Treasured Mottos: E Pluribus Unum, Annuit Coeptis, Novus Ordo Seclorum
The three mottos which were chosen to be on the Great Seal of the United States offer insight into the thoughts of America’s Founding Fathers.
E Pluribus Unum, Annuit Coeptis, and Novus Ordo Seclorum are the three mottos which appear on the Great Seal of the United States. Understanding their meanings and discovering their origins offer insight into the hopes, dreams, and visions the Founding Fathers of the United States of America had for their new nation.
The Great Seal of the United States
Currently on the back of America’s one dollar bill both sides of the Great Seal of the United States is prominently displayed. The designing of this Great Seal was not a task which was approached carelessly or hastily by its creators. Over a period of six years, members of three separate committees provided suggestions, ideas, and recommendations for the images and mottos which would ultimately come to represent the principals behind the United States.
On June 20th, 1782, the Continental Congress finally approved a design sketched by Charles Thomson. Thomson had compiled elements from each of the three previous committees. His illustration was a perfect summation of America’s ideals. The mottos which appeared on the final sketch are expressive of these beliefs.
E Pluribus Unum
When declaring independence from Great Britain on July 4th, 1776, the original thirteen colonies had officially united to become a new nation. E Pluribus Unum is Latin for Out of Many, One. This motto accurately communicates the courageous action which was taken by many for the independence of one nation.
The origin of this phrase is believed to be from the Gentleman’s Magazine. The Gentleman’s Magazine was a popular publication in London through 1731-1922. Known by the Founding Fathers, it printed an issue which contained the best articles of the year. On the title page, next to a bouquet of flowers, was written E Pluribus Unum.
Although not official, the thought of comparing the United States to the gathering of flowering growth emerges; especially when considering the other phrases found on the reverse side of the Great Seal.
Novus Ordo Seclorum
Novus Ordo Seclorum is Latin for New Order of the Ages. In Thomson’s descriptive proposal to the Continental Congress in 1782, he supplies the reasoning for the phrase Novus Ordo Seclorum. He wrote, “the words (Novus Ordo Seclorum) under it(the date of 1776 in roman numerals) signify the beginning of the New American Era, which commences from that date.
The source of this phrase is believed to be taken from Virgil. Virgil was a Roman Poet and lived from 70 BC to 19BC. He was best known for his works of the Eclogues, the Georgics, and the Aeneid. Since Thomson taught Latin in Philadelphia, he knew, appreciated, and read these works. The similarities of the desire for peace, new foundations, and Divine Blessings between Virgil’s Poems and America surely inspired Thomson.
This inspiration is further supported by the fact that Annuit Coeptis can also be traced back to Virgil. It is Latin for Providence has approved of our undertakings. The motto Annuit Coeptis is found above the Eye of Providence on the reverse side of the Great Seal. Novus Ordo Seclorum is along the bottom. The belief in a divine creator which would bless and guide the Founding Fathers is expressed along with their faithful action.
The members of the Great Seal designing committees all contributed to the final design. They were not only creators of the Great Seal but they were creators of a new country. With their use of the mottos E Pluribus Unum, Annuit Coeptis, and Novus Ordo Seclorum, Americans today can get a sense of the dedication, loyalty and love these Founding Fathers had for their United States of America.
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