Article 6, Clause 3
Records of the Federal Convention
[1:22; Madison, 29 May]
14. Resd. that the Legislative Executive & Jucidiary powers within the several States ought to be bound by oath to support the articles of Union
[1:28; Paterson, 29 May]
5. That the leg. ex. and judy. Officers should be bound by Oath to observe the Union.
[1:122; Madison, 5 June]
propos. 14. "requiring oath from the State officers to support national Govt." was postponed after a short uninteresting conversation; the votes, Con. N. Jersey. Md. Virg: S. C. Geo. ay
N. Y. Pa. Del. N. C. . . . no
Massachusetts. . . . divided
[1:194; Journal, 11 June]
It was then moved and seconded to agree to the 14 resolution submitted by Mr Randolph namely
"Resolved that the legislative, executive, and judiciary powers within the several States ought to be bound by oath to support the articles of union"
It was then moved by Mr Martin seconded by to strike out the words "within the several States"
and on the question to strike out.
It was then moved and seconded to agree to the 14th resolution as submitted by Mr. Randolph
And on the question to agree to the same.
[1:203; Madison, 11 June]
Resolution 14. requiring oaths from the members of the State Govts. to observe the Natl. Constitution & laws, being considered.
Mr. Sharman opposed it as unnecessarily intruding into the State jurisdictions.
Mr. Randolph considered it as necessary to prevent that competition between the National Constitution & laws & those of the particular States, which had already been felt. The officers of the States are already under oath to the States. To preserve a due impartiality they ought to be equally bound to the Natl. Govt. The Natl. authority needs every support we can give it. The Executive & Judiciary of the States, notwithstanding their nominal independence on the State Legislatures are in fact, so dependent on them, that unless they be brought under some tie to the Natl. system, they will always lean too much to the State systems, whenever a contest arises between the two.
Mr. Gerry did not like the clause. He thought there was as much reason for requiring an oath of fidelity to the States, from Natl. officers, as vice. versa.
Mr. Luther Martin moved to strike out the words requiring such an oath from the State Officers viz "within the several States." observing that if the new oath should be contrary to that already taken by them it would be improper; if coincident the oaths already taken will be sufficient.
On the question for striking out as proposed by Mr. L. Martin
Massts. no. Cont. ay. N. Y. no. N. J. ay. Pa. no. Del. ay. Md. ay. Va. no. N. C. no. S. C. no. Geo. no. [Ayes--4; noes--7.]
Question on whole Resolution as proposed by Mr. Randolph;
Massts. ay. Cont. no. N. Y. no. N. J. no. Pa. ay. Del. no. Md. no. Va. ay. N. C. ay. S. C. ay. Geo. ay. [Ayes--6; noes--5.]
[1:207; Yates, 11 June]
Mr. Williamson. This resolve will be unnecessary, as the union will become the law of the land.
Governor Randolph. He supposes it to be absolutely necessary. Not a state government, but its officers will infringe on the rights of the national government. If the state judges are not sworn to the observance of the new government, will they not judicially determine in favor of their state laws? We are erecting a supreme national government; ought it not to be supported, and can we give it too many sinews?
Mr. Gerry rather supposes that the national legislators ought to be sworn to preserve the state constitutions, as they will run the greatest risk to be annihilated--and therefore moved it.
For Mr. Gerry's amendment, 7 ayes, 4 noes.
Main question then put on the clause or resolve--6 ayes, 5 noes. New-York in the negative.[Volume 4, Page 638]
[1:227; Journal, 13 June]
Resolved that the Legislative, Executive, and judiciary powers within the several States ought to be bound by oath to support the articles of union
[2:84; Journal, 23 June]
It was moved and seconded to add after the word "States" in the 18 resolution, the words "and of the national government"
which passed in the affirmative
On the question to agree to the 18th resolution as amended namely
"That the legislative, Executive, and Judiciary Powers within the several States, and of the national Government, ought to be bound by oath to support the articles of union"
[2:87; Madison, 23 July]
Resoln. 18. "requiring the Legis: Execut: & Judy. of the States to be bound by oath to support the articles of Union". taken into consideration.
Mr. Williamson suggests that a reciprocal oath should be required from the National officers, to support the Governments of the States.
Mr. Gerry moved to insert as an amendmt. that the oath of the Officers of the National Government also should extend to the support of the Natl. Govt. which was agreed to nem. con.
Mr. Wilson said he was never fond of oaths, considering them as a left handed security only. A good Govt. did not need them. and a bad one could not or ought not to be supported. He was afraid they might too much trammel the Members of the Existing Govt in case future alterations should be necessary; and prove an obstacle to Resol: 17. just agd. to.
Mr. Ghorum did not know that oaths would be of much use; but could see no inconsistency between them and the 17. Resol: or any regular amendt. of the Constitution. The oath could only require fidelity to the existing Constitution. A constitutional alteration of the Constitution, could never be regarded as a breach of the Constitution, or of any oath to support it.
Mr Gerry thought with Mr. Ghorum there could be no shadow of inconsistency in the case. Nor could he see any other harm that could result from the Resolution. On the other side he thought one good effect would be produced by it. Hitherto the officers of the two Governments had considered them as distinct from, not as parts of the General System, & had in all cases of interference given a preference to the State Govts. The proposed oaths will cure that error.--
The Resoln. (18). was agreed to nem. con.--
[2:461; Journal, 30 Aug.]
It was moved or seconded to add the words "or affirmation" after the word "oath" 20 article
which passed in the affirmative.
On the question to agree to the 20 article as amended
it passed in the affirmative [Ayes--8; noes--1; divided--2.]
It was moved and seconded to add the following clause to the 20 Article.
"But no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the authority of the United States"
which passed unan: in the affirmative
[2:468; Madison, 30 Aug.]
Art: XX. taken up--"or affirmation" was added after "oath."
Mr. Pinkney. moved to add to the art:--"but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the authority of the U. States"
Mr. Sherman thought it unnecessary, the prevailing liberality being a sufficient security agst. such tests.
Mr. Govr. Morris & Genl. Pinkney approved the motion,
The motion was agreed to nem: con: and then the whole Article, N-- C. only no--& Md. divided.
The Founders' Constitution
Volume 4, Article 6, Clause 3, Document 10
The University of Chicago Press
Farrand, Max, ed. The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Rev. ed. 4 vols. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1937.