Ruth Bader Ginsburg
United States Supreme Court
Investiture of Dr. Allen Weinstein
Ninth Archivist of the United States
March 7, 2005
Dr. Weinstein, the Ninth Archivist of the United
States, is a scholar whose work I have long
admired; I am pleased that he has asked me to participate in this investiture
by administering the oath of office.
I first learned of Dr. Weinstein some 30 years ago from my dear teacher and
friend, renowned Constitution Law scholar Gerald Gunther.
Professor Gunther was Dr. Weinstein's sage counselor
and friend too. Gunther was proud of his young friend
for his readiness to pursue truth, though the search for it turned up
Dr. Weinstein knows full well the enormous importance of the Archives to the
health and well being of our Nation. Two figures by sculptor Robert Atkins
stand beside the Pennsylvania Avenue
entrance to the National Archives: One of a man symbolizing the past, whose
pedestal is inscribed, unsurprisingly, "Study the Past"; the other of
a woman representing the future, whose pedestal bears a well-known line from
Shakespeare's Tempest: "What is past is prologue." That
inscription captures the vitality of the Archives to our Nation.
The records gathered and preserved in the Archives, it has been said,
constitute society's memories. They make enlightened government possible for
today for, as Santayana famously said: "Those who cannot remember the past
are condemned to repeat it. "I wish our new
Archivist well in the essential work entrusted to him.
Because Dr. Weinstein is a historian, I hope he and his audience will
indulge me a minute more to relate a bit of history some of you may have heard
before. It concerns the oath Archivist Weinstein will take. An oath or
affirmation to support and defend the Constitution is required by Article
VI of our Fundamental Instrument of Government for all officeholders, state and
federal. The Constitution tells us, in Article
II, Section I, what oath the President shall take, but it does not set out the
words for other officeholders. Our highly practical First Congress appreciated
the urgent need to staff the new Government; to that end, Congress adopted a
law providing for the oath as its very first Act. (Congress's second act, a
measure less inspiring, was a protective tariff on a long list of imported
goods, ranging from molasses to pickled fish.)
The original oath was sparer than the one now prescribed. It read, simply:
"I ___, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution
of the United States."
At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, the oath was augmented to include a
promise to defend the Constitution against all enemies, domestic and foreign.
In 1868, the War over and the Union preserved, the word
order was changed to place foreign enemies before domestic. The oath the
Archivist will now take dates from that time.