George Washington Papers

Cabinet Opinion on the Administration of the Presidential Oath, 1 March 1793

Cabinet Opinion on the Administration of the Presidential Oath

[Philadelphia] March 1. 1793.

It is our opinion,1

  • 1. that the President ought to take the oath in public.
  • 2. that the time be on Monday next at 12 o’clock in the forenoon.
  • 3. that the place be the Senate chamber.
  • 4. that the Marshal of the district2 inform the Vice-President, that the Senate-chamber, being the usual place of the president’s public3 acts, is supposed to be the best place for taking the oath; and that it is wished, that the chamber be open.
  • 5. that it may be informally notified to the Vice President governor and foreign ministers, that the oath is to be taken at the time and place abovementioned.
  • 6. that Mr Cushing be requested to attend; and administer the oath.
  • 7. that the President go without form attended by such gentlemen, as he may choose, and return without form, except that he be preceded by the Marshal.4

H. Knox

Edm: Randolph

My opinion given yesterday was founded on prudential considerations of the moment;5 though I think it right in the abstract to give publicity to the Act in question. If this is to be done on the present occasion, I see no objection to the above form. I am not, however, satisfied that prudential considerations are not equally ballanced.

A. Hamilton

LS, DLC:GW; copy, NNGL: Knox Papers. The body of the signed letter is in Randolph’s writing; Hamilton wrote the postscript. On the back of the copy in NNGL, Knox wrote, in part: “N.B. Mr Jefferson on the 28th gave his opinion verbaly that the President should have the oath administered to him in his own house.”

1Knox enclosed this opinion in a letter to GW of this same date, which reads, “I have the honor to enclose the opinions of Mr Randolph and myself, upon the time place, and Manner of the Presidents, taking the oath, and also Mr Hamiltons qualified opinion on the same subjects” (DLC:GW).

2Clement Biddle had served as the U.S. marshal for the district of Pennsylvania since 1789.

3Randolph first wrote “performance of the most solemn”; he struck out this phrase and inserted “public” above the line.

4William Cushing, an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, administered the oath of office to GW on Monday, 4 Mar., in the Senate chambers. For descriptions of the event, see Annals of Congress description begins Joseph Gales, Sr., comp. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature. 42 vols. Washington, D.C., 1834–56. description ends , 2d Cong., 2d sess., 666–68; JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 80. See also reports in the 6 Mar. issues of the Philadelphia newspapers Gazette of the United States and Pennsylvania Gazette.

5For Hamilton’s initial opinion, see Cabinet Opinion, 28 Feb. 1793.

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