Is there a President who refused to put his hand on the Bible(for the oath)

Pretty straight-forward. I thought I remember hearing that a President in the 1800’s had lost his child in a train accident(something like only his child died and he blamed God) so he refused to put his hand on the Bible.

Is this true?

Several presidents affirmed intread if swearing (which is allowed), and Theodore Roosevelt didn’t even use a Bible. BTW “So Help Me God” isn’t actually part of the oath. Washington adlibed it and every president since who’s sworn the oath (rather than affirming) has don so out of tradition.

Well it sounds like you must mean the President - Franklin Pierce. His son was killed by a train in front of him and his wife. The Wikpedia entry linked to above says he chose to “affirm” the Presidential Oath rather than “swear” it. I don’t know that the two things were connected.

I do know he was a rather tragic President. Not much was really accomplished in his term. He was also a Northerner who supported slavery apparently. He died in 1869 of cirrhosis of the liver. According to the above mentioned entry,

To say that he “blamed God” might be putting it a bit harshly, since one seldom hears religious people speaking in such terms. According to the chief historian of the United States Capitol Historical Society,

Both Herbert Hoover and Richard Nixon were raised as Friends (Quakers), apparently Hoover more strictly. Friends aren’t supposed to take oaths or swear, as one should always be telling the truth.

My initial, half-assed research just now yielded a bunch of biographic sketches of both men which stated when they “took the oath of office,” which could be technically correct or could be shorthand for the two affirming their pledge t execute the duties of the office. Those two would be on my short list of presidents who might not have sworn per se.

I know that Richard Nixon “swore”, because I’m old enough to remember! :smiley:

Concerning other affirmations, for a long time most sources said that Pierce was the only affirmer. However, in the linked interview, historian Kennon cites him as one of two. He doesn’t say who was the other one–I’m assuming Hoover because of his Quaker beliefs.

From the tone of the interview, I get the impression that Kennon has looked into this a little more recently and more thoroughly than others, so I’m inclined to believe him. My book of famous New York Times front pages includes the Hoover inaugural and describes it in considerable detail, but makes no mention of an affimration. It may not have been considered terribly newsworthy.

There is some disagreement among usually reliable sources on this point. For example, CNN says that “Franklin Pierce, in 1853, has been the only president to ‘affirm’ the oath, rather than ‘swear.’” And The Old Farmers Almanac says that

Likewise, the United States Senate says that “Pierce was the only president to ‘solemnly affirm’ rather than ‘solemnly swear’ his oath of office.” And the National Endowment for the Humanities says,

But the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies says that Franklin Pierce was the “[f]irst President to affirm the oath of office rather than swear it,” and that Herbert Hoover was the “[s]econd President to affirm rather than swear the oath of office.”

[nitpick]When one swears the statement, it is an oath. When one affirms, it is an affirmation. One cannot “affirm” an “oath.” Which is why the Constitution refers to an “oath or affirmation,” not an oath.[/nitpick]

Probably not Hoover. Note the opening paragraph from his inaugural address:

It seems unlikely that the meticulous Hoover would have referred to his statement as a “most sacred oath” if it had been not an oath but an affirmation.

I do recall reading once that Hoover was the only president who did not recite the oath after the Chief Justice, but instead replied simply, “I do.” That difference, if my recollection is correct, may be the basis for the notion that Hoover affirmed rather than swore. (Perhaps Chief Justice Taft even said “swear or affirm” when he administered the words to Hoover, giving Hoover an option.) But I haven’t been able to track down a source that corroborates my recollection.

I just read a Washington Post article from a few days before Hoover’s inauguration, and it says the the White House had made a decision that Hoover would “swear” rather than “affirm.”

In the linked article, the Historian Kennon also said

Note–Bolding mine-sc

Give me a break–He caught pneumonia and died because he made a two hour speech on a cold day? We’ve debunked this one before. Some historian this guy Kennon is. :rolleyes:

I’m writing to him to ask who he thinks the “second” affirmer was. I don’t think there is/was one. My guess is he didn’t do the primary research himself and is just relying(wrongly IMO) on others.