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Tag: William Howard Taft

An inaugural blunder

Today’s post is from David Steinbach, intern in the National Archives History Office.

Chief Justice William H. Taft administering the oath of office to Herbert Hoover, March 4, 1929. (Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum)

Chief Justice William H. Taft administering the oath of office to Herbert Hoover, March 4, 1929. (Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum)

William Howard Taft had unusually extensive experience with the Presidential oath of office. In 1909, Taft recited the text on the steps of the Capitol to become the 27th President of the United States.

Sixteen years later, as Chief Justice of the United States, Taft stood on the other side of the Bible and administered Calvin Coolidge’s swearing in.

By the time of Herbert Hoover’s inauguration ceremony in 1929, Taft should have mastered the oath. But the Chief Justice blundered nonetheless, substituting erroneously the phrase “preserve, maintain, and defend” for the traditional “preserve, protect, and defend.”

Letter from Chief Justice William Howard Taft to President Herbert Hoover Regarding the Oath of Office, 03/01/1929. (National Archives Identifier 7722952)

Letter from Chief Justice William Howard Taft to President Herbert Hoover Regarding the Oath of Office, 03/01/1929. (National Archives Identifier
7722952)

Taft could not blame lack of preparation. In the exhibit “Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures” currently open at the National Archives in Washington, DC, we see a particularly interesting letter from the Chief Justice to incoming President Hoover. The communication is dated March 1, 1929—three days before the inauguration. Taft described in great detail where the two men would stand, what text that he would recite, what Hoover’s response should be, … [ Read all ]