On April 30, Inauguration Day, church bells rang across the city and sounds of artillery could be heard. Making his way through the crowds, Washington entered Federal Hall where both houses of Congress were assembled. Before Chancellor Robert Livingston could read the oath - which, by Constitutional requirement a newly elected president has to repeat ("I solemnly swear 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") - the officials realized there was no Bible upon which to swear the oath.It was Livingston who remembered that a Masonic Lodge was just down the street which had a very special Bible. Someone was sent to ask for it to be loaned for the ceremony and it was hurriedly placed on a red velvet cushion and opened at random to Genesis:49-50. Washington established the precedent of taking the oath by placing his right hand on the Bible, a tradition followed by every president since then, and so doing he added, "I swear, so help me God." Bending down, he kissed the Bible. People later were to consider the random choice of chapters 49-50 a good omen.Washington was following the custom used in royal coronations and British and colonial courts of the day. Though the selection in the Bible was a random and unprepared choice, later presidents chose to open the Bible to pages that were meaningful to them. As for Bibles, they were also chosen by the president-elect or a family Bible was used. Since the Civil War, a record has been kept of presidential choices of selections from the Bible which were used.Washi
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