In order to allow for the installation of scaffolding and floor, statuary, and artwork protection in conjunction with the Dome Restoration Project, the Rotunda of the Capitol will be closed from Monday, July 27 through Monday, September 7. While the Rotunda is unavailable for tours, an alternate tour route will be provided. The Capitol Visitor Center is open during the closure of the Rotunda and will offer special activities which do not require advance reservations. You can also download our new U.S. Capitol Rotunda app.

Lawmakers, Loyalty and the "Ironclad Oath," 1864

The Constitution requires all government office-holders to take an oath to support that document, but it establishes a specific oath only for the president. In 1789, Congress drafted a simple 14-word pledge. No one felt anything more was needed—until the Civil War.

In 1862, Congress adopted the "Ironclad Test Oath." Civil servants and military officers had to swear loyalty to the Union and affirm no previous disloyalty—a clause aimed at Confederate sympathizers. Senators didn’t have to take the oath, but many did.

Angered by those who refused, Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner promoted an 1864 Senate rule making the new oath mandatory. Four years later, to encourage reunification, Congress created an alternative pledge for Southerners. Finally, in 1884, lawmakers replaced the wartime oath with the one used today.

"I , _________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take This obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God."
— Oath of office, version instituted in 1884 and still in use today

History of Congress and the Capitol

The Senate 1851-1877

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Vice-President Wade [sic]...
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Vice-President Wade [sic] Administering the Oath to Schuyler Colfax, by A. R. Waud, 1869

Vice-President Wade [sic] Administering the Oath to Schuyler Colfax, by A. R. Waud, 1869

Senate President Pro Tempore Benjamin Wade administers the oath of office to Vice President–elect Schuyler Colfax.

Collection of the U.S. Senate

Vice-President Wade [sic] Administering the Oath to Schuyler Colfax, by A. R. Waud, 1869

Vice-President Wade [sic] Administering the Oath to Schuyler Colfax, by A. R. Waud, 1869

Senate President Pro Tempore Benjamin Wade administers the oath of office to Vice President–elect Schuyler Colfax.

Collection of the U.S. Senate

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