Congress adopts the Great Seal of the United States

Congress adopts the Great Seal of the United States



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On June 20, 1782, Congress adopts the Great Seal of the United States after six years of discussion.

The front of the seal depicts a bald eagle clutching an olive branch in its right talon and arrows in its left. On its breast appears a shield marked with 13 vertical red and white stripes topped by a bar of blue. The eagle’s beak clutches a banner inscribed, E pluribus unum, a Latin phrase meaning “Out of Many One.” Above the eagle’s head, golden rays burst forth, encircling 13 stars.

Charles Thomson outlined the symbolic connotations of the seal’s elements when he presented his design to Congress. The bottom of the shield (or pale) represents the 13 states united in support of the blue bar at the top of the shield (or chief), “which unites the whole and represents Congress.” The motto E Pluribus Unum serves as a textual representation of the same relationshiptho. The colors used in the shield are the same as those in the flag: alternating red and white for the important balance between innocence and valor, topped by the blue of “vigilance, perseverance and justice.” The eagle’s talons hold symbols of Congress power to make peace (the olive branch) and war (arrows). The constellation of stars indicates that “a new State [is] taking its place and rank among other sovereign powers.”

The reverse side of the seal bears the familiar Masonic motif of a pyramid, which Thomson proposed as a symbol of “Strength and Duration.” The pyramid, like the new nation, is unfinished and frequently depicted as having 13 steps for the original states. The disembodied eye floating above the structure is that of providence, which Thomson believed had acted “in favour of the American cause.” Beneath the pyramid, the number 1776 appears in Roman numerals as a reminder of the year of independence. The phrase Annuit Coeptis or “Providence has Favored Our Undertakings” appears above the providential eye; Novus Ordo Seclorum or “A New Order of the Ages” appears beneath the pyramid.


Pledge of Allegiance Adopted by Congress: On This Day, June 22

The words of the Pledge of Allegiance, adopted by Congress on June 22, 1942, are familiar. But most Americans probably don’t know the history of those words, and the changes they have gone through over time.

Pledge Timeline

  • September 9, 1892: The pledge is introduced in the magazine The Youth’s Companion as part of a program to celebrate Columbus Day in schools across the country. The words were written by Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister and Christian Socialist, and read: "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation indivisible with Liberty and Justice for all."
  • June 14, 1923: The National Flag Conference, sponsored by the American Legion and the Daughters of the American Revolution, changes "my Flag" to "the flag of the United States of America," in part to ensure that recent immigrants had the US flag in mind and not the flag of their nation of origin.
  • June 22, 1942: Congress formally recognizes the pledge and includes it in the federal Flag Code.
  • December 22, 1942: Congress changes the official manner of delivery to placing the right hand over the heart the previous stance, one hand extended from the body, was too reminiscent of the Nazi salute. The "Bellamy Salute" had directed that "the right hand is extended gracefully, palm upward, toward the Flag."
  • June 14, 1954: President Eisenhower approves the congressional resolution adding the words "under God" to the pledge. The Knights of Columbus and other groups, as well as Eisenhower himself, had lobbied for the change.

The words and manner of delivery of the Pledge of Allegiance are currently laid out in TITLE 4 - CHAPTER 1 - Sec. 4. of the United States Code:

The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag: "I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.", should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. When not in uniform men should remove any non-religious headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and render the military salute. Members of the Armed Forces not in uniform and veterans may render the military salute in the manner provided for persons in uniform.


In 1894 Palemon Howard Dorsett, a lifelong Department of Agriculture employee, turned up at the Department of State with a metal die engraved with the Great Seal, claiming it had originally been given to his family by a nephew of George Washington. It was examined by Gaillard Hunt, the author of a pamphlet on the Great Seal, who agreed that it appeared to be contemporaneous with the original 1782 seal, but he took no further interest in the matter. [1]

Decades later, in 1936, Dorsett wrote again regarding his die, and this time it was investigated more thoroughly. It is a very similar design to the first Great Seal die and obviously copied from it, even including a border of acanthus leaves. The eagle was different though, being more spirited with its wings more widely spread. More significantly, the arrows and the olive branch are switched, indicating an intentional "difference" to distinguish it from the actual Great Seal. It is the same size as the first die, and is made of bronze. There was no indication that it could actually be used in a seal press, and a search of government documents showed no use of the seal anywhere. [2]

The investigation also turned up some facts that supported Dorsett's story: documents relating to the sale of Washington's estate list "plates arms U.S." being sold to Thomas Hammond (a son-in-law of Charles Washington and therefore a nephew by marriage to George Washington), and also the Hammond and Dorsett families both had roots in West Virginia just a few miles apart. Afterwards Dorsett lent his seal to Mount Vernon, and his heirs made it a donation. It was eventually put on display in a museum there. [2]

The origins and purpose of this die remain unknown. Both Hunt and the authors of Eagle and the Shield speculate it was meant to be used by either the President of the Congress or later by the President of the United States, but there is no other evidence to support this. [1] In October and November 2007, two more dies were discovered in Rhode Island with exactly the same design (though cut in relief), even down to the same small flaws. They were made of silver-plated lead, which is sometimes used as an engraving test since it is a cheaper metal. [1]

In 1786, for the first two issues of Columbian Magazine, Philadelphia engraver James Trenchard wrote articles on the obverse (in September 1786) and reverse (in October 1786) of the Great Seal, and each issue included a full-page engraving of his own original version of the discussed side of the seal. The project apparently was aided by William Barton, as the official law was printed along with supplemental notes from Barton. Trenchard's obverse featured randomly placed stars, like Thomson's drawing, and had the rays of the glory extending beyond the clouds upward, with the clouds themselves being in an arc. The reverse also followed the blazon carefully, and featured an elongated pyramid with the requisite mottos and the Eye of Providence (a right eye, unlike versions that followed). While not official, Trenchard's depiction had an obvious influence on subsequent official versions, and was the first known public rendering of the reverse side (and only one for many years). [3] [4]

St. Paul's Chapel in New York City has a large oil painting of the national coat of arms, believed installed sometime in 1786. It was commissioned on October 7, 1785, not long after the Congress of the Confederation began meeting in nearby Federal Hall. The painting hangs over Washington's pew, across the room from a painting of the arms of New York over the Governor's pew. The painting has many similarities to Trenchard's version (or vice versa depending on which came first), including the random placement of stars and details of the eagle. The clouds are in a full circle, though, instead of an arc, and the rays extend beyond them in all directions. The shield has a gold chain border with a badge at the bottom. This is the earliest known full-color version of the seal design, and the artist is unknown. [4] [5]


The Great Seal: Celebrating 233 Years of a National Emblem

On June 20, 1782, the Confederation Congress approved and finalized the first Great Seal of the United States.

The First Continental Congress in 1776 originally commissioned Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams to create a national seal. As members of the First Great Seal Committee, these Founding Fathers intended to design a national emblem that reflected the independence and aspirations of the new nation.

This was no easy task. It took more than three committees and six years of congressional debate to complete the Great Seal.

It was Secretary of the Continental Congress, Charles Thomson, who submitted the final design for the Great Seal 233 years ago. Thomson’s design combined elements of submissions presented to the prior committees. His uncluttered, symbolic design fulfilled Congress’s expectations.

The face side of Thomson’s seal, also known as the “observe” side, displays a bald eagle with wings spread. The eagle clutches a bundle of 13 arrows (representing the 13 colonies) in its left talon and an olive branch in its right talon. Together, the items in the eagle’s talons stand for war and peace.

The eagle’s beak holds a banner that reads E pluribus unum. The Latin phrase roughly translates as “Out of many, one,” describing the formation of a single nation from 13 colonies.

On the eagle’s breast is a shield with 13 red and white stripes below a blue chief, or the upper region of the shield. The red and white chevrons stand for valor and purity, while the blue represents vigilance, perseverance, and justice.

A cloud floats above the eagle’s head and surrounds 13 stars forming a constellation. The formation of this constellation alludes again to the formation of the new nation.

The “reserve,” or back side, of the Great Seal contains a 13-step pyramid representing strength, while the Eye of Providence sits above the pyramid within a triangle. The year 1776 in Roman numerals rests at the base of the pyramid.

Inscribed above the Eye is the Latin motto, Annuit Coeptis, meaning “He [God] has favored our undertakings.” The inscription characterizes the favorable circumstances that bolstered the American cause for independence.

The scroll below the pyramid reads, Novus Ordo Seclorum, which is Latin for “A New Order of the Ages.” This phrase represents the beginnings of a new era for the United States.

The National Archives holds the first design of Thomson’s “observe” side, which features red and white chevrons as opposed to the vertical stripes used in the final design.

Additionally, the National Archives holds seal designs by Francis Hopkinson, signer of the Declaration of Independence and designer of the American flag.

As a participant of the Second Great Seal Committee, Hopkinson’s work inspired the addition of the 13 stripes on the shield, 13 stars, and an olive branch in Thomson’s final designs.

The first engraved metal die of the Great Seal, based on Thomson’s design, was used from September 1782 to 1841. The National Archives holds the first die, along with other seal dies used from 1841 to 1909. Thomson had designed the reverse in case Congress wanted to impress the back surfaces of wax pendant seals but a die for the reserve was never cut.

Two hundred and thirty-three years later, the Great Seal of the United States still reflects the traits and principles that the government aims to uphold.


The Great Seal

The Great Seal of the United States is a unique symbol of our country and national identity. Only one authorized Great Seal is in official use and is operated by the U.S. Department of State. The Great Seal is impressed upon official documents such as treaties and commissions. The Department of State affixes about 3,000 seals to official documents yearly.

There is perhaps no better known document in American history than the July 4, 1776 Declaration of Independence. Most Americans, however, do not know that it is our country’s first foreign policy document. While the Declaration did serve to inform the American people of the colonies’ determination to form a separate and independent nation from Great Britain, it was, as John Adams later wrote, “…a formal and solemn announcement to the world, that the colonies had ceased to be dependent communities, and become free and independent States.” This formal proclamation demonstrated globally that this “rebellion” was no civil war between Britons rather, it was a pronouncement that the United States intended to join and engage with the world as an equal, sovereign nation. American leaders quickly sent copies to European nations and it was translated into many languages and widely distributed.

Members of the Continental Congress also recognized that the new nation needed a formal seal to affix on official documents and passed a resolution on July 4, 1776 before adjourning.

Resolved, that Dr. Franklin, Mr. J. Adams and Mr. Jefferson, be a committee, to bring in a device for a seal for the United States of America.

These illustrious founders proposed several fascinating preliminary concepts for a seal to represent the new nation, drawing on classical and biblical imagery. In an August 14, 1776 letter to his wife Abigail, John Adams recounted some of the debate. Benjamin Franklin, Adams wrote, suggested “Moses lifting up his wand, and dividing the Red Sea, and Pharoah, in his chariot overwhelmed with the waters,” and the following motto, “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” Thomas Jefferson imagined Americans as “the children of Israel in the wilderness…led by a pillar of fire by night,” alongside representations of early Britons “whose political principles and form of government” the United States assumed. Adams concentrated on Hercules, the mythical figure of strength, “resting on his club,” gazing towards a figure of virtue, and impervious to sloth and vice.

In 1782, after six years and three committees, the Continental Congress decided on a less abstract seal and incorporated a design that reflected the beliefs and values that the Founding Fathers ascribed to the new nation. Charles Thomson, Secretary of the Continental Congress, designed the 1782 seal to symbolize our country’s strength, unity, and independence. The olive branch and the arrows held in the eagle’s talons denote the power of peace and war. The eagle always casts its gaze toward the olive branch signifying that our nation desires to pursue peace but stands ready to defend itself. The shield, or escutcheon, is “born on the breast of an American Eagle without any other supporters to denote that the United States of America ought to rely on their own Virtue,” Thomson explained in his original report.

The seal shares symbolism with the colors of the American flag. In addition, the number 13 — denoting the 13 original states — is represented in the bundle of arrows, the stripes of the shield, and the stars of the constellation. The constellation of stars symbolizes a new nation taking its place among other sovereign states. The motto “E Pluribus Unum” emblazoned across the scroll and clenched in the eagle’s beak expresses the union of the 13 States.


On This Day Congress adopts the Great Seal of the United States

On this day, June 20th in 1782, Congress adopts the Great Seal of the United States after six years of discussion.

The front of the seal depicts a bald eagle clutching an olive branch in its right talon and arrows in its left. On its breast appears a shield marked with 13 vertical red and white stripes topped by a bar of blue. The eagle’s beak clutches a banner inscribed, E pluribus unum, a Latin phrase meaning “Out of Many One.” Above the eagle’s head, golden rays burst forth, encircling 13 stars.

Charles Thomas outlined the symbolic connotations of the seal’s elements when he presented his design to Congress. The bottom of the shield (or pale) represents the 13 states united in support of the blue bar at the top of the shield (or chief), “which unites the whole and represents Congress.” The motto E Pluribus Unum serves as a textual representation of the same relationship. The colors used in the shield are the same as those in the flag: alternating red and white for the important balance between innocence and valor, topped by the blue of “vigilance, perseverance and justice.” The eagle’s talons hold symbols of Congress power to make peace (the olive branch) and war (arrows). The constellation of stars indicates that “a new State [is] taking its place and rank among other sovereign powers.”

The reverse side of the seal bears the familiar Masonic motif of a pyramid, which Thomas proposed as a symbol of “Strength and Duration.” The pyramid, like the new nation, is unfinished and frequently depicted as having 13 steps for the original states. The disembodied eye floating above the structure is that of providence, which Thomas believed had acted “in favour of the American cause.” Beneath the pyramid, the number 1776 appears in Roman numerals as a reminder of the year of independence. The phrase Annuit Coeptis or “Providence has Favored Our Undertakings” appears above the providential eye Novus Ordo Seclorum or “A New Order of the Ages” appears beneath the pyramid.


Symon Sez

The Great Seal of the United States of America

Americans Love to Create Committees

On This Date in History: When an American politician isn’t sure what to do or does not want to make a decision, he tends to set up a committee. That way, if its a good idea, he can take credit and if it doesn’t work out so well, then he can just say he was following the committee’s recommendation. This tradition goes back to the beginning as the founders were confounded as to what kind of symbol they wanted for their new nation. Over a period of 6 years, three separate committees studied the situation in an effort to come up with an acceptable national coat of arms that was needed for the authentification of official documents. So, who would be the members of such a committee. Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had done pretty well with a Declaration of Independence so they were given the first shot.

Jefferson's Proposal For the Great Seal Does Not Fit the Paradigm Set That He Wanted No Religion Associated With the Nation

The three creators of the declaration were appointed to the new mission just hours after the formal adoption of the Declaration of Independence. I suppose the work of a founding father is never done. They had turned to scholarly writings of the past for inspiration and guidance for the declaration and for a symbol, they looked to the bible and classical mythology from which to take their cues. Now, Jefferson is often called a “Deist” or non-Christian by some modern historians so it is interesting that he proposed an image of the Israelites passage through the wilderness as they were led by a Divine cloud and pillar of fire. Adams favored Hercules choosing between a path of virtue or self-indulgence. For his part, Franklin proposed the likeness of Moses commanding the Red Sea to swallow up pharoah. They were stuck.

Tough To See: Du Simitière's sketch of his rejected proposal for the Great Seal

So, they called on the help of a consultant. A Philadelphia artist who hailed from Switzerland, Pierre Eugene Du Simitiere, told them that the greatest virtue of the United States was that it was a new nation forged together by many people of differing backgrounds. So, he suggested a giant shield that featured the emblems of the 6 most common European nations of most Americans origin. Around that shield was 13 smaller ones to represent the 13 states, linked by a gold chain. Holding up the shield were the goddesses of Justice and Liberty. Above all of that was the Eye of Providence and on the bottom was the motto, E Pluribus Unum, which means “Out of Many, One.” The committe chose Franklin’s Moses idea for the back and Du Simitiere’s idea for the front. But, the Continental Congress must not have thought that these guys would come up with something so quickly because they were preoccupied with the Revolutionary War and tabled the issue. A few years later, in 1780, a second committee was formed and they chose a front side of a shield with 13 stripes that was held up by a soldier and a woman holding an olive branch. The crest featured a constellation of 13 stars. On the back was an image of the Goddess of Liberty. Apparently no one liked that one either because it wasn’t tabled it was rejected out of hand.

Perhaps Charles Thomson is Ultimately Responsible For the Final Design of the Great Seal. This Engraving of Thomson Was Created by None Other than Pierre Eugene Du Simitiere

In 1782, they tried again. This time they turned to William Barton who was an authority on heraldry. He came up with a front side of a European eagle within a crest and for the reverse side, he proposed an incomplete 13-stepped pyramid. By this time, the Continental Congress had all sorts of designs and so they just shoved them all over to the Secretary of Congress, Charles Thomson. Thomson took a little bit of this and a little bit of that from each idea to synthesize them into a single entity. He kept E Pluribus Unum from the first committee, the olive branch and shield from the second committee and the third proposal of an eagle and a pyramid. But, he decided to substitute a rising American Bald Eagle for the European Heraldic Eagle. He made the grand bird of America the centerpiece with a constellation of 13 stars above its head to support the motto E Pluribus Unum. He put the shield with the stripes on its chest with the stripes on the shield arranged vertically and he raised the eagle’s wings. He placed the olive branch in one of its talons and in the other he had the bird clutching 13 arrows. I guess he wanted to add his own personal touch. On the reverse side, the unfinished pyramid found a home, topped by the Eye of Providence with the latin phrase Novus Ordo Seclorum below and the latin Annuit Coeptis above. On this date in 1782, the Continental Congress instantly approved the design of the Great Seal of the United States. Seven years later, the first federal Congress similarly adopted the seal and placed it in the custody of the nation’s first Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, who may or may not have still been seeting over his Israelites in the wilderness idea being rejected.

Conventional wisdom is that the Eye of Providence and Annuit Coeptis, which means “He has favored our undertaking”, as a symbol of the Founders’ Faith. The eye was put in a radiant triangle which is an ancient symbol of humanity’s accumulation of knowledge. The constellation of stars bunched together as one illustrates the motto (which is found just below) and the radiance that shines through is emblematic of the new nation taking its place among the others. The eagle is a symbol of power with the 13 stripes on the shield represents the unification of the 13 original states. The arrows in the talons shows America’s ability to make war with the olive branch and its 13 leaves and 13 fruits indicating the power to make peace. I’ve also heard it suggested that the arrows and olive branch symbolize the idea that the nation makes peace through strength. The unfinished pyramid symbolizes the unfinished nation as one of strength and endurance. The base is adorned with 1776 in roman numerals. Novus Ordo Seclorum means “A new order of the ages” and proclaims the rise of the revolutionary concept of a nation founded on freedom.

The Ideas of the Symbols of America by Emmet Fox Are Detailed in "Alter Your Life"

Now, over time many people have tried to come up with almost conspiratorial ideas about these symbols as they suggest some sort of secrets hidden in Freemasonry. But, I found an interesting take by an early 20th century theologian named Emmet Fox who took the position that America is part of God’s plan that in order for people to have the freedom to know the singular God, they have to have political freedom. Hence, the United States provided that conduit. Fox says that the motto illustrates man’s initial idea that he is separate from the Divine but the “Light of Truth” dawns on him and he progresses from having many gods to the One God. He suggests that there is a spiritual significance to the number 13 and also for the number 4. After all, the Declaration of Independence was officially adoped on July 4th, which was the same day that the order was given to come up with the Great Seal. The original inauguration day was March 4 and the President serves 4 year terms, which is not duplicated in any other country. He points out that both Novus Ordo Seclorum and Annuit Coeptis came from Virgil and that “nothing could better describe exactly what America is doing for the world, the fact that she has a Divine mission.” He says that the olive branch being in the right claw and the arrows in the left is significant. He has the similar notion that it denotes peace and good-will are to be the primary consideration with defense only as a last resort but he adds that, metaphysically, the olive branch stands for affirmation and the arrows for denial. It is important, says Fox, to first affirm the presence of God. An interesting observation is that most national escutcheons, such as the American shield, are supported by something. The fact that the American Shield rests on the eagle’s breast shows that it needs not external or material reinforcement. Fox goes on the detail many other items which may be of interest to some. But, he does say that the eye is “striking and remarkable.” He says that the ancient all-seeing eye is the “Single Eye” of which Jesus spoke when He said, “When the eye is single, the whole body is full of light.” Fox concludes that when an individual or a nation puts God first, and everything else second,” then the whole body, the whole life of that person or that nation, will be healthy and prosperous.”

I'm Not Sure What the Founders Had In Mind For Certain But This Certainly Would have been the Cutest Great Seal of Any Nation

So, what is the truth of the symbols of the Great Seal? It’s hard to say. The founders were well steeped in scholarship of antiquity. The ideals put forth on the Declaration of Independence were not new, but instead it was the way that Jefferson expressed them that makes the document stand out. The symbols collected for the Great Seal also were not new. In spite of what modern scholars may suggest, the founders were indeed greatly influenced by some form or Christianity. As we have seen, Jefferson was in favor of a Judao-Christian related symbol to be the emblem for the nation as was Franklin. However, the fact that ultimately, the Contiental Congress chose not to include any overt references to the Christian Faith in the Great Seal is of some importance. Perhaps they wished to cloak their faith such as Fox suggests. Or, maybe they were being careful to not tie their objectives for the nation to any religion in order to symbolize a desire for a secular government. Unfortunately, I do not believe that Thomson or anyone else left notes or minutes that describe their line of thinking. In any event, the Great Seal of the United States does seem to stand out among nations…and maybe that was the intent all along.

SPC Severe Weather Outlook Sun June 20 2010

Weather Bottom Line: The morning storms on Saturday held us only to 90 for the first part of the weekend. Snow White and I went for a bike ride and it really wasn’t too bad. Today will be much hotter and more uncomfortable though. The models advertise a decent shortwave in Iowa during the day but tend to want to just kill it by the time it gets to Illinois as it makes what seems to me a bee-line for our area. I’m not so sure why it would just go away as they suggest. I would think that Sunday evening we should get the left overs at least if not something decent. I mean, we’ll certainly be hot and there will be ample moisture. Provided there is not some sort of big cap, I would think that there is no reason for that guy to hold together in some form. Okay..maybe not severe, but still some storms. The SPC seems to agree as they have the slight risk area kinda nosing down toward our area. After this, the next several days seem similar. Unseasonably hot and humid with no real line for storms to come our way but always the possibility of some guys wandering through.


The Obverse Front of the Great Seal

The American bald eagle is prominently featured supporting a shield composed of 13 red and white stripes (pales) representing the Thirteen Original States with a blue bar (chief) uniting the shield and representing Congress. The motto of the United States, E Pluribus Unum (meaning out of many, one), refers to this union. The olive branch and 13 arrows grasped by the eagle allude to peace and war, powers solely vested in the Congress, and the constellation of stars symbolizes the new Nation taking its place among the sovereign powers.


Further from the same book:

Use of the motto "In God We Trust" - P518

From the House Committee on the Judiciary (3/28/1956)

This joint resolution establishes "In God We Trust" as the national motto of the U.S. At present the U.S. has no national motto. It is most appropriate that "In God We Trust" be so designated. Further recognition of this motto was given by the adoption of the Star-Spangled Banner as our national anthem. One stanza . is as follows: "And this be our motto -- 'In God is our trust.'"

On page 75 are Charles Thomson's notes on his design - A pyramid unfinished - In the Zenith an Eye in a triangle . Over the Eye these words Annuit coeptis . and underneath [the pyramid] these words Novus Ordo seclorum." The pyramid was taken from an earlier design of William Barton (shown on page 67) that had a different motto DEO FAVENTE (God favoring) PERENNIS (through the years). This, in turn, was similar to the design of a Fifty Dollar bill designed by Francis Hopkinson. Thomson wrote the following: "The pyramid signifies Strength and Duration: The Eye over it & Motto allude to the many signal interpositions of providence in favour of the American cause. The date underneath is that of the Declaration of Independce and the words under it signify the beginnings of the New American Era, which commences from that date." P85.

P89. "The two mottoes which Thomson suggested, and Congress adapted, for the reverse . can be traced more definitely to the poetry of Virgil. Gaillard Hunt, in the Department of States first publisher on the seal in 1892, took official notice . Annuit Coeptis, was described by Hunt as an allusion to line 625 of book IX of the Aeneid JUPPITER OMNIPOTES, AUDACIBUS ANNUE COEPTIS (All-powerful Jupiter favor [my] daring undertakings). The last three words appear also in Virgil's GEORGICS, book I, line 40: DA FACILEM CURSUM, ATQUE AUDACIBUS ANNUE COEPTIS (Give [me] an easy course, and favor [my] daring undertakings). Thompson changed the imperative ANNUE to ANNUIT, the third person singular form of the same verb in either the present tense of the perfect tense. The the motto ANNUIT COEPTIS the subject of the verb must be supplied, and the translator must also choose the tense. In his 1892 brochure, Hunt suggested that the missing subject was in effect the eye at the apex of the pyramid . and he translated the motto-in the present tense-as "it (the Eye of Providence) is favorable to our undertakings." In later publication the missing subject of the verb ANNUIT was construed to be God, and the motto has been translated in more recent Department publications - in the perfect tense - as "He (God) has favored our undertakings".

P90. NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM, Hunt noted an allusion to line 5 of Virgil's ECLOGUE IV, which read in an eighteenth-century edition : "MAGNUS AB INTEGRO SECLORUM NASITUR ORDO". Hunt translated this line as "The great series of ages begins anew" and translated the motto as "a new order of centuries." More recently, "a new order of the ages."

P91. Hunt stated that the words ANNUIT COEPTIS NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM had "commonly been taken as one motto, meaning 'the new series of ages is favorable to our undertakings'", but he pointed out that it was evident from Thomson's comments that the "intention was to have two mottoes."


Library

The Meaning of the Great Seal of The United States

The Meaning of the Great Seal of the United States

The Great Seal of the United States is the official emblem and heraldic device of the United States of America. It was adopted by the Continental Congress in 1782 to represent the nation and to demonstrate to other nations of the world the ideas and values of its Founders and people. Great Seals have their origins in the royal seals of the 7th, 8th, and 9th centuries.

The Great Seal of the United States guarantees the authenticity of official U. S. documents. It is used 2,000-3,000 times per year to seal documents. Such documents include treaties, presidential proclamations, appointments of government officials, and presidential communications to heads of foreign nations. The seal is also printed on the U. S. $1 bill, providing U. S. citizens with a ready reference to the nation’s foundational ideas. The custody of the Great Seal is assigned to the U. S. Department of State. The seal can be affixed by an officer of the Secretary of State.

The Great Seal was adopted by the Continental Congress on June 20, 1782. It was first used officially on September 16, 1782, to guarantee the authenticity of a document that granted full power to General George Washington “to negotiate and sign with the British an agreement for the exchange, subsistence, and better treatment of prisoners of war.” Thomas Jefferson was the first Secretary of State to have custody of the Great Seal.

The Great Seal has two sides and displays a number of important symbols. The front (obverse) side of the seal displays the coat of arms of the United States. The coat of arms is officially used for coins, postage stamps, stationary, publications, flags, military uniforms, public monuments, public buildings, embassies and consulates, passports, and items owned by the U. S. government.

Do you know the meaning behind The Great Seal? This Great Seal file breaks it down for you.

“Symbolically, the Seal reflects the beliefs and values that the Founding Fathers attached to the new nation and wished to pass on to their descendants.”

– U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Public Affairs

Check out Elementary School lesson plans for The Great Seal in America’s Heritage: An Adventure in Liberty.