederation, an entirely new document was created.

Image: George Washington taking the oath of office from an 1893 history of the United States. No known copyright.

This explains the narrow promise—an Oath to follow the new Constitution and its rules and follow them faithfully so that the new nation might survive intact. The nation did survive. America was not attacked again militarily until 1812 when Britain tried to re-take her former colonies. The interceding twenty-nine years gave the country a chance to gain its strength. It did just that.

Many of the Founders also intended to buy time in hopes that the Constitution would align with other parts of our Rule of Law, especially the values stated directly in the Declaration of Independence and in the moral teachings of Christianity. After the Civil War, we did bring the federal Constitution closer in alignment with Natural and Moral Law and it is certainly closer in alignment today.

But that was then. This is now. What might be an appropriate Oath for today?

A broader Oath for today, from the President and others in federal public trust, might be to swear to preserve, protect, and defend the Sovereignty of our nation, our Unalienable Rights, the religious underpinnings of our Moral Law, in addition to the Constitution and federal statutes that are part of Positive Law. The Oath might also include a promise regarding the spirit of comity and courtesy with which the promise is to be carried out—Unwritten Law. All of this, so help them God.

The rights we enjoy, for instance, come from God and are part of Natural Law. All persons in our system have an initial right to Life and to Liberty. The unborn have a right to have their lives considered in a calculation of who lives and who dies. An individual’s right to Liberty is unalienable—it cannot be separated from his or her being, by the elected or the appointed or by any document. Liberty is checked by duty and by internalized moral values—values that come from the family and the community—not those hired to be stewards of those values.

The Sovereignty of the Nation is not a President’s or a Congress’s to give away. It may not be transferred directly or indirectly to a transnational governing structure or scheme by Treaty or by any other means. The Sovereignty of the American nation is in the hands of her People. Only they, and only they by direct vote, could give the nation away or dissolve her borders.

Perhaps the simplest way to visualize the system the Oath represents is to see it as a Spring basket with a large purple plastic egg, a dark-chocolate bunny, and some green artificial grass. The egg represents our Rule of Law in its entirety—including the US Constitution. The chocolate bunny is our economic system independent but closely aligned to the purple plastic egg, and the green grass is the American culture including the rights and liberties of the People within that culture. The hand-woven basket is in God’s hands and it is In God We Trust.

Many of those drunk with elected and appointed national power in the United States today seem not to remember even their limited Oaths of Office or their larger duties of stewardship. You are but part of the egg in the basket—you are not the bunny, you are not the grass, you are not the basket, and you certainly do not hold the basket in your hand. Paraphrasing the new Lt. Governor of Virginia, “Who do you think you are?”

As George Washington tells us, “The Power. . . will always be with the People. Perhaps a broader Oath of Office will bring this point home to those we elect and appoint to national public trust.

M. E. Boyd’s Apples of Gold—Voices From the Past That Speak to Us Now is available at www.amazon.com using the title and subtitle.

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