Upstream. A Mohawk Valley Blogzine.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Defending Our Constitution vs. Defending Our Country.

Below are some of the oaths that elected and appointed officials have to take in the United States. I post them here without commentary and simply ask the question: Does it make any difference that the oath specifices that these officials protect the Constitution of the United States against enemies foreign and domestic as opposed to protecting our country from enemies foreign and domestic? Is protecting our country and its constitution one and the same? If so, how? If not, why not?

The Presidential Oath of Office.

Article II, Section 1, of the Constitution:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Oath Taken by Senators and Congressmen:

I 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: So help me God.

Oath for Supreme Court and District Court Justices

I do solemnly swear (or affirm), that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent on me, according to the best of my abilities and understanding, agreeably to the Constitution, and laws of the United States. So help me God.

Oath for the Military and Civil Servants:

An individual, except the President, elected or appointed to an office of honor or profit in the civil service or uniformed services, shall take the following oath: “I, AB, 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. So help me God.” This section does not affect other oaths required by law.

Oath for New York State Public Officials:

ARTICLE XIII Public Officers Section of the New York State Constitution:
1. Members of the legislature, and all officers, executive and judicial, except such inferior officers as shall be by law exempted, shall, before they enter on the duties of their respective offices, take and subscribe the following oath or affirmation: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the constitution of the United States, and the constitution of the State of New York, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of ............, according to the best of my ability; " and no other oath, declaration or test shall be required as a qualification for any office of public trust, except that any committee of a political party may, by rule, provide for equal representation of the sexes on any such committee, and a state convention of a political party, at which candidates for public office are nominated, may, by rule, provide for equal representation of the sexes on any committee of such party.

2 Comments:

  • You know, Dan, the more I think about the conundrum you present, the more mysterious it becomes.
    For example, let's take a look at my dictionary's definitions of constitution.
    Passing over definition 1 which is irrelevant in this case, definition 2.a. calls constitution "the composition or structure of something, (as in) 'make-up.'" 2.b. says constitution is "the physical make-up of a person, (as in) 'a man with a strong constitution.'"
    Do you see where I'm headed with this?
    It's not 'till definition 3.a. that we get to "the system of fundamental laws...." and 3.b. "the document on which such a system is recorded."
    So, it seems, we can look at the constitution of the United States(little "c") in the sense of its structure, or make-up, (the fifty states, the institutions, the people, etc.) with as much validity as we look to the system of laws which govern us and the document upon which they are written as the Constitution
    (capital "C").
    Now, of course, we have no clue as to what the founders intended. But it is rather tidy, don't you think, that an official taking an oath can be said to be simultaneously protecting BOTH our system of laws (our Constitution)as well as our Country (our way of life; our make-up; our constitution).
    This line of thought begs a little research into when constitution is capitalized. Interestingly, the official sites for this inquiry show constititution capitalized in all but the "Oath for New York State Public Officials" where you showed it correctly as not being capitalized.
    In any event, it's comforting to think that our appointed and elected officials are swearing to protect both our specific system of laws AND our Country. (Whether true or not.)
    All in all a good thinking point. Thanks!

    P.S. Regarding our earlier exchange, I am neither a science nor a math guy. I did major in English but am not degreed in it.
    Sorry to deflate your theory, Dan.
    I'm just cursed, it seems, with an abnormal sensitivity to wrong grammar and usage. It's not fun being like this!

    By Anonymous Lake George Guy, at 3:12 AM  

  • Thanks as always for your comments. I believe that by making defending the Constitution a priority, our leaders will always be defending our country. But if they make defending our country and its citizens the priority without regard to the Constitution, as President Bush and Governor Pataki are doing, then eventually both the Constitution and Country will be destroyed.

    By Blogger Dan Weaver, at 8:09 AM  

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