An opinion of the Attorney General in 1875 declared that Members of Congress do not assume office until the completion of the oath, but that a state may not question a state representative’s motives and refuse to allow him to take the oath and his seat. The very first law passed by the first session of the House of Representatives was “An Act to regulate the Time and Manner of administering certain Oaths.” Two days later, the Chief Justice of New York administered to the Representatives an oath to “solemnly swear or affirm (as the case may be) that I will support the Constitution of the United States.” The Senate amended the legislation to apply to state officers, who are also subject to Article VI. In this sense, the Oaths Clause is the completion of the Supremacy Clause. Under current law any individual elected or appointed to an office of honor or profit in the civil service or uniformed services, except the President, shall take the following oath: “I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) 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.” (33 U.S.C. “The Constitution enjoins an oath upon all the officers of the United States,” Oliver Wolcott noted at the Connecticut ratifying convention. So help me God. The officers of the States are already under oath to the States. Support and Defend: Understanding the Oath of Office, 3 Ways Trump Is Overstepping His Bounds Amid Pandemic, Pelosi Bill to Remove President From Office Is a Needless Political Stunt, Pelosi’s Trump-Obsessed Plan for the 25th Amendment Distorts the Constitution. To preserve a due impartiality they ought to be equally bound to the Natl. The Oaths Clause helps to fulfill the Framers’ plan to integrate the states into the electoral, policy-making, and executory functions of the federal union, subject to the limits of the Tenth Amendment. (4 U.S.C. As it applies to Members of Congress, the “Oaths Clause” plays an important role by obliging them to observe the limits of their authority and act in accordance with the powers delegated to them by the Constitution. “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution….”. For the sake of consistency and unity, the delegates amended the Oaths Clause to cover officers of the national government as well. Matthew Spalding, Ph.D., is the Director of the B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies at The Heritage Foundation and the Executive Editor of The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, in which this essay was originally published. The oath also serves as a solemn reminder that the duty to uphold the Constitution is not the exclusive or final responsibility of the Judiciary but is shared by Congress and the President (per Article II, Section 1) as co-equal branches of the United States government. In England, subjects were required to swear loyalty to the reigning monarch; many early American documents included oaths of allegiance to the British king. The Framers included a specific oath for the President in Article II, Section 1, Clause 8. For example, the Supreme Court has held that Congress may not “conscript” the legislatures or executive officers of a state directly into federal service. Although the practical application of the Constitution is largely in the hands of state judges, the primacy of the Constitution ultimately depends on officers of the law—in particular, officers of each branch of government—being equally bound to its support. 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. § 3331.) In doing so, the Members of Congress perform an act that harkens back to the country’s founding and its first principles. Beyond the mechanism of the separation of powers, the Oaths Clause places an independent obligation on officeholders to observe the limits of their authority.
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