Oaths of Office in American States: Problems and Prospects

James S. Bowman, Jonathan P. West

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Upon assuming office, executive, legislative, and judicial officials swear an oath as evidence of dedication, commitment, and duty to the Constitution. As such, they play a quintessential role in upholding democratic values. Yet contrasted to codes of ethics, oaths get little recognition in the study of public administration. What attention they do receive focuses primarily on the presidential oath of office. This article examines a little-researched topic: governmental oaths in American states. The inquiry is useful because oaths can help safeguard the integrity of civic institutions. As a distinguishing feature of public service, oath-taking nonetheless may be seen as a routine formality without consequence. The article discusses this rite of passage, explores its past and current functions, reviews the literature, and analyzes state oaths. The work concludes with observations on the prospects of these testimonials in troubled times, times that require the restoration of honor, dignity, and virtue in government.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-132
Number of pages24
JournalPublic Personnel Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • U.S. state government
  • accountability
  • ethics
  • oath of office

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Administration
  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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