Saturday, November 19, 2011

History hallucinations

In yet another of her history hallucinations, Michele Bachmann said in debate that George Washington had added "so help me God" at the end of his oath of office as the first president of the United States. Um, no. A George Mason professor of history -- and an author of a biography of Washington -- Peter R. Henriques writes that the record demonstrates pretty clearly that he didn't. You need to read the article at the link to see that Henriques case is persuasive, but he ends with this:
Does it make any difference whether he added the words or not? Beyond a historian’s desire to reconstruct the past as accurately as possible, I think the story has pertinence to our current debate over the proper relationship between the national government and religion. Joseph Story in his Commentaries on the Constitution, first published in 1833, explained why the clause banning religious test oaths was included. Its main object, he wrote, was “to cut off forever every pretence of any alliance between church and state in the national government. The framers of the constitution were fully sensible of the dangers from this source.”
A tweet from John Dickerson put me on to the Henriques article.

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