“I Duel Solemnly Swear:” Oaths of Office on File

By Taylor Fox, Reference Librarian

Are you considering running for office? If you win, you’ll need to swear an oath. Public officials swear oaths of office to assure their loyalty to the government and to affirm their promise to uphold the duties of the position. Until 1938, Texas’ oath included a promise that the individual had never fought in, challenged someone to, or accepted a duel!

The oath of office changed slightly from 1846 to 1938, but more or less read as:
“I, _____ do solemnly swear, (or affirm), that I will faithfully and impartially
discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as _____ according to the
best of my skill and ability, agreeably to the Constitution and laws of the United
States and of this State; and I do further solemnly swear (or affirm), that since
the adoption of the Constitution of this State, I being a citizen of this State,
have not fought a duel with deadly weapons, within this State nor out of it, nor
have I sent or accepted a challenge to fight a duel with deadly weapons, nor have
I acted as second in carrying a challenge, or aided, advised or assisted any person thus offending. And I furthermore solemnly swear, (or affirm), that I have not
directly, nor indirectly paid, offered or promised to pay, contributed, nor promised
to contribute any money, or valuable thing, or promised any public office or
employment, as a reward for the giving or withholding a vote at the election at
which I was elected, (or if the office is one of appointment, to secure my
appointment.) So help me God.”

Below is an example of an oath from 1870, accessed online through Ancestry in the collection Texas, Bonds and Oaths of Office, 1846–1920 from TSLAC’s Secretary of State Bonds and Oaths of Office:

Charles L. Abbott (April 26, 1870), Bond and oath, Texas Secretary of State. Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Available from Ancestry.com; Internet; accessed February 2020.

The oath was changed in 1938, when voters approved the constitutional amendment recommended by House Joint Resolution No. 20, 45th Legislature, Regular Session (1937). Following the approval of the amendment, the oath no longer included a reference to dueling.

You can explore more Texas oaths of office online through Ancestry or Ancestry.com Texas in the collection: Texas, Bonds and Oaths of Office, 1846–1920. TSLAC offers access to a number of digital collections through the Ancestry database. Learn more about Ancestry Texas by viewing the Second Saturday workshop presentation on our workshops page. 

For more information about TSLAC’s library and archives collections and how to access them contact Reference Services at ref@tsl.texas.gov or call 512-463-5455.

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