State, county, and municipal officials all must swear an oath of office and we’re occasionally asked for the text of the oaths and where the signed oaths can be found. Who takes what oath, who administers the oath, and where the signed oaths are kept are generally spelled out in the New Hampshire Constitution, the New Hampshire Statutes, or in town charters.
Because the statutes are inconsistent about how they refer to taking an oath, the best way to find this information is by using the print index to the New Hampshire Statutes. Look for “oaths and affirmations” or “oath of office.” You can also check under the office itself. For example, if you want to know about the oath sworn by the governor, look under “governor” in the index. In the index, the reference to “forms” means the form (text) of the oath.
The phrase “oaths and affirmations” has prompted some questions. In law, an affirmation is “a formal and solemn declaration, having the same weight and invested with the same responsibilities as an oath, by persons who conscientiously decline taking an oath” (Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). In New Hampshire, you will often see “scrupulous of swearing” rather than “conscientiously decline”. “Scrupulous” in this context means someone who is “careful to follow the dictates of conscience” and who will not, or cannot, swear a religious oath.
If information about the oath or affirmation isn’t in the statute, look at the website for the town or county. For example, RSA 104:3 says:
“A sheriff may appoint so many deputies as he thinks proper, by deputation in writing, under his hand and seal, and not otherwise, who shall be sworn to the faithful discharge of their duties. The deputation and certificate of oath thereon shall be recorded at length by the clerk of the superior court in a book kept for that purpose, and no deputy shall act as such until the record is made.”
The statute tells you that deputy sheriffs must be sworn to the faithful discharge of their duties but doesn’t give the text of the oath. We then went to a few county sheriffs’ websites and found this example in Cheshire County:
NAME, of TOWN, STATE do solemnly swear that I bear faith and true allegiance to the United States of American and the State of New Hampshire and will support the Constitution thereof. So help me God. (Alternative for those scrupulous of swearing: This I do under the pains and penalty of perjury.”)
If it isn’t clear where the signed oaths are kept, use this rule of thumb: a state-level office is probably the Secretary of State, a local-level office is probably the town or city clerk’s office, and a county-level office seems, in the examples we’ve found, to be at the county superior court or with the county entities themselves.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many statutory requirements for the swearing-in of officials were waived by emergency orders.
Please remember that this guide is for information purposes only and is not comprehensive. It is intended as a starting point for research, to illustrate the various sources of the law, and to provide guidance in their use. NH Law About ... is not a substitute for the services of an attorney.