Has Every U.S. President Been Sworn in with a Bible?

While it's a well-known fact that many U.S. presidents earned law degrees on their way to the White House, it could be argued that John Quincy Adams was the most legally minded: the nation's sixth president chose to place his hand on a volume of law rather than a Bible for his inauguration. It was a rainy, cool March 4, 1825, in Washington, D.C., and Adams showed up in trousers and no powdered wig -- which should have been a hint that things would not be going in the usual manner. Previous presidents had donned knee breeches and the traditional wig for taking the oath of office, and only Thomas Jefferson had been sworn in without a Bible. Since Adams was known to be a rather unusual leader, his actions might not have been all that unexpected. And truth be told, although placing a left hand on the Bible has become the prevailing custom, there's no constitutional requirement for a new president to be sworn in with a Bible or any other book. Franklin Pierce and Theodore Roosevelt would later follow suit, skipping the Bible for their inaugurations.

All about America's sixth president:

  • Adams lost both the electoral and popular votes to Andrew Jackson, but no candidate had a majority in the Electoral College. Adams eventually won the contingent election in the U.S. House of Representatives.

  • For a few months after moving into the White House, Adams kept a pet alligator -- given to him by the Marquis de Lafayette -- in a bathtub.

  • Adams is the only former president to become a U.S. representative after leaving office.

More Info: New England Historical Society

Discussion Comments

anon1002405

I thought it was a rule about the Bible, especially back in those days. Learn something new everyday.

anon1002306

Thank you. This is very informative.

I have another question: Please explain the difference between a US Citizen, Natural-Born Citizen and

Naturalized Citizen, and any others? This as it pertains to eligibility for President of the United States.

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